Tsvetan Stoychev

Tsvetan Stoychev

Ex Lead of Backend development at ePetWorld GmbH


#backend #devops

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

I started studying Computer Science in 2015, but I was very curious how the industry looks like and what the job market offers. So out of curiosity during my second year of studies, I started working on basic frontend tasks from freelancer websites which were popular back then. First I started as a frontend developer, but as I was a freelancer many clients needed things to be done on the backend and server administration side. This pushed me to diversify my skills and work on all possible fronts, including things like project management, DevOps, frontend and backend. In between, I also owned a small software agency for about 2 years which helped me develop the skills to understand what the client really needs. But getting back to the topic, between 2017 to 2018 I was a Lead Backend Developer for about 1 year and 5 months.

How was your transition from software development to management like?

In my case, I asked for this position. I was asked a year earlier but it wasn’t the right time and structure in the company and I needed more time to mature. I am generally interested in people and team dynamics, and taking the chance to lead a team was an interesting task for me. I also worked as a developer in this team and knew and trusted the other developers. Also, during my earlier time on this team I was taking notes by observing how my previous 2 supervisors handled different situations. One important point was that I really wanted to help my team but not by being a manager just for the sake of it. My motivation was to help other developers and make our daily work life easier. I was proud to be a Lead but this wasn’t the main motivation why I took the role.

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

My priorities were: first the team, second cooperation with other teams and third are we aligned with the company vision. I decided to put the team as first priority because if our performance and morale was good then we were easily achieving our goals and deadlines, and quality standards were being met. I noticed a very positive response when people were given attention and the feeling of being noticed. I believe that I was spending about 40% of my time just in talks/discussions with the team. We had a daily standup in the mornings but sometimes when we had critical projects I was initiating second meeting after lunch in order to address the concern of my teammates, allow other teammates help a teammate and get a sense if we are on time with our tasks. I would say that the rest of the time I spent a lot of time working on ideas with the DevOps, Project managers and Frontend team. And of course, code reviews and concept work took about 20% of my remaining time.

In general I tried to step back from coding. Of course this didn’t happen from day one but I slowly started giving away more and more difficult tasks. I also initiated developers to dedicate more time for studying and researching topics.

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

I believe that in the beginning I micro-managed, which led to a negative response from my team. But I acknowledged this and changed the strategy. Also after a year I reached a point I would call “the wall”. This was a point where I got the feeling that I couldn’t challenge the status quo. Honestly I couldn’t do much but we tried.

There were 2 major events that were really hard:

  1. A new teammate had problems integrating in our company. Sadly he left the company after 3 months. But I tried my best to support him during his stay and make the offboarding process smooth.
  2. At one point my team transformed to a completely remote team. This was a real challenge because we had to learn to work in a new way and communicate more.

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

That people told that I will use my authority in order to make them do their job. I had to explain that if I do it then I already lost the battle and this was never my goal.

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

Can I share 3?

  1. Don’t judge too early!
  2. Be patient and wait for teammates to develop!
  3. Team leads should not spend more than 20% of the time coding. Most of the time should be dedicated to the team and project architecture!

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

Don’t take the role because you would like to get status and recognition. Do it because you see a possibility to make things better. Be ready to code less and in general be interested in people and people development.

Don’t try to be the “Nice guy” and serve everybody’s needs. You and your team are priority number one!

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

https://twitter.com/ceckoslab

posted on November 18, 2019



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