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The Journey Upward

By duckboxxer ·
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The beginning...

by duckboxxer In reply to The Journey Upward

So I thought I would try to get out some of my questions and answers regarding moving up the ladder from a programmer to project management.  I have been programming for 8 years now and decided it is time to move toward project management.  Why?  Because I actually think I like it.  I know that my coding skills are dulling some and past positions have actually held me back and hurt my skillset some due to companies that wouldn't upgrade.  But looking ahead I am hoping my current position will help me sharpen my managerial skillset to help my resume in the future search for a PM position

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The beginning...

by Wayne M. In reply to The beginning...

<p>Having been through a similar transition, let me provide some miscellaneous thoughts.</p>
<p>1) Problem solving is the same with computers and with people.  The difference is the computer works at your pace; as a manager you have to address problems whether you are (mentally, emotionally) ready or not. </p>
<p>2) You will become focussed on areas that you may have tended to ignore as a developer; time cards and deadlines are probably two prime examples.  Believe me, there is nothing quite so rewarding as running around to get time cards filled in five minutes before they are due.</p>
<p>3) People will come to you with their problems; you may not feel you have anyone to turn to with your problems.  Try to find another manager to turn to for advice.  You are now at a different level and you cannot confide personnel issues in your staff; that would only create divisions.</p>
<p>4) You will now need to assert your opinion on others; in reality you have little power to do so.  In general, I try to grant as much authority to my staff as possible, but there will be times that you will need to say, "Do it my way.  End of discussion."  After, doing so, however, understand you cannot really force your staff to do anything or do it well.</p>
<p>5) You will need to rely on others who may be less skilled than you are.  You can give advice, but then you have to let go and trust them to do their best.  On occassion, people will fall short.  You need to make them aware of at least some of the consequences without overwhelming them.</p>
<p> 6) As a project manager, you will probably be surprised with the amount time spent dealing with people not on your core development team.  Try to make sure your staff is not short-changed.</p>
<p>I hope this serves as a short list of things to be aware of when moving from development to project management.  I am also certain there are many I did not list.  Good luck!</p>

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The beginning...

by duckboxxer In reply to The beginning...

Thanks for great advice.  I know there will be a lot of potholes for me to step in on this path.  Right now I am just doing development on a somewhat large and highly visible project.  My boss (a PMP) is really letting me take the reigns and I'm also working along with a business process guru for this project as well.  Our team is revamping an existing process, along with supporting application.  I am the technical lead, but am also highly involved in the management of the project itself.  And the process guy has lots of experience and I'm learning a lot from them both.  Yeah, it's a government contract position, but I'm learning a lot, even CMMI.

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Remotely speaking...

by duckboxxer In reply to The Journey Upward

I work in cube world.  My cube is in a high traffic area and where it seems noise collects.  Moving to a new cube doesn't seem to really be an option due to new hires and some group cubical reorganization going on.  I've talked to the boss and it seems her group might be moving to a new floor.  She said she would request that I go to, maybe even to an office!  (I believe most of the other programmers here are in an office anyway)<br /><br />I also asked about working from home.  I telecommuted before and it's really nothing big.  But due to security, I can only access the live secure part of the existing web application.  Then again, some problems can be solved by fixing data (and I created a few admin tools for that).  But currently I have plenty of documentation I am trying to put together for the re-engineering project.  We'll see what happens.  I'm tired of the constant chaos around me.  That's one of the reasons I'm here by 8AM (and I drive 45 minutes to get here!). It is jsut so much quieter then.  

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Team players

by duckboxxer In reply to The Journey Upward

Now if there is an option for someone to be on your team and they don't like to deal with ALL parts of a development project, is it terrible to ask that they not be on the team?  Here's the situation.  There is a developer here that knows the language which the application will be written in.  He has actually worked on the old system some.   <br /><br />Now based on the work ahead and the project deadlines, I will need extra help with the coding of this thing.  I agree and with this developer having past experience with this, he is the logical choice.  But not so fast.<br /><br />I asked this developer to work on a test plan so that the current system can be upgraded on the server (just upgrade ColdFusion versions).  He said no.  He said he only does unit testing on the things he writes and nothing beyond that; "I don't do QA".  <br /><br />I had a number of thoughts on this.  For one thing, I think this makes him a poor developer if he doesn't want to test his modules within the entire system to make sure everything still works.  He also assumes that his unit testing is enough, which as a developer myself, I know better.  This also tells me he isn't really a team player.  He just wants to do the fun stuff (developing new things) and that's it.  Sure, documentation isn't fun, but it's part of it.  And because of these little tidbits, I don't really want him to be on the development team.<br /><br />I spoke to my boss on this and she agreed, but her only hesitation was that if there isn't anyone else, that leaves me and that's it.  Otherwise he gets to code.  There is the potential for there to be others hired by then, but am I nuts for not wanting to deal with someone like this on my team, if I have a choice?

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Team players

by Wayne M. In reply to Team players

<p><strong>I Agree - Too Much Trouble</strong></p>
<p>I prefer to have a good set of generalists - those people will pick up any of the work needed to get the job done.  There will always be specialized knwoledge where only a couple of people (or even one person) can do the job, but the specialists should be able to step out of their role and do something else as well.</p>
<p>I would only take on the specialist described above if, one, the task required one developer full time, and two, the other people on the task were not deprived of interesting work to meet the needs of the specialist.  It is really a drag to always have to identify work to specifically keep one person happy.</p>
<p>Offer the specialist the job including all the work you expect him to do.  You may even consider having a written roles and responsibilities document for the specialist to sign.  Then leave the decision up to the specialist.  Offer the work that you have and let him make the decision to accept it all or turn it all down.</p>

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Team players

by duckboxxer In reply to Team players

Thanks, I like the idea of handing him a roles and responsibilities document that he would have to agree too.  This would include fun things like documenting his code, fully testing his code and following the coding framework I will set forth.  I'm pretty sure my manager (the PM) would not have a real issue with this.  And I have a feeling that this developer would not appreciate it in the least little bit.  This guy would probably try to act as a lead on this and I honestly thing it would be too difficult to reign him in.  So I am feeling your right, it would be too difficult to keep feeding him specific coding tasks to keep him content.  <br /><br />Let's just hope betwee now and end of design, we've hired another developer!<br />

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Team players

by Wayne M. In reply to Team players

<p>Just as a follow up.  I have used the written roles and responsibilities document in the past and it definitely forced the issue of expectations.  It is better to fight the battle now through the R&R document, then to revisit it through out the project.  A couple of pointers:</p>
<p>1) Make sure the developer signs it.  I've had a developer take the document for review, thinking that he could out of signing it.  I kept hounding him for several days until I got the signed document back.</p>
<p>2) Make sure to schedule and plan a review of all items in the R&R document prior to the first milestone.  Manydevelopers will ignore the R&R document and hope the undesireable tasks just go away.</p>
<p>3) Don't play hero.  If someone doesn't do what he agrees to do, make sure he is present at whatever meetings in order to explain why he did not complete his tasks.  Most certainly do not do or reassign his tasks for him.  Do not punish yourself or others for his shortcomings.</p>
<p>4) If on the other hand, the developer has made good faith efforts to do what he agreed to and fell short, then it is up to the PM to take full responsibility.  This is a scheduling issue, not a performance issue.</p>
<p>Good luck! </p>

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Surviving the workload

by duckboxxer In reply to The Journey Upward

One thing I have figured out over the years how to deal with the workload.  Sure I've got a lot going on, from lots of different people. But through it all, there is one manager, one person that I answer too (and usually all the other people handing me stuff answer too as well).  This little trick is simple: What's my priority?  By asking this little question, you know for sure (and have some CYA) as to what has to get done by when.  Ok, someone else may complain; you tell them to take it up with the one that determines your priorities.  Being a developer, this one question comes in handy so many times.  :)

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Users Needs vs. Users Wants

by duckboxxer In reply to The Journey Upward

Users always want something.  From a new field to enter a sub order type, to something that blinks on their screen, to a new report, they always want something after an application is delivered.  In order for users to be happy, developers, project managers, analysts, whomever is gathering the requirements needs to determine what users need versus what they say they want.<br /><br />This skill is usually not something taught in books and evolves after being burned a few times in the field because we made assumptions.  After having to deal with rewrites due to not correctly determining users needs, requirements specialists have to esssentially treat their interviewees like children.  You have to baby them a little to get out what they really do and what it exactly that they need.  Yes, asking the same question 3 different ways is old and probably annoying to users, but you have to do that to ensure that the answer takes into consideration all angles.  <br /><br />I've recently realized that definitions are key.  A team member said the other day, that good requirements documents start with a glossary.  This makes so much sense; in our current requirements interviews the definition of "application" seems to be up in the air.  Also people have different views as to when a project starts.  These are key points to address if one is developing a project management system.  <br /><br />Data types that come from users are also misleading.  An order number isn't always a number, it could be "123 ABC".  Here again, definitions don't always mean the same thing.  You have to root out the details of any data element you come across.  How big is that?  Is it really a number?  Is there a formula used to determine that?  Does that value come from another system?  Can you give me an example?  You have to continually dig to find out all the details about a data element.<br /><br />This digging may take server trips as well.  Especially when you start putting pieces together from other interviews, other questions about a data element will arise.  Requirements must be a crystal clear picture of an application in order to give users what they need versus what they want.  

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