TITLE: Becoming a Manager AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 22, 2014 4:09 PM DESC: ----- BODY: If you are an engineer or faculty member thinking about moving into administration, you should read A Disclosure an essay by Rands. It is the best short treatment of "becoming a manager" I've read and is worth more than a stack of similarly-themed books from the business shelf in the bookstore. I have never been an engineer per se. I was a faculty member: a programmer, teacher, and scientist. I built things in order to learn cool stuff, and then figured out how to teach my students about that same stuff. I came to management nine years ago when we needed a new department, via a blend of two of the paths Rands describes: I decided that I could be a better department head than our acting head, who was helping as a stand-in from another department, and there were no other reasonable choices at the time. Whether I have been a good enough department head is open for discussion. This is a difficult job, or at least different enough from I used to do that it seems difficult. Re-reading this blog today reminds me that I should re-visit my decision occasionally. There may well be other reasonable choices now, and my decision may have changed. How do you know that the job is different, that you are living in a different world now? Easy:
This sensation will appear at the end of the day when you ask, "What did I build today?" The answer will be a troubling, "Nothing". The days of fixing ten bugs before noon are gone. You're no longer going to spend the bus ride home working on code; you're going to be thinking hard about how to say something important to someone who doesn't want to hear it. There will be drama. And there be those precious seconds when there is no one in your office wanting... something.
Before I became head, I never knew how many hours I would spend thinking hard about how to say something important to someone in a way that communicates effectively without misleading the person, confusing the person, or hurting the person's feelings. And, yes, sometimes people don't want to hear what I have to say. The paragraph I quote is typical but not unique. Each week, I live some part of nearly every paragraph in this blog. The constant challenge for the engineer- or faculty member-turned-manager is, "Is this what makes you happiest and most effective?" -----