Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Managing Humans

Michael "Rands" Lopp has an excellent collection of management tips in Managing Humans.  In it, he describes the ins and outs of being a manager of nerds.  Some of what he has to say can be applied to any management job, but most of it is specific to programmers because nerds are *gasp* different.  While the book is essentially a "best of" of his blog, I still enjoyed it because I'm one of those horrible tree-killers who likes real books.

In reading through this blog book, five lessons stood out to me.  One lesson stood out to me enough that I've already written about it.  However, there's a second component to asking dumb questions, and it has to do with the second half of your interview.  After we're hired, we want to prove that we're competent and our boss made a good choice.  Sadly, that won't happen.  It's better to approach your first 90 days at a company with humility.  Learn as much as you can.  Feel your way around by being brash and making mistakes.

Another thing that Rands hits on a lot in his book is talking without action.  It's best summed up in Fred Hates It.  This is something I experience a lot in my current job.  It is irritating!  We're nerds, we want to get things done.  Bosses won't disagree with this - it's our job to do things.  And yet, it's practically impossible to get anything done.  We spend ages in meetings trying to figure out why nothing's getting done.

Alright, so meetings don't work so well.  How does one get things accomplished?  You build a cave.  A nerd's cave is a place that they're familiar with and is secured from distraction.  This is one of the reasons I have such trouble getting anything done at college (homework and funny pictures on the internet being the other two).

After college, I'll need to procure a job.  Various programs that have attempted to teach me how to get one have taught me two lessons: "Having a resume is good" and "wear a tie."  Despite hearing the same lectures telling us "What Employers Want", I never actually heard anything from an employer.  Managing Humans has two chapters that filled in a lot of holes for me, A Glimpse and a Hook which is about resumes and A Sanity Check which covers the phone screen.

Finally, there's the inevitable - something goes horribly wrong.  There are many ways to react to this scenario, most of them wrong.  In When the Sky Falls, Rands lays out a simple process to weather the storm.  The nice thing about this plan is that it scales well.  It can cover anything from a major security hole on a minor one-man project to major someone's-getting-fired-for-this disasters.

This barely scratches the surface of what's contained in Managing Humans.  While it's more of a reference book than an afternoon read, Rands communicates the lessons that he's learned very well.

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