manager and developers

Project Managers vs Software Engineers?

Try to attend a geek conference and check the heartbeat of developers in the breaks. You’ll inevitably hear at least a few battle stories from projects gone wrong due to mismanagement or interpersonal conflicts within a project. 👊

At least the engineering’s perspective.

As engineers are in demand, opportunities are available at all times. The work itself is mostly “behind the scenes”, paying “technical debt” is hard to understand, and scaling is supposed to work out-of-the-box with a product that “already works.”

Makes you question why top tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook have been founded by engineers. 🤔

Here’s my take on the common disconnect and how to prevent it.

If you’ve been there, what worked for your organization?

project managersCheck out the video above for useful insights.

Highlights

00:00:07 – Are software engineers, spoiled?
00:01:07 – When managers aren’t technical people
00:03:11 – It’s pretty poor symbiosis
00:06:17 – A “Steve Wozniak” exists
00:07:53 – The need for mediation

TRANSCRIPT

Now, I know hundreds of software engineers, probably even in the thousands, because we’ve met at different conferences. We’ve worked on projects. I’ve studied with some of them in high school and universities and you know, there are common complaints by software engineers that they feel underappreciated at work or they have boring projects, their managers suck and stuff like that.

Are Software Engineers Spoiled?

Now there’s another contradictory opinion that states that software engineers are spoiled because they have lots of different opportunities from tons of different companies.

They’re in demand, meaning that they have lots of stuff that they can do, lots of companies they can go to and so on which also leads to low retention rate for most companies when it comes to software engineers simply because again, demand is high. Lots of different opportunities, tons of different perks, companies like Google and the like having their headquarters and lots of goodies basically being offered for those engineers, which isn’t something that you’re going to see normally for other types of businesses.

Like, you just imagine, I don’t know a store clerk or someone like this one, an accountant in a general company, just receiving that kind of benefits and those opportunities and perks and I know business travels or whatever it is for their business. But again, that’s another story.

When Managers Are Not Technical People

And everyone who is a software engineer, they know how complicated it actually may maybe, how many challenges there are, how continuous learning takes place and things like that. But indeed, there is sometimes a disconnect between managers and technical people, especially the managers aren’t real technical people.

Now, the thing is that the kind of the main reason is happening, for the most part, is the lack of background for most of those managers. And as I said, almost every single industry that’s not software engineering or something that’s in the high tech like Data Scientist, dev ops, system administrators – almost everything else happens in a more outdated conservative corporate environment which is a lot more hostile to people as compared to software engineers especially when it comes to startups and you know, fast-growing companies or some of those tech giants looking for the top engineers out there.

So it’s, it’s just a different game, it’s a different type of perception for different types of people.

Software Engineers, by Default, Are Passionate About Their Job

Another thing that’s worth noting is that software engineers by default – at least the vast majority of them, are actually passionate about their craft which isn’t something that you can normally say for most jobs because according to different stats over 70 percent of the people aren’t really satisfied with their jobs or they are just working a regular day job because they need to, to live somehow. But it’s not like they love their job.

And if you look around yourself you probably have coffee shops or restaurants or you order food from delivery places, you go to the store – all sorts of activities run by people who are not necessarily passionate about what they do. There is not that much of a career growth or career opportunities, shifts are weird, managers are weird as well. So it’s, it’s a pretty poor symbiosis of what’s going on.

For some people, they do have their kind of creative perks which are not that well paid such as sicking painters, actors, some singers, kind of enjoying what they do, but it’s really a poorly paid job so they’re not fully satisfied by themselves either.

So, looking at this as a general problem means that most managers coming from different backgrounds, they come with a different perception of their teams and that different perception of the game means that those people are mostly ready to fight fights at work as compared to actually pushing people forward to deliver a greater good.

Why the Disconnect Happens

And that’s why the disconnect happens at some places. Of course, that’s not a rule of thumb. It’s just statistically speaking if there is a manager who is working again, in a store or a supermarket in a bar or some someplace that for eight years or even ten years joining the I.T. industry, they will have a different background. They would be used to different types of problems and world, different types of dynamics, different types of communication which aren’t necessarily present in a kind of software engineering company or a tech company that relies heavily on software engineering as a business.

So, a disconnect may happen and it’s something that should definitely be handled prior to the interview itself. So, those people may actually not be hired even or there should be a decent conversation that states the importance of kind of the I.T. department and the people and staff and career and everything else as a whole so that managers can actually take place and step up as leaders, as someone who’s helping out and not someone who’s kind of just yelling at people and trying to micromanage them and do, you know, other stuff.

How a Technical Person Is Expected to Manage

Another theory that I have is actually in the fact that like some of the companies who have problems and also hire software engineers, they don’t have that sort of mentality simply because the owners and the founders aren’t used to working with software engineers.

If you think about some of the best companies out there to work for, those are companies like Google, like Facebook, like Microsoft and others that are actually founded by technical people. Now, that’s not to say that, “oh great companies are found by technical people or anything like that.” But it means that a technical person is best suited to know what does it going to work with other technical people. What are the challenges? What are the common misconceptions and problems?

So it’s… it almost comes naturally to just hire other technical people and also ensure that management is in place for those technical people, meaning that if you’re an accountant, you need to hire accountants who know exactly what they’re dealing with, what are the common problems, what are the common tools to use with them and so on.

And if you are managing those people, you know how to do it in the most efficient manner. And if you’re hiring managers for those people you can again, kind of transfer your knowledge to those folks so that they are most efficiently taken care of.

Most Popular Technical Co-Founders

Now there are other companies with technical co-founders like even Apple. You know you may have Steve Jobs, but then you have Steve Wozniak who’s also someone who’s been kind of one of the founding members and someone who’s capable enough to lead the technical people. So, with that in mind, managers can definitely be suited.

Technical managers are usually better suited to work with technical people but not always. Great managers can take care of other aspects of the management work that is not necessarily related to working day to day with the team. Because as you know, there is resource management, team management, customer management, project management as just handling the product specifics and other areas of management itself. So just working with those people is not necessarily what needs to be done.

And also, if you’re a great manager on your own, then it means that dealing with software engineers shouldn’t be a problem by itself.

Is There Any Guarantee of Ease When the Manager Has MBA?

And then there’s another last problem that I can point out. This is a fight at universities that occasionally tend to teach business administration, MBA and other programs which are designed for managers to people who don’t have a career background though. So, there are lots of people who enter into management without actually having worked as a regular employee. So, they have to be tricky because first off, they don’t really have any management experience in practice, they don’t have a team management experience, they don’t have any work experience, just working on a project. They don’t have industry experience because they haven’t worked in a specific organization.

So, it gets a lot trickier when you kind of start a job as a manager without actually knowing what you manage, who you manage, how to manage work specifics of the business, business cases, how you sell, how you market and everything else which is related to actually managing your team.

Again, that’s not to say that some people are better suited than others or whatnot or some people simply don’t have the opportunity to kind of start working on management job with software engineers but it’s a different dynamics and it requires being adjusted to that specific environment.

The Bottom Line

So, if software engineers sometimes work in companies where they aren’t well understood or things like that, it could be the mismatch between the responsibilities of a manager and the responsibilities of a software engineer and how the symbiosis works.

With that in mind, of course, there should be mediation, there should be work with upper management, senior management, and even the C-suites and those managers and kind of deciding how to take it further. But otherwise, if you are a developer who is wondering or if you’re a manager who’s kind of starting a new job or whatnot, feel free to again, watch the video once again see what may work for you, what are kind of the pros and cons, what are the benefits what are some of the required traits to do that and take it from there.

If you have any other tips, let me know in the comments. I’m happy to share some recap in the coming videos.