Hello! What's your background and what do you do?
I am currently the Senior Director of Development at Mediacurrent, an enterprise and open source focused digital agency providing design, strategy, and development services.
I love working at the intersection of leadership and technology. Over my 20-plus-year career as a technical team leader, I have held IT roles at a large urban research university and a nationally recognized graphic communications company prior to Mediacurrent. I have a passion for personal and team growth, aligning individual purpose with Mediacurrent’s vision. I focus on empowering teams to excel while using best-of-class open source technology solutions.
My passion for team growth has extended to mentorship and maintainership of open source projects such as various Drupal modules and Guardr, the Drupal security distribution. Speaking of mentorship, I have a big heart for helping others see the value of leadership, mentorship, and serving others through the goServeOthers and SHROPCAST podcasts. My focus and love of mentorship helped me start a skills-based mentorship program at Mediacurrent.
I am an active leader, mentor, and participant in the Charlotte North Carolina technical community. That involvement provides opportunities to help others. I believe in giving people a chance and helping them grow and find careers in tech, which can change their lives.
How was your transition from software development to management like?
I have transitioned between management and technical non-management roles a few times. I resisted leadership roles in the past because I didn’t want to lose my technical skills and fall behind. With great mentoring from two of my managers, at different organizations, I was challenged to make a choice between being a technical leader and a manager who focuses more on building and growing teams.
I am happy to say that I was able to finally let go of day-to-day technical work because I needed more time to support and mentor teams. At the same time, I have found that I can stay involved with development through personal and internal Mediacurrent projects. I am at peace that I am in the best place now, supporting developers who are highly talented at their craft.
What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?
My motivations and day-to-day direction are driven by my focus areas. I maintain 3 high-level focus areas that align with my organization’s vision/mission and my personal goals, values, and passions. My current focus areas are around sales support, developing leaders, and project account leadership. I feel a day has been a success when at least 80% of my day was spent around my focus areas. Of course there are times when a day goes sideways, but when that happens, I try to focus on tomorrow’s opportunities.
Maintaining these focus areas allows me to get up each morning excited about what the day may bring.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?
The COVID-19 crisis, with its health and economic impacts, is about as big a challenge as one could expect. Team members and even other managers and leaders have heightened anxiety and stress around finances and health concerns. While Mediacurrent has been a remote-first company since its start in 2007, it hasn’t been easy for team members to adjust to taking care of their families and children while working at home.
While the journey through these trying times continues, I have worked with our leadership to double down on the following actions that are based on our values:
What has been the biggest surprise so far? Something you didn't expect?
How much more careful I have to be with the team in verbal and written communications. The impact of written communications, without face-to-face contact, can be immense and even misinterpreted. While I will never be perfect in this regard, I rely on the trust I have built with team members to make it easier to have further discussions when I was not clear or the messaging was somehow confusing.
What's the best advice you've received about being a manager?
Focus on leadership by motivating and influencing teams towards an organization's success, rather than power and control aspects of misguided management styles. This type of focus is great modeling for teams and will build trust, allowing for effective feedback loops and general communications.
What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?
You can lead in your current role. No need to wait for a title with “manager” in it. Practice active listening, mentoring, delegation, and receiving/providing direct feedback.
If you are new to a management role, be confident. Someone believes in you or you wouldn’t be where you are in the organization. At the same time, don’t try to make immediate change. Focus your first months on understanding the organization’s processes and approach by asking lots of questions. You will begin to understand that every process has an origin story that is rooted in some issue. Being patient through this period is critical as it may seem like you are not getting major things accomplished. With reflection and analysis around your findings, you will have what you need to approach prioritized improvements with your leadership team.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of patience and persistence. Don’t give up! At the same time, don’t expect major shifts to happen quickly. It is okay to approach change incrementally, through an agile-like approach.
Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?