Changing roles, recharging & writing
Last Thursday and Friday I attended The Lead Developer conference. It’s my third time attending, and it’s my favourite conference of the year. Now this post isn’t about the conference and what I learnt at it – I’m hoping to do that at a later point when some of the videos are available. While at the conference though I was surprised by the amount of people that took their time to come up to me and thank me for not only my past talks (I spoke at The Lead Developer last year), but also for my blog posts. And I realised… it’s been 5 months since I last wrote something here.
I’ve had this blog for 10 years, and while I still love writing for it, I’m finding it trickier and trickier to find the time to sit down and write.
It’s not for lack of ideas. I think now more than ever I’m coming up with different ideas and opinions and stories that I’d love to share with people. If you follow me on Twitter or have bumped into me at an event in real life, you might know that I recently moved to a sort-of new role. To give a bit of background, I’ve been at FutureLearn now for 4 years, and for the past 2 I’ve been attempting to balance three different roles: being a developer within one of our 6 product teams, being a line manager for 5 other developers and being the evangelism lead for our product team. Emphasis on “attempting”. As our team has grown, it has become harder to do each of these things well and I’ve struggled a lot with prioritising and balancing everything.
A month ago our team introduced a new structure and new roles for several of us. Previously we had 5 line managers (including me), who alongside managing people were within one of the product teams and worked on building our platform. Now we’ve changed to having 6 Technical Leads within each of the product teams to provide and help with technical direction and decision making, and 3 Technical Managers outside of the product teams to focus purely on managing, teaching and growing our developers.
I’ve switched to this latter role of Technical Manager and what it means in practice: I’m not developing anymore. I’m explicitly using the term ‘developing’ here rather than ‘writing code’, cause for the majority of last year I already wasn’t that hands-on with code anymore, but still was part of all other aspects of building a product (stuff like planning and pairing on what, why and how we’re building things, researching and analysing different implementation options, etc). Being a developer is more than just writing code (but that’s maybe a discussion for another time).
I really think this change of roles and structure for our team means that we can be more efficient and focused on what we each are passionate about. It means that I and the other Technical Managers now have time to work on things like figuring out how we do career progression or how to make our hiring process more diverse. It means that we have more time to get better at management: people are hard, and managing people is a hard thing, but it is something that we can get better at.
One thing to note: this shift doesn’t mean that I’m completely stopping with the evangelism aspect. I believe that every (senior) developer should be sharing and teaching what they know with other developers. For some developers that might mean giving a talk, for some it will be mentoring and pairing, for some it will be giving workshops, for some it will be writing blog posts. Our role as managers is helping each developer to figure out how they want to share what they know and helping them learn the skills they need for it.
Going back to the original point I was trying to make: finding the time to write. I want to keep sharing my experiences and ideas and opinions, through both talks and blog posts. But I’ve noticed that in the past year, as I’ve started managing more people, where most of my day is focused on having conversations and interacting with people, by the end of the day I’m drained. I love managing people, but as an introvert I have to admit that it does take a lot out of me. Outside of work, I need to do things that recharge my batteries. For me, that’s disappearing into a book, a video game or a TV show – doing things that disconnect me from my laptop and phone and from people.
I get time during work hours to prepare my talks, but my blog posts have always been something I’ve done in my spare time. And right now? Writing posts isn’t something that recharges my batteries. My mind needs to be fully engaged and firing on all cylinders to want to write. And that’s the main reason why it’s been 5 months since I’ve written something here.
So here I am again writing something. I’d like to promise that I’ll write something else soon again, but honestly? I don’t quite know whether I can keep that promise. Hearing though that people like and find my posts useful? It does make me want to write more and it’s motivation for me to re-examine and figure out how to fit it back into my life.
Fingers crossed it won’t be another 5 months till I write here again.