December 18th, 2013

planet

how my group leading is going, advice to my former self

It's been over a year now since I was promoted to group lead. Things have changed a lot in that year but I feel like I've grown a lot. In fact if possible, I'd like to write down some advice for myself to send back in time. I'll put it here and any of you who can handle this sort of thing just make it happen, we'll deal with any paradox in the time-continuum as it arises. Here goes:

Dear Spacefem in 2012:

Congratulations on your promotion!

  • Your previous supervisor gave you one bit of advice: delegate everything, then step in if your team gets overwhelmed. That's good advice. Stick with it.

  • You're new to this product line and a bit uncomfortable with it. You will have to get over it. You will be rarely judged for not knowing the technical details, even your intimindating senior engineers won't care too much. They WILL judge you if you try to avoid giving them projects until you understand them yourself. Delegate first, then understand on your own time along the side of them. Make it a race, that sounds fun.

  • Don't ignore anything. As an individual contributor if an issue stunned you, your boss would notice you dragging your feet and step in to help. You are now the point person. No one's going to swoop in to help, if you push something off you're only giving yourself less time to deal with it. It could be a crisis.

  • In fact fuck it... just treat everything like a crisis. A light that blinks "funny". A plastic cap going obsolete. Nacho day. Just ASSUME something is going to go horribly wrong and that you will only be able to deal if you are nine steps ahead of it. Don't ignore any email, voicemail, or post-it note... you're the only one who saw it and the only one who can fix it.

  • That crazy guy with the good snacks in his office also gave you advice: spend all day walking around talking to people, then go home, crack one open and do paperwork. You'll feel like you don't "produce" but you've known all along that engineers are mostly needed as communicators and interpreters... and that's what you are doing. Talk to everybody. He was giving you good advice.

  • Question upper management like crazy. Ask about their priorities, the long-term plan, the short-term plan. You know that "out of touch" feeling you have? They might have it even worse. Your job is to raise whatever flags you have to in order to prevent them from making a bad call.

  • Your team prefers donuts to bagels.

  • Good luck, you'll need it.

Sincerely,

Spacefem in 2013