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  • >>Male 1: Ok, hi >>Male 2: --Hi

  • >>Male 1: This talk -- >>Male 2: -- is called

  • >>Male 1: --no you go first. [laughs]

  • [audience laughs]

  • >>Male 2:"How to Lose Friends and Alienate People", we're not gonna read slides to you.

  • That's not what we do. But yes, if you're here its hopefully because you want to hear

  • something about social aspects of software engineering, which is what we usually talk

  • about.

  • And before we move on, we should talk; we had a very confusing URL. We replaced it with

  • this wonderful "alienjoy" URL. You can go on, do backchannel talk, if you have questions

  • you can put them there, discuss, do whatever you wanna do. Let's, let's get started.

  • >>Fitz: Ok. We'll start off with, "Who are we?" My name is Brian Fitzpatrick and I go

  • by Fitz.

  • >>Ben: My name is Ben Collins-Sussman. I go by Ben Collins-Sussman.

  • >>Fitz: And we are former engineers and recovering managers and, or leaders, as you might say.

  • We haven't been doing this but for four or five years and so, maximum, I guess. So, we're

  • not experts in it. These are mostly; this is mostly entirely conformed of our opinions--

  • [Ben laughs]

  • and we're perfectly fine if you want to disagree with them. But, you're gonna have to get your

  • own talk somewhere else.

  • [Ben laughs]

  • [audience laughs]

  • If you really weren't sure that--

  • >>Ben: But, we've been working together for like, 12-13 years now; various Open Source

  • project. A t one point I worked for him, then we worked on subversion together and--

  • >>Fitz: --Sorry about that.

  • >>Ben: Yeah, you can throw tomatoes if you wish.

  • >>Fitz: We use Mecurial now, it's ok.

  • [Ben laughs]

  • >>Ben: And then, after doing Subversion, we went to Google at the same time and we started

  • the Chicago Engineering office and now we sort of have evolved into management.

  • Not necessarily intentionally, but it's been on our mind a lot. Like, alright, "How do

  • we become managers? Is that good or bad? Is that ok?" And we wanna talk about some of

  • the things that we've discovered, I guess, >>Fitz: --Sure.

  • >>Ben: -- in the process of becoming leaders.

  • >>Fitz: So, who are you? Can I get a quick show of hands? Who here manages people?

  • >>Ben: Ok, wow. Wow.

  • >>Fitz: Wow. This is gonna be like a support group, isn't it?

  • [Ben and audience laugh}

  • Fitz: Hello, my name is Fitz. Hi, Fitz.

  • [audience laughs]

  • How many people in here are, are tech leads, or technical leadership roles? All right.

  • How many people here thought this was a different talk? Alright, ha!

  • [audience laughs]

  • >>Fitz: So, so we're, we're gonna take a couple different angles with this, but first thing

  • we wanna do is sort of, if we wanna a-, attack this, if we wanna define what the problem

  • is. And, a-, as we see it, that oftentimes leadership isn't intentional. Some people

  • don't really wanna get into it, but no matter what happens, there's always gonna be someone,

  • sort of, leading the way.

  • >>Ben: Right. I mean, if you take a bunch of engineers and you put them on a project,

  • even if no one is assigned to be the leader what you will find is after awhile there's

  • some self-organization that happens, right? And somebody starts becoming the person with

  • the big picture; the person who becomes sort of the main point of contact, right?

  • It starts maybe inadvertently organizing people, dividing up tasks, right? I mean, even if

  • they don't have official authority, it, it, they sort of fall in to that role and people

  • give them that authority, right? Because it has to be done; it doesn't scale otherwise.

  • >>Fitz: But, they start resolving conflicts and, and driving things toward consensus.

  • But, the-, they step into the role of the big picture person because every project really

  • needs someone to do that.

  • >>Ben: Right. And I guess, I, I've, I've been thinking about this because I see it happens

  • to a lot of people. I know it happened to me when we were working on the Subversion

  • project for five years. It started out with just a few of us in a closet writing code

  • and by the end of it, it, I was an I-R-C all day long eff-, effectively managing Internet

  • volunteers who were working on the code.

  • I wasn't much code in myself anywhere; I was just organizing people and noted that, they're

  • not my reports, right? But, I was leading them anyway. And I, I call this the "accidental

  • manager"; I guess maybe that's the best way to put it. And is, has anyone had that experience

  • here? Like, become accidental managers? Yeah, right, I mean you're like, "How, how did I

  • get here? What happened?" And we're here to say it's not a big deal. It's not; it's not

  • the end of the world. It's actually ok.

  • >>Fitz: Right.

  • >>Ben: So--

  • >>Fitz: And so, but first we wanna talk semantics, ok? And I'm not talking about the Semantic

  • Web here, but, I have an issue with the word "manager", ok? And--

  • [Ben laughs]

  • do the Will Smith thing that's manager is wh-, is old and busted and "leader" is the

  • new hotness, ok?

  • [laughter]

  • So, old and busted; new hotness, right? Manager really is a four-letter word, ok?

  • >>Ben: Why is it a loaded term?

  • >>Fitz: Well, it, it, it evolved out of the Industrial Revolution, right? You didn't have

  • managers three-four hundred years ago, or project managers, or people looking to maximize

  • their resources.

  • [Ben laughs]

  • Management is, is, it came out about the Industrial Revolution, the assembly line, right? If,

  • if you're gonna have somebody in a line stuffing meat into a can, you need somebody--

  • >>Ben: Yum.

  • >>Fitz: to manage people stuffing meat into a can.

  • [audience laughs]

  • But this works. It's very effective, this sort of carrot and stick routine when you

  • have people doing something by rote, right?

  • >>Ben: Right. You want to maximize efficiency by waving carrots and sticks at them.

  • >>Fitz: And you want people to be compliant and listen, ok?

  • >>Ben: Yup, yup.

  • >>Fitz: So, this is, and al-, this is some of the stuff we're talking about here comes

  • a lot from Dan Pink. If you haven't seen his Tech talk we highly recommend it. We'll talk

  • a little bit more about that towards the end.

  • >>Ben: Great stuff.

  • >>Fitz: So, so this traditional management mechanism works really well when you're managing

  • people like this. Ok?

  • [laughter]

  • It's really great if you have nothing that requires any sort of thought, but it's a colossal

  • failure if you're managing something that is, is complex, or requires any sort of creativity.

  • >>Ben: Like software engineering.

  • >>Fitz: Like software engineering, exactly.

  • [Ben laughs]

  • And so, as a result, this creates conflict.

  • >>Ben: It's also a reason why, why managers are hated, right? I mean, there's this, i-,

  • in engineering, just the word manager. "Oh, do you have a manager?" It's like, it's almost

  • like the word itself implies conflict or attention, right? And so, I mean, there's a lot of reason

  • for that. We have, there's a reason Dilbert has this stereotype pointy hair. Actually--

  • >>Fitz: You could do that pretty easily.

  • >>Ben: I can almost; I can almost make my hair pointy if I pull it out, right? I mean,

  • th-, lets talk about that Dilbert manager stereotype, right? They have no technical

  • ability, they're insecure, they get no respect f-, because of that, from their reports. They

  • don't respect the reports back. They ignore any past accomplishments of their reports.

  • They're, they're hired like zookeepers, to sort of caged people, like you don't trust

  • them. And, yeah--

  • >>Fitz: But, and a lot of them are concerned with their own self promotion and, and survival

  • as opposed to removing obstacles for their team, which is really what a manager should

  • be doing. But, but for all these reasons this is why that most engineers don't wanna be

  • managers. I, I mean, I, I sort of became a manager. I mean, my thought of managers was

  • always management according to the Peter Principle, right?

  • [Ben laughs]

  • That's the principle that you always get promoted one level beyond your capabilities, ok?

  • >>Ben: Well, give me, give me an example of that because I discovered a lot of people

  • have never heard of Peter Principle. We're just old.

  • >>Fitz: Like, an example of that?

  • >>Ben: Well, I answer, I mean, I mean the classic example is you have a software engineer

  • who is an amazing programmer and they keep getting promoted because they're an amazing

  • programmer. But, then the way most businesses are set up, management is "higher" than software

  • engineering so you get to the top of the programming chain, and if you want to get promoted then

  • you have to become a manager, right? And suddenly, now you have the world's worst manager and

  • you've lost the world's best coder.

  • >>Fitz: Right.

  • >>Ben: And that's, that's the classic scenario--

  • >>Fitz: Double failure.

  • >>Ben: that you see happen over and over, right?

  • >>Fitz: But th-, but the general thing is most engineers don't consider management to

  • be real work. You feel less productive. When I first met-

  • [Ben laughs]

  • moved from engineer to tech lead and then eventually managing people, I felt like I

  • did nothing. I came home the other day and said "What did I do all day?" I'm like, "I

  • talked to people and I sent email." I'm a human router, right?

  • [Ben laughs]

  • It was just like, it's awful, I mean--

  • >>Ben: It's hard to measure. It's really hard to measure.

  • >>Fitz: --It, it, it's almost impossible to measure other than your general sense of malaise,

  • right?

  • >>Ben: Or perhaps, what I discovered is maybe it's something to can measure on a long-term

  • timescale, right? If you're an engineer, you can sit down at the end of the week. "Oh,

  • I wrote this much code and these features have solved 15 bugs", right? When you're a

  • manager, it's like, "Well, over the quarter, our team achieved this." And I think it's

  • partially my fault.

  • [laughter]

  • Right? So, so it's harder.

  • >>Fitz: But, well, let's talk about what, what an engineering leader is.

  • >>Ben: Right.

  • >>Fitz: Ok? When y-, and I wanna really switch more to the general leader thing. But, a,

  • a leader is not a General in this case. You're not talking about Patton. It's not somebody

  • who barks orders at people, it's not someone whose team is there to serve them; a real

  • leader is someone who is there to serve, right?

  • [Ben laughs]

  • It's someone who serves the team, ok? Y-, you're role as a leader is really, more than

  • anything else, to remove obstacles for your team. So, to grease the wheels, to give advice