Life as a Lead at Microsoft
Last September, our Development Lead and all-around great guy Charles left the Windows Live Writer team for the greener pastures of venture capitalism. (In Microsoft parlance, Development Leads manage developers, while Development Managers manage development leads.) With mixed feelings, I stepped into his role—my first time being a manager, not counting a few ill-fated months in 2001 that I’d rather forget.
I couldn’t have been happier as a developer on Writer. There’s something simple and pure about creating features, fixing bugs, and solving customer problems. A good day meant that when I went home, Writer did something cool that it didn’t do when I had arrived in the morning.
Being a lead, so far, has been anything but simple, even though I’m only managing two developers. I’m finding it much harder to measure my contribution or to even know what’s the most important thing to work on at any given moment. “Time management” for me used to mean making sure I don’t spend too much time on YouTube or TechMeme. Now it means having 12 hours a day worth of work each day I could be doing, and deciding what subset of it I’m actually going to spend time on. It means deciding which of the three meetings I have scheduled for 1PM I will actually go to. All the while knowing that things I’m leaving undone, and the meetings that I’m deciding are not as important, all have the potential to bite me in the back down the road.
And that work, and those meetings, are not always clear and simple like building a feature or fixing a bug. I spend a lot of time these days just “getting on the same page” as people. Having arguments without reaching clear resolution. Planning to plan. How do you measure whether you’ve been successful at these kind of things? How do you determine the impact on the product, on your users?
That all being said, I’m glad to have this opportunity. Going up the steep part of any learning curve is by definition both challenging and rewarding. To be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve hit any really steep learning curves as a developer. And even after this short time, I’m starting to get comfortable in the role and learn how to find real satisfaction in what I’m doing.
Over the past few months I’ve gotten some great management advice from some great managers. I’ve also had some thoughts percolating for some time, that being a lead has helped crystallize. I hope to blog as I learn, partly to give some food for thought for other new managers out there, but mostly as a journal I can look back on after a few years, and wonder at how naïve I was.
Filed under: Management | 15 Comments