Hello! What's your background and what do you do?
My background is in .NET development. I have been developing software for 12 years. Mostly involved in writing C#.NET backend codes and scripts on the Microsoft ecosystem.
I have a special interest in how databases work (I have an MCSE in Microsoft SQL Server) and software development processes (also an Advanced Certified Scrum Master in Scaled Agile Framework).
Apart from building software, I did some gigs in digital marketing so I’m fairly familiar with digital marketing technologies and tools. Right now, I’m rendering my services as a Development Manager for Sitecore.
How was your transition from software development to management like?
I was serving as a Lead Developer in the organization prior to taking a management role. It was a team of 6 engineers and the total engineering headcount was about 300 engineers.
I was somewhat familiar with the responsibility of the management role in the organization. It wasn’t a big surprise to me. Of course, seeing someone else do it and doing it myself are entirely different experiences.
For a short period of time (in the beginning), I tried a little too hard to be a “responsible” manager which in retrospect I shouldn’t have. I should have given more trust and empower my developers and engineers more in their work. For a period of time, I needed to constantly remind myself I’m not here to compete with my Lead Developer and QA Lead, I’m here to play a complementary role in the team.
What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?
My day typically starts slightly before 9.00AM where I respond to all my emails, reviewing (and rescheduling, if necessary) my meeting appointments for the day. My meetings typically starts at 10.00AM with 1 on 1 with some of my direct reports. The 1 on 1 meeting happens every 2 week for everyone and I have direct reports range from 6 to 20 people depending on which period and which team(s) I am taking care of.
Then, daily-standups and some follow-up discussions before lunch. After lunch, I get involved in various team meetings such as project related discussions (Sprint grooming, planning, etc), organization initiatives discussion, management meetings, discussion with stakeholders from other parts of the world and other ad-hoc meetings that require my attention range from reviewing a Pull Request, project status meetings to interviews.
What motivates me to do this job is the challenges that I get to deal with and the people that I’m working with. To be frank, I don’t feel my work as “work”. It feels more like resolving challenges on technology and product with amazing people. When I work with individuals, I get excited to discuss topics with them on personal basis where the individuals are more willing to open up in private discussion.
I also get motivated by realizing I’m part of the driving force to improve the software (and hopefully the world) in a positive manner. Seeing the result of my efforts in process refinement and people development definitely keep me going.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?
Dealing with difficult people is definitely the biggest challenge I faced so far. As a manager, I’m now sitting at the different side of the table. Issues that I used to complain about is now my responsibility to resolve them. Some people are pleasant to work with, but definitely not all of them.
It surprised me a little bit on how when emotion kicked in during some hard conversations and how individuals reacted. There have been a lot of “first encounters” in the first 12 months of my managerial role. Obviously, I had discussions with my senior manager on such challenges, but frankly, I did not do anything drastic to “overcome” them. Mental preparation plus a bit of background homework for such challenges a couple of times definitely helped me to prepare better on dealing with the actual challenges.
What has been the biggest surprise so far? Something you didn't expect?
One thing I did not expect was, people do break down during intense conversation. I was caught by surprise and didn’t know how to respond the first time it happened. Then I realized a lot of people who put up a tough face are often feeling weak inside. I learned to be more compassionate when dealing with people, especially with my direct reports.
What's the best advice you've received about being a manager?
“Time can do wonders.”
When I first started my managerial role (switching from a technical role), I was always expecting instant results in every work that I was doing, including dealing with people. When I got that piece of advice from my manager, I didn’t really know what that meant. However, when I let go of my sense of urgency on people challenges, I was pleasantly surprised by how people respond to me after a period of time - while I did nothing fundamentally different from what I used to do.
Things will often smoothen out, trust will be developed, people will respond better once they develop a relationship with you, which takes time.
What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?
Realize that switching to a managerial role from a technical is not identical to getting a promotion from developer to senior developer or senior developer to be a tech lead.
Switching to a managerial role is a functional role switch instead of technical superiority upgrade. You do not always end up being a better technical professional because your technical involvement will be abstracted to a higher level. You will not always have the opportunity to write as much code as you used to in a technical role.
Instead, you will be assigned to many smaller chunks of sometimes non-technical tasks that require good problem solving skills. You will need to be very effective in resolving the issues in a timely manner (for example, resolving dependency issues among teams within 30 minutes in a Team call before the next status call meeting where more stakeholders are paying attention) instead of having the luxury of digging deep into a technical issue (for example, spending the next 2 days to refactor a badly written class which is not unit testable).
Ask yourselves if this is the kind of challenge you feel excited about to overcome, if yes, you proceed; else you might be happier staying in a technical role.
Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?
I enjoy writing on both technical and product delivery processes. You can find some of my work here: http://danielcoding.net/
In my free time, I also enjoy riding horses and this is my blog: http://horseridingmalaysia.com/