Don’t touch my time to think!

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

Today’s comms are ubber-fast, it travels at the speed of light. There’s always one more meeting we need to attend, one more email to answer, and one more slack thread to chase.

For an Engineer Manager, it is really easy to fall into this trap of being ever-present. I have seen too many seasoned people fall into this ever-busy loop, so don’t think that it only happens to managers in their first stint at the job.

There’s an old thought that a person to be a good employee must always be busy, always running, and always putting out the next fire. As much as I would love to think this is an old norm (what is a norm anyway?), this is still way too much present in some organisations.

Let’s make a pause.

What’s the Engineer Manager’s role after all?

I believe that someone in a managerial role has two different pairs of shoes to fill.

A Manager

For starters, when you are working as a sole contributor, you don’t need a manager. But as the group grows, the level of information and work demands someone to be responsible for leveraging and gathering that data and deliver it to the development team in healthy chunks, coordinating the work in an effort to the work done by this group of people to be effective and efficient.

So the Engineer Manager has the initial role of managing the information, the work, the tasks and the processes.

I like to think of a manager as someone with a glass-half-empty perspective, always curious about how to fill the rest of the glass.

When we chase efficiency and effectiveness, we must look at what’s happening. Where are we struggling? Can we improve something? Should we try a new approach?

You are the one in control. You can’t control the outcome, but you own what’s happening until the outcome is revealed. And this is pretty much a thought process.

A Leader

Please, do not fall into the trap of trying to manage people. People are a living, breathing and thinking species. We only manage irrational stuff. Here comes the second pair of shoes to fill.

You look to your group of people, and you should work to create a strong team. To show them what success looks like and to lead them. Even if you don’t see yourself as a leader, believe me, your group of people expects that of you.

How to bring out the best in each individual? Do you have the right people in the correct positions? What does the team need to be stronger? Again, this is a thought process.

Ok, let’s resume my initial dissertation.

Where were we? Ahh…we were in an ever-continuous run, back-to-back meetings, following up emails, chasing Slack threads. We are good employees, always busy-busy. No one can throw a stone at us. We will never be caught off-guard.

Looking at my definition of what an Engineer Manager is – the scope may change from one organisation to another, but this is how I see it; it’s a personal opinion – where are your thinking time? Being a Manager and a Leader demands “thought process”, demands time to think, to analyse, process, evaluate, organize and take chances. Are you managing and leading your team, or are you being managed by the ever present rush rush?

Bottom line, if I made you stop for a second to think about your role as a manager, this text was successful.

Yours truly,

Ricardo Castelhano