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Managing

You often hear that developing software can be fun, but I never heard anyone say that being a manage can be fun.
Is it just that I haven't heard it? What are the motivations for becoming a manager, other than having a private office and better salary?
I'm reading the book Peopleware which says the only time people actual do the work of software development is in the first 2 or 5 years of their career. After that, they are managers. Is that true, in general?
I don't want to become a manager, but I would like to become more independent. In other words, I would like to be my own project manager, sort of. I don't feel a need to be managed (does anyone?). Also, my manager's responsibilities were just increased greatly and I feel this is my chance to start making more of my own decisions, since he won't have much time.

The Real PC
Saturday, April 19, 2003

No, I don't think that's true. I've been coding for 10 years now. You will hit a salary plateau as a senior engineer, and as long as you're happy there and good at what you do, nobody's going to come down to your office and drag you kicking and screaming into a management position. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, April 19, 2003

Now I realize I didn't express myself well at all, and was trying to combine several vague questions into one.
I've been thinking about my manager's promotion and how it might change things, and meanwhile have been reading Peopleware (some if it makes sense to me and some of it doesn't, and most of it is plain common sense).
My manager has great technical skills, far greater than his social skills. He has been put in charged of all technical areas -- the whole IT department (excluding support). He tends to be stressed-out as it is, and I wonder if it will become even harder to talk to him (I'm sure it will). I wonder why he accepted the position, since his technical involvement must become more high level and it's unlikely he will have much time for coding.
On the other hand, he will have control over everything, high status, and of course a high salary. But is it worth it? I wanted to hear from managers about whether they ever love their jobs. I have days when I literally love my job -- it can be challenging and educational, and also peaceful. Do managers ever feel that way? I can understand why a political type of person would love having status and power, but I'm not sure I understand why a "nerd" would.
The other part of my question is about how I might be able to take advantage of the situation. My manager is still in charge of our group (R&D), but he can't possibly have the same level of involvement as before. Maybe I should try being more of an independent thinker, rather than look for direction from him. That would make his job easier, and I would feel better also.

The Real PC
Saturday, April 19, 2003

Managing is stressful, satisfying, and for most, the only way to climb the ladder.  Certainly, dealing with difficult people can peg the stress scale.

But for me, the greatest satisfaction came when I was able to help my reports succeed for the business and for themselves.  Those are days that you love your job.  My best managers did that for me.  I hope I was able to pass that favor along a few times.

tk
Saturday, April 19, 2003

As a developer who's graduated to the management stream, I've found that managing software developers can be both tremendously rewarding - and pretty frustrating sometimes.

The most important thing for a manager to do is dogde all the political bullshit and inspire people to find their own authority. I'm sick of hearing devs complain about 'lack of direction', or throwing their hands up and websurfing becuase they don't know what to do next. These guys were hired to solve problems through software. That's what software engineers do.

I'm happy to answer specific technical software design questions and manage the development process at the framework level, but I'm never going to cut up my developers work into tiny little design chunks and hold their hands while they do it. Because nobody actually learns anything that way. People who love software should want to figure stuff out for themselves.

And becuase I am still doing what I love - solving problems with software, the fact that I'm not actually writing all of it doesn't matter at all.

pod
Sunday, April 20, 2003

[People who love software should want to figure stuff out for themselves.]

This is so true and it has taken me too long to realize it. If there was an expert down the hall I felt I had to ask him, rather than spend hours figuring it out myself. I thought this was more efficient because it saves time.
I only figured things out for myself if there was no one to ask.
Recently I realized that the expert down the hall would rather not be bothered, and that I learn things so much better if I don't get help from anyone.
I want to apply the same idea on a higher level, and try to make decisions about what needs to be done, not just how it should be done. In other words, be my own manager to some extent. I also would like to communicate directly with users to find out what they want. Why should my manager waste time on that when I can do it myself?
Of course if I wound up making dumb decisions, this strategy would not work out. But there is no reason my decisions can't be as good as anyone else's.

The Real PC
Sunday, April 20, 2003

Managing can be rewarding and fun if you have core competencies. You can help make things happen and you can see that people enjoy their work and do it well.

The down side is that software design is more challenging, so it's not good for talented people to drift too far from that.

The biggest problem in software management, in my view, is that the relation between the two is not understood, and thus managers are expected to spread themselves too thinly. That is, they become administrators.

.
Sunday, April 20, 2003

Tom DeMarco, Co-Author of PeopleWare, on Management:

http://www.systemsguild.com/GuildSite/TDM/Professionalism.html

I think he's right.  In a good environment, the catalytic, whole-is-more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts work of a manager is, well ... noble.

In a dysfunctional organization, it's not.

As a volenteer, I train young people in Military Science.  It is a joy and a pleasure to "manage" them in that way, to provide guidance and feedback.  Sometimes it's tough (around 17/18/19 or 20, many upper-level cadets decide that they know better than thier elders.  That's not fun.)
but I think it's worth it.

In my current office, I think I would enjoy managing.  In others, well, I'll just say that managing in a dysfunctional organization that's riding on inertia is no fun.

good luck!

Matt H.
Monday, April 21, 2003

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