Saturday, February 4, 2012

work work worky work

I'm settling well into my job, although I hope it settles some more, because holy crap, it's a lot of stuff to keep track of, and even now it's too many meetings. I think I'm doing a good job, though: my boss says so, the team seems happier and more productive, and apparently I have developed some kind of good reputation, since I introduced myself to a VP I'm going to have to negotiate with soon, and he said, "Ah yes. I've heard good things." Like any social human, I'm incredibly curious what everyone else is saying about me.
There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
-- Oscar Wilde
I had a nice 5-10 minutes of zazen this morning before my brain filled up with work stuff. I find the breadth of concerns to be sort of breathtaking: my friend Jess, who decided to join the team a week or so before my promotion was announced, wonders if I'm not trying to do too much. I wonder, too: I'm doing design/architecture, long-term planning, relationships with other parts of the company, continuing to do some hands-on engineering work, and helping the team members grow and work on stuff that's challenging and interesting. A lot of that is at an extra level of intensity right now because we're working our way out of a long-term period of crisis; but by and large, all of that stuff is my job. The only part that's specific to me is the design and architecture aspect, but even if that weren't my background and skillset, those things are what team leads are supposed to do at my company. If the team lead doesn't do them, as happens for various reasons of personnel and habit, someone else does, often unsatisfactorily. If you let the product managers define the team's direction, I think the team quite rightly feels pushed in an artificial way, by an entity who can't directly respond to their everyday concerns (some technical, some not).

All around, I've naturally been thinking a bit more about leadership. I've done it before, in various contexts: I was a stage manager and director in high school, I founded and led an a cappella group in college through its often-troubled first few years. Not really being the popular charismatic type, my role has more often been to decisively say "We're doing this!", and then people will disagree with me and the group will do something else, but I get the conversation started.

At work I'm sometimes startled by what other tech leads are doing with their jobs. One person asked how we maintain the discipline of things like code review and testing, because "it's so easy to fall back into old habits." I had nothing productive to add to that particular moment, because inside I was almost shouting. "You're the team lead. Keeping the team on track is your JOB. That's what LEADING means!". Since it's definitely a Thing[tm], I'm sure there will be an opportunity to bring that up.

Speaking of Things[tm], there's a really interesting situation where we have this guy who is failing at his job. This is too bad because his job is incredibly important, but he didn't realize his job was 100% about building relationships, and in his brief tenure he's managed to take all the default goodwill and send it up in smoke, pre-emptively setting fire to all the bridges everyone was ready to build with him. Everyone at every level has been telling him what he's doing wrong, but I'm going to try to talk to him in a more open-ended way about what he thinks has been happening vs. everyone else's experience of him, and what he can change to make success possible. It's up to him to be able to completely change his approach, and it's an interesting position for me to try and help him in good faith, when the evidence points to a certain flailing inflexibility on his part that doesn't bode well.

My friend Matt is coming to work with us! He's a force of nature, a really excellent culture fit and a great addition: like me, he'll be organizing and directing a team that sorely needs it, but incredibly, I think his job will be harder. I'm excited to work with him again. Even better, as (more or less) peers with a substantial overlap in interests and outlooks.

I wonder if there's any more of the old gang I can get back together...

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