Upgrade to Pro — share decks privately, control downloads, hide ads and more …

In middle management, nobody can hear you scream

cournape
February 21, 2023

In middle management, nobody can hear you scream

A slightly caustic take on managing engineering teams in large organizations

cournape

February 21, 2023
Tweet

More Decks by cournape

Other Decks in Programming

Transcript

  1. In middle
    management,
    nobody can year
    you scream
    A slightly caustic take on
    managing teams in large
    organizations

    View full-size slide

  2. Warning !
    • I may use strong language,
    with bad French pronunciation

    • Many stock pictures

    • This talk does not purport to
    re
    fl
    ect the opinions or views of
    my employer

    View full-size slide

  3. ❖ Director of engineering at Mercari JP
    for search, recommendation and
    product metadata
    ❖ Deeply involved in OSS and scienti
    fi
    c
    python in 2005-2010
    ❖ A common career theme: work at the
    boundaries of software engineering
    and science
    ❖ @cournape on GH / twitter
    Who is this guy ?

    View full-size slide

  4. What they don’t tell you
    when you become a senior
    manager
    The senior manager is not on the left

    View full-size slide

  5. Mise en scène
    Aka setting the stage
    • Context: middle to large company, at least a few 100s engineers, and with
    product market
    fi
    t or mature business

    • A de
    fi
    nition:

    • You’re not managing ICs anymore

    • You’re not a general manager: not directly accountable to execs for
    fi
    nancial
    results, etc.

    View full-size slide

  6. As an EM, you build a team. As a
    middle manager, you manage a set of
    individuals

    • You may spend a few hours / week
    with each report max

    • Your reports don’t work together
    on a daily basis

    • Your report line is large enough that
    you don’t know everyone anymore,
    maybe even by name (> 50 people)
    Cohesion is challenging

    View full-size slide

  7. Once your report line reach ~40-50
    people, whatever you decide will
    piss o
    ff
    at least one person

    • Higher probability for
    misunderstanding: impossible to
    share same context at that level

    • Some decisions may genuinely
    negatively a
    ff
    ect some people
    You can’t make everybody happy

    View full-size slide

  8. “Only the paranoids survive”, aka politics
    and perception


    View full-size slide

  9. What you do have visibility beyond your
    report line

    • Managing up and laterally becomes a
    must

    • People will request you to do things you
    have no idea about

    • “Competence is like blood to upper
    management: they can smell it from
    afar”

    • Corollary: don’t get good at something
    you don’t want to do
    Large “attack surface”

    View full-size slide

  10. As an EM, transparency is the right default. Important to establish trust, etc.

    If you manage 40-50 people, through "lateral" projects, your decisions may
    impact 100+ people. Total transparency cannot work anymore.

    • You need to share the info at the right level with the right context, people
    don’t trust you by default.

    • High probability for being quoted out of context, even in good faith

    • you have "spooky action at a distance"
    Transparency goes out of the window

    View full-size slide

  11. Importance of "composure": your
    attitude matters, you will be less and
    less able to openly share concerns

    The tradeo
    ff
    humility/transparency
    vs con
    fi
    dence/inspiration becomes
    challenging

    • Constantly sharing doubts will not
    inspire con
    fi
    dence

    • Your report will require a vision
    and clear direction
    Lack of confidence: reports smell fear
    Not a role model for management

    View full-size slide

  12. Aspiration needs to be tampered
    with a sense of reality, otherwise
    your reports will
    fl
    ip the bozo bit

    flip the bozo bit v. Decide that
    someone is a clown, and stop
    listening to them.


    The
    fl
    ip goes one way, forever: you
    can’t switch back.
    They also smell BS !

    View full-size slide

  13. Is it worth it ?

    View full-size slide

  14. • Positive impact on reports is
    rewarding

    • Impact can be lasting even after
    you leave

    • You need a certain detachment

    If you have manager: you can give
    positive feedback to your manager
    too. We like it too !
    How to keeping our spirits up

    View full-size slide

  15. Thanks for listening

    View full-size slide

  16. References
    • “Only the paranoids survive”: book by Andy Grove, Intel founder

    • Con
    fi
    dence and humility, podcast on econtalk.org, with David Deppner

    • https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2009/03/09/how-to-be-a-program-
    manager/: discussion about the “bozo switch”

    • https://www.manager-tools.com : very prescriptive, but a good way to grow
    the M of EM

    • Alien, 1979, by Ridley Scott

    • Wolf of wall street, 2013, by Scorsese

    View full-size slide