Saturday, October 20

Coping with Doing Nothing

A little over a year ago, my little start-up was acquired by a big fish, and through a rapid and chaotic series of political implosions, I found myself running the entire technology department of the conglomerate... and I haven't written a single line of code since. I'm essentially a cat herder now. It's frustrating and depressing to spend my time approving personal time-off request forms, attending meetings about why we're always in meetings and how we can cut down on the number of meetings, dealing with the hiring and firing of a constantly fluctuating team, and watching projects, processes, techniques, and technologies that I spent nearly a decade developing and perfecting die by inches as I lose my grip on them. I miss the small company start-up atmosphere.

In the K├╝bler-Ross model of dealing with tragedy, I've recently graduated from bargaining to depression. But thanks to a book I'm currently reading, I'm quickly moving on to the acceptance phase. I've barely cracked the book and there's already been two key phrases that have stuck with me. The author describes managers as people who "organize and delegate." That's me to a tee right now. I'm too busy with the standard bureaucratic B. S. to get anything done myself, so I have to figure out who might be best suited to get it done for me, and pass the buck. The author also describes consultants as people who have "impact without control." Again, hitting the nail on the head regarding my situation. All I can do in my endless chain of meetings is tell people how I've seen it fail in the past, how it should be done going forward in order to succeed, then hope and pray that they take my words to heart.

Although the author tries to draw a distinction between a manager and an internal consultant, I think the line is pretty blurry, and depending on the day of the week or the attendees of a given meeting or the catastrophe du jour, I have to play both roles. It's hard being a team player when you're sitting on the bench for every game... but I guess that's what the coach does, right? Perhaps I just prefer to be the quarterback, taking the hits, getting my uniform dirty, and relishing the touchdowns from the end-zone rather than the sideline.


Anonymous said...

You need to learn how to manage the department so your knowledge is transferred to the younger, less experience developers.

Stephan said...

That's the reason people - like me - are developing open source projects in their spare time, when they moved to management. I try to learn new and tinker with other things than code now.


Stephan Schmidt ::
Reposita Open Source - Monitor your software development
Blog at - No signal. No noise.