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From “One of the Pack” to “Top Dog” Expand / Collapse
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 7:41 AM

Ten Centuries

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The "Peter Principal" by Dr. Lawrence J. Peter should be required reading for anyone being promoted from a technical position to management in any industry.

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #953134
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 7:58 AM
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During my 36 years of software engineering/DBA I have been promoted twice to manager and being a manager is not for everyone. While engineering software or being a DBA I felt like this and while being a manager I felt like this After being a manager for a couple of months I went to my boss and asked to be returned to my engineering position. Spending all day in meetings and having my career based on the performance of others was ludicrous to me. It is unfortunate that in many companies the way to get ahead financially is to stop doing real work and to just manage. Fortunately I have worked for companies that recognize that good engineers don't necessarily make good managers and which have instituted a parallel path for financial success with engineers making as much, and sometimes more, than managers. Job satisfaction is more important than making a little extra money and being miserable.
Post #953145
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 8:01 AM



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I would suggest that you read in the area of Sociology (foreign to most, if not all techies) in particular "small group theory". It will illustrate how and why small groups naturally select a "leader". Better yet if a local institution of higher learning has some night courses you should consider taking one or more, so as to be able to discuss your real world activities/problems with a qualified individual.

Having been and still somewhat of a "techie", and being appointed as the production manager of a manufacturing facility with some 100 employees, let me state that understanding "small group theory" has been for me a life saver.

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.


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Post #953148
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 8:30 AM


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What a great topic! I have had several management positions throughout my career and decided to take a step back a couple of years ago into an "individual contributor" role at a new company to refresh my skills. Management is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have the issues that you describe in the article with being liked and being "one of the boys". You also have the issue of taking the blame for others' mistakes (my least favorite part of the job).

Perhaps what I like best though is being able to influence change very quickly. You are no longer just another voice in a series of voices making a suggestion. You are the decision maker and if you are a capable DBA at the same time, you can right a whole lot of wrongs very quickly.

Looking forward to the next article.
Post #953182
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 8:30 AM

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I tend to agree that it is usually not good to manage a team that you were once part of. It creates a strange dynamic where your subordinates might not feel that they trust you as much as they did before, and any personal relationships that you may have had become strained. This is not always the case but I have seen it happen to others in tech positions and in other jobs. I have had it happen to myself at past jobs as well, technical and non-technical. I wasn't terribly successful at this transition but I have seen others pull it off. I think it is usually best to come in as a manager from the outside instead. Then there is no confusion about how your employees view you and you can build from a clean slate.

The only recommendations that I have on how to handle this transition are to let the employees manage their own work as much as possible so you don't come off as a micro-manager. Give them insight on what your new responsibilities are and what you are working on so they don't think that you have just dropped all the work on them and you are living the easy life. Be there for them when they need you and be sure to delegate work. If you continue to take on development tasks because they are the things that you used to do, you will quickly become over-worked and stressed out. Easier said than done, of course!

Good luck!
Post #953183
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 8:53 AM
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berki (7/15/2010)
You'll always be 'one of the boys' to us.

Looking forward to future editorials.


OK, who unchained Moe from the SQL Server console? I'm all for integrating him back into society, but one step at a time

Back on topic - Good idea for an article, I'm looking forward to getting an insight that I can personally relate to in your upcoming posts.

Lots of people have expressed many different views above, in my own personal opinion I think that good managers are people who can adapt to the different personalities and needs of their staff, as not everyone who is part of a team will be the same.

In your article you say "being friendly isn't enough" which is probrably quite true, you need to walk the fine line of being approachable and friendly so that people "want" to work for you, but also be able to step back a few paces when needed and be willing to play the role of bad cop to sometimes "make" people have to work for you also....

Post #953212
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 9:28 AM
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Congratulations and hope it works out for you!! As a lot of people have said already it is not for everyone and most of us find that out the hard way only. It largely depends to my mind on three factors 1 the managerial policy of the company and general quality of managers they have, 2 the type of people on your team and how well they get along together, 3 what you bring to the table. I was promoted this way too and went back to being a regular dba. My biggest frustration was #1, i wanted to be a proactive, supportive manager but was surrounded by other control freaks and those with very poor role modelling virtues. There is a lot a manager can do but a lot he/she can get away with not doing and doing poorly too, and again largely that is to do with company culture. As far as learning goes i suggest to attend atleast one conference per year to keep up to date on technical improvements. Good luck.
Post #953242
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 11:19 AM



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Best of luck, and looking forward to reading more.

A few pieces of advice:
- praise in public, criticize in private, even in the team.
- bad things are your fault, good things your team's effort. It pays off in the long run
- Read "Drive" on Motivation (Dan Pink). Very interesting.

Set expectations, and hole people responsible. They might gripe in the short term, but they'll respect you more over time.

Follow me on Twitter: @way0utwest

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Post #953341
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:35 PM



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I am very interested in this series, also, because I now have my toe in the management pond. I'm a developer, but I am also now managing a small (thankfully appropriate for a beginner) project.

I'm not drowning yet ....
Post #953448
Posted Friday, July 16, 2010 1:47 AM
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Congratulations on the promotion. There are plenty of resources "out there" that will tell you what to do. Unfortunately, there aren't as many resources that tell you what NOT to do. In my experience, knowing that is equally important (if not more so).

So having said that, might I suggest getting yourself a Dilbert calendar and check your style against that of the Pointy-Haired Boss. There is wisdom to be had in the pages of Dilbert

James Stover, McDBA
Post #953653
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