Developer to Manager

Interviews with experienced software developers on moving to management

Alex Martynov

Software Engineering Team Lead at EPAM Czech Republic

Posted on November 26, 2018

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Hello! What's your background and what do you do?

I was born and spend most of my life in Ukraine. As my father was working at a university in my hometown, I relatively early started hanging around computers at the beginning of the 90s, first playing games and then writing simple programs on Basic.

I wasn't the kind of programmer's programmer, but I was decently good and I liked being around computers so the career choice wasn't that huge of a choice for me.

I started working with enterprise software, things related to HR systems, accounting and so on. In my current company, I've started 6 years ago as a DB developer on an investment banking risk calculation project and then with some time switched to management.

How was your transition from software development to management like?

I was doing a good job, though technically I wasn't the most gifted among the developers in our team and I've got good relationships with people on a project.

One day our manager left, we got another manager who was much more hands off. And from there, I've started filling that void, probably not very consciously at first. I was picking up some organizational tasks informally, but then I realized that I'm tired of coding and I really appreciate the people aspects of development much more.

In the beginning, it was quite hard, I struggled with the delegation and was tired and frustrated about other people not participating enough. Also, I didn't have formal authority at that time to assign people task. Or it's better to say that I thought that I didn't have authority because in reality people already were seeing me as they lead. So the hardest thing was to admit it to myself that I'm already a team lead. Unfortunately, my manager at the time wasn't that much of support to help me to go through this stage.

What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?

My job is a combination of responsibilities related to people management and to delivery management. Most of all I'm motivated by being able to help people to grow. The real joy for me is when I can enable the team to be able to work on their own.

I have around 30 people reporting to me. Of course, it's not possible to manage them directly. So one of the most important things for me is to ensure that there is a proper org structure. I need to assign team leads, help them develop the skills they need in order to work with their team.

My working day consists mostly of meetings and 1:1 with my teammates. I'm not very hands-on in terms of delivery but I need to keep in touch with key developers and users to monitor that everything goes smoothly.

I also need to monitor what's going on people-wise. Are there any disagreements or misunderstandings which can grow into conflicts? How motivated people are? Does anyone plan to leave and should I be starting preparing for hiring replacements?

I try to build enough trust with my people so that they feel free to come to me when they have any kind of problems. Am I successful in that? I hope I am.

Another area where I work is development not related to people reporting to me. So I conduct soft skills training for people in our company. And I also work as a coach one-to-one and in a group format to help people resolve the issues they are having or achieve a goal.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?

The biggest challenge is to find the balance between the interest of the company and the interests of people. I don't think there is a way to overcome this challenge. It's a continuous act of balancing and recalibration and the thing I always need to keep in mind.

What has been the biggest surprise so far? Something you didn't expect?

When I was around 25 I thought that I don't have what it takes to be a manager and even hated the idea of becoming a manager someday. But in fact, I really enjoy managing people and especially helping them grow and develop.

What's the best advice you've received about being a manager?

It's interesting but I cannot remember a significant advice that would stand out. I've read so many books so all the advice just meshed together. But if I try to summarize it, I'd say it's something like: know yourself, your emotional triggers, your biases, your decision-making strategies. The more I learned about myself the easier it was to do what was needed to be done.

What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?

Don't clam up when you have problems and issues. Find the type of support that works for you. Unfortunately, the managers who promote developers or assign them management tasks do not always provide all the required support and resources. Even worse, sometimes they are not very approachable. If that's your case as well, find to whom you can speak about the issues you are having. Talking to a good listener sometimes makes a big difference.

Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?

I blog at http://alexmartynov.com/en/blog/ and also sometimes I publish articles related to soft skills at my linked account https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-martynov-182143145/.




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