Reflections after 18 months of being a manager

I first joined Diabetes Australia in 2018 as the only web developer. I was promoted three and a half years later when we hired our first junior developer, who became my first direct report. My very first direct report ever. And so, I was thrown onto the management track.

I was an example of ‘a developer doing well getting promoted into management’. I never saw myself as manager material nor did I think I ever would be. Tell people what to do, get status updates and fill out reports?

Who wants to do that.

But I accepted anyway. I accepted because it was a nice pay increase. I also liked the idea of having another developer on staff that I could talk to about developer things. And so I was bestowed the flashy new title of ‘Team Leader – Web Services’.

The immediate twelves months after that was hell.

My first mistake was thinking that I would be able to split up my work 50/50. Coding half of the time and doing management things the other half. Trying to balance being a developer and a manager just made me bad at both. Even with just one report.

Since then I’ve learnt a whole lot more and the team has grown to three. It’s only in these last six months that I feel like I am starting to get better at being a manager (emphasis on the feel).

I have spent about eighteen months now managing and leading a technical team. Here are a few things I have learnt:

  • You need to want to do it
  • It’s about growing and supporting a team
  • Look after your team but don’t coddle them
  • Let your team swim on their own
  • Trust your team
  • Give your team motivation, a vision and agency and they’ll do amazing things
  • Push back and say no
  • You will not code as much anymore
  • …But sometimes you will
  • You still need to keep up to date
  • It’s important to have good relationships with other teams
  • Get help
  • Push back and say no
  • Management is really hard
  • Management is super fulfilling
  • It’s a balancing act
  • You will make mistakes
  • Decide what will be dropped
  • Learn to prioritise
  • Push back and say no
  • Your team comes first
  • You will still feel like you have no idea what you are doing

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