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Grow your own tech leads

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How can senior developers bridge the gap to becoming tech leads? How can mentors help them? We'll shine a light from above, a light from below, and we'll see if we can uncover some insights.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Grow your own tech leads

  1. 1. Grow your own tech leads @KenScambler We’re hiring! Come work with me & my friends on cool stuff
  2. 2. Gaps • There’s a big difference between the skill sets of an effective developer and an effective tech lead. • How does an individual bridge the gap? • How can we help them?
  3. 3. Perspective - developer Organisation Divisions Teams
  4. 4. Perspective – senior developer Organisation Divisions Teams
  5. 5. Perspective – tech lead Organisation Divisions Teams
  6. 6. Perspective – CTO, etc Organisation Divisions Teams
  7. 7. Helping senior developers grow Organisation Divisions Teams
  8. 8. Expanding trust networks Dev Dev Dev Tech lead
  9. 9. Expanding trust networks Tech lead Dev Dev Dev Eng Mgr
  10. 10. Expanding trust networks Tech lead Dev Dev Dev Eng Mgr Product Mgr
  11. 11. Expanding trust networks Tech lead Dev Dev Dev Product Mgr Eng Mgr BA
  12. 12. Expanding trust networks Tech lead Dev Dev Dev Product Mgr Eng Mgr BA UX
  13. 13. Expanding trust networks Tech lead Dev Dev Dev Product Mgr Eng Mgr BA Customers UX
  14. 14. What happens with trust Alice Product Manager I know Alice wants to help me get my ideas in front of customers. Knowing how the tech fits in will help us get there sooner.
  15. 15. What happens with trust Product Manager Look, the spaceship is really hard, it’ll take 10 years. But… if we drop the laser guns we can do a quadcopter in a month. Alice
  16. 16. What happens with trust Product Manager Look, the spaceship is really hard, it’ll take 10 years. But… if we drop the laser guns we can do a quadcopter in a month. Ah that’s a shame. Let’s go for the quick win then, we can iterate from there. Alice
  17. 17. What happens without trust Product Manager Let me guess. Alice can’t deliver on time because of techie blah blah. If she loved customers half as much as shiny tech, we’d have delivered by now. Alice
  18. 18. What happens without trust Product Manager Look, the spaceship is really hard, it’ll take 10 years. But… if we drop the laser guns we can do a quadcopter in a month. Alice
  19. 19. What happens without trust Product Manager Look, the spaceship is really hard, it’ll take 10 years. But… if we drop the laser guns we can do a quadcopter in a month. Did you try this? Did you try that? We really need to be delivering spaceships. I’m going to need you & the team to really dig deep and BELIEEEVE. Alice
  20. 20. THE SECRET TO BUILDING TRUST AND ADVANCING YOUR CAREER 2019 EXCLUSIVE
  21. 21. 2019 EXCLUSIVE
  22. 22. Don’t be terrible 2019 EXCLUSIVE
  23. 23. Boss I’ll write up notes from the meeting Thanks for that Bilal “I trust you to keep promises”
  24. 24. *Doesn’t write up notes* Bilal
  25. 25. Bilal
  26. 26. Seriously?? Come on! I have important things to do and no-one reads the notes anyway! Bilal
  27. 27. Boss M Tu W Th F Because you don’t need to eat
  28. 28. Boss M Tu W Th F Because you don’t need to eat TODO: Check up on Bilal Bilal
  29. 29. Boss M Tu W Th F Because you don’t need to eat Bilal
  30. 30. Boss M Tu W Th F Bilal Trust!
  31. 31. Boss M Tu W Th F Bilal
  32. 32. Carla *WORKING HARD ON A PROBLEM FOR WEEKS BUT KINDA STUCK* “I trust you to communicate openly”
  33. 33. Boss How’s that task going? We’re all blocked. Need help? Nah I’m good. 80% done Carla
  34. 34. Boss … Carla
  35. 35. Boss … Carla Time’s up, what have you got so far?
  36. 36. Boss Actually Carla
  37. 37. Boss It would seem I’ve been stuck for some time Carla !!!
  38. 38. BossCarla
  39. 39. Carla You can’t be serious! It’s done when it’s done. I don’t know what I don’t know.
  40. 40. Carla M T W T F M T W T F M T W T F Started work
  41. 41. Carla M T W T F M T W T F M T W T F Started work Got stuck
  42. 42. Carla M T W T F M T W T F M T W T F Started work Got stuck Help! Boss EMERGENCY! Let’s rope in the experts
  43. 43. Carla M T W T F M T W T F M T W T F Started work Got stuck Help! DONE Expert1 Expert2 *Domain specific knowledge* *Technology specific knowledge* We had to drop everything, but we’re here
  44. 44. Boss Boss’ boss HIGGINS YOU FOOL! Because of your MISCREANTS I had to settle for platinum *ALLOY* hubcaps on my Lambo!!
  45. 45. Carla M T W T F M T W T F M T W T F Started work Stuck I was off to a good start, but it’s harder than I thought.
  46. 46. Carla M T W T F Lots of possible options Maybe not even needed Started work Stuck Boss Trust! No sweat, plenty of things we can do from here. Lmk what you need Open communication
  47. 47. Dave I need help with my thing, could you give me a hand? Colleague “I trust you to care about my work too”
  48. 48. Dave I need help with my thing, could you give me a hand? Sure, I guess Colleague
  49. 49. Dave *Weeks pass*
  50. 50. DaveColleague Did you take a look? We’re really under the pump now LOL oops
  51. 51. DaveColleague
  52. 52. Dave Look, I’m busy! It’s really their problem, not mine.
  53. 53. Colleague Dave Goal
  54. 54. Colleague Dave Goal
  55. 55. Colleague Dave Goal • Sure! Here you go • I’ll set aside some time to help • I don’t have time, but here’s some people who might help • Not sure, but try reading this
  56. 56. Dave Goal
  57. 57. Helping others build trust • ”Don’t be terrible” needs fixing in a shockingly high number of people • Doesn’t mean they lack talent • Often just a lack of self-awareness • Easy to mentor
  58. 58. Insecurities around leadership
  59. 59. Feeling insecure: • Does not in any way indicate a lack of talent • Does not in any way indicate a lack of leadership potential BUT • Learning to manage insecurities is essential • Consequences are exacerbated by seniority
  60. 60. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I will not even put my hand up in the first place” Hopefully no- one notices me
  61. 61. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I will not even put my hand up in the first place” • Personal reassurance, encouragement • Cultivate general personal safety • Reduce cost of speaking up • Seek out quiet voices at meetings, balance loudest • Be aware of various forms of privilege Mentor suggestions:
  62. 62. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I will massively overcompensate by any means” I AM VERY LOUD AND IMPORTANT! YOUR FOOLISH PRs DON’T STAND A CHANCE AGAINST MY PETTY OBJECTIONS! I WILL MAKE UP THINGS SO IT LOOKS LIKE I KNOW STUFF!
  63. 63. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I will massively overcompensate by any means” • Immediate 1-1 advice to tone it down, increase self-awareness • Reassure • Requires strong trust to avoid defensive reaction • May require removal of responsibility Mentor suggestions
  64. 64. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I must be as defensively opaque as possible so people don’t ask questions” ???
  65. 65. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I must be as defensively opaque as possible so people don’t ask questions” Mentor suggestions • Can be hard to detect until it’s too late • Personally encourage habits of openness
  66. 66. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I am doomed and will freeze and wait for inevitable failure” There’s no point trying
  67. 67. “I’m not actually good enough… Therefore I am doomed and will freeze and wait for inevitable failure” Mentor suggestions • Super bad news • Pretty hard to reverse at this point • Removal of responsibilities likely to be a relief to all
  68. 68. Mistakes of inexperience: too rigid Do it this way, or else! I’m supposed to know more than everyone else! No-one will listen to me unless I make a lot of noise I need to advertise my leaderiness, or my prestige will evaporate!
  69. 69. It’s not your job to know all the answers The team’s success is your success Use the skills of the team Mentor
  70. 70. Sure, I guess, let’s do what you want, it’s probably fine. Who am I to disagree? They seem really confident. I’m not a real leader Mistakes of inexperience: too flexible
  71. 71. You’re ultimately responsible, not the other people! Let’s go through the reasons from first principles It’s ok to ask questions, it’s not your job to know everything already Mentor
  72. 72. Handling insecurity • Nothing to be ashamed of per se • Harmful flow-on effects best pre-empted with cultural change • Strong trust bonds necessary for frank individual feedback • Senior leaders should set an example for openness
  73. 73. Words are actions !
  74. 74. Your code is bad and you are bad Dev Words Actions Awww Dev who wrote the code Other devs Whoa. Maybe there’s something to learn though? I am a thoroughly disagreeable person
  75. 75. Your code is bad and you are bad Very senior tech lead Words Actions Everyone else ARGHGH!!!! I am a thoroughly disagreeable person This is how leaders behave here Stick your neck out, this will happen to you too Dev who wrote the code Big loss of face in front of peers
  76. 76. Very senior tech lead But they’re the exact same words! I’m just calling it like I see it
  77. 77. Foo Foo Foo
  78. 78. Creating opportunities Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Jan Feb Mar … Team 1 Team 3 Team 2
  79. 79. Creating opportunities Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Jan Feb Mar … Team 1 Team 3 Team 2 Team 2 informal tech lead Project 1 informal tech lead
  80. 80. MYOB example: Tech Lead Groups Front end team Backend service team API team Desktop team 1 Desktop team 2 Project Infrastructure team Tech Lead Group
  81. 81. Tech Lead Group • Reduce decision-making workload for architects • Increase architect visibility into teams • Increase teams’ access to fast architecture advice & decisions • Grow new tech leaders
  82. 82. Tech Lead Group • Reduce decision-making workload for architects • Increase architect visibility into teams • Increase teams’ access to fast architecture advice & decisions • Grow new tech leaders
  83. 83. However: • Confusion around scope of responsibility • Decision-maker? • Hard to balance team-work with TLG-work • There are a range of situational pros & cons to all the different ways you can do this
  84. 84. Conclusion • Growing tech leaders in-house is a Good Thing • Bridging non-technical gaps is a big deal • Wider perspective • Building trust & relationships • Managing insecurities appropriately • Understanding words as actions • Good mentoring makes a huge difference • 1-1 coaching • Setting an example • Timely intervention • Creating opportunities with informal org structure

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