On being a not-boss

This whole tech world thing is totally crazy. I look forward to telling grandchildren about how I was part of the second dotcom wave. My job has been morphing into management (except NOT, except kind of). I do hiring stuff (we’re trying to find technical people right now, so having the qualities of a librarian, plus the computer knowledge of a developer, plus the writing skills of a … writer), I videochat with my teammates to see how they’re doing and encourage them to take on more of the things they’re interested in (the hope is that if each person does some management stuff they’re good at, we’ll cover it all and won’t need one person doing shit management work), and I take care of some of the shit management work. Except it’s not shit. Actually, someone once said “a good manager is the person who holds the shit umbrella, so that their team can get work done”. It’s not quite like that, since we don’t have a bureaucracy for me to be slashing red tape. It’s more like being a single point of contact with other teams, if someone doesn’t know who to go to. I have historical knowledge (not specifics, but in general of how to do things better next time. So, like a historian.) I’m also getting better at pointing out when people are fucking up. It’s really hard for me, because I am conflict-adverse, and I’m totally chicken about giving negative feedback. I’m learning that with good, smart people giving negative feedback means they think “Thanks! I wouldn’t have figured that out so fast. I’m going to work on that.”

I wrote this today, verbatim, in a catch-up email to a group of friends from library grad school. I realized it’s worth sharing, as it sums up a lot of hard-to-express thoughts I’ve had as the GitHub ship heads farther into space.

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