Location: Charlotte, North Carolina Area
Current Role: Web Engineering Manager at Citadel LLC
What’s your background and how did you get into management?
I have a software engineering background and got into management mostly by accident. The director at Walmart Grocery knew of my technical background and thought I would be a good fit to reboot the team and start fresh with some new engineers and a new tech stack. I wasn’t confident in my ability to be successful in this role but the director believed in me so much which let me to believe in myself.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Initially, it was confidence to be good at my job. Confidence that I’m making the correct decisions for the team and the organization. Pushing a change in direction and technology while bringing in a new lead engineer required having some difficult conversations with team members who were heavily involved with the current direction and technology. There were also challenges to meet business timelines while balancing engineering initiatives. The hardest aspect of the position was coming to the realization that I won’t always be able to make everyone happy. I faced this when engineering initiatives didn’t align with business initiatives and I was caught in the middle.
What is your approach to hiring?
I believe that people are better at certain skills than others. While a functional front-end engineer may know CSS, it may take him 5x longer only to end up with something that isn’t very maintainable. There is always the truly exceptional engineer who can do it all but, for those that can’t, I try to hire people who can fill gaps so that people can focus on what they are good at and makes them happy. In doing this, I found that content is produced faster and is more maintainable. The obvious drawback is that engineers become less fungible.
What’s your advice for managers who are just starting out?
If you have a family, use that as a starting point for management because there are a great deal of similarities. I found that having a successful team really just means following a few basic steps
- do what you can to keep team members happy
- invest your time to know each person’s personal and career goals and do your best to support them
- give positive feedback when you can
- give constructive feedback when you need to (and follow up on it)
- provide opportunities for the team to form personal relationships because people will work harder for each other when they care about each other
- do your best to shield your team from company politics
- take personal ownership of mistakes (but review them with your team to learn from them)
- give credit of successes to the team
- send flowers to a team member’s spouse with a thank you card when they have to work way more than expected to recognize the burden it places on the family
Whats your work day like and how do you manage your time, emails, etc.?
A lot of Jira review, emails and meetings. As a manager who still wants to be an engineer working in a large organization where many (sometimes unnecessary) meetings are scheduled I didn’t get much time to code. (note: I now work at a new organization where I manage fewer people and can spend much more time coding and am much happier).
What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Love of family and the desire to be a good role model to my children, love of coding that keeps me fresh (https://github.com/jhudson8), and the ability to reflect on my own strengths and weaknesses so that I can grow.
Share an internet resource or tool that you can’t live without.
If you could recommend one book to managers, what would it be and why?
“Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams” It’s just a great book with great tips for managers without experience who want to do a good job.
Where can we go to learn more about you? (LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub, etc.)
This series asks engineering managers to share their experiences with the intent of helping other engineering managers learn and improve. Have someone you want to see featured or questions you think we should ask? Contact me.