Are Programmers Impossible to Manage?

Here is some of my coverage of the 2012 Silicon Valley Code Camp at Foothill College in Los Altos, California where I was reporting for Dice and Dice News.

While there is tons of in-person and online training to be a developer, when it comes time to become a manager we usually have little to no training. And you need that training because software people are not the easiest people to manage. It’s one of the realizations that Ron Lichty and Mickey Mantle came to appreciate and as a result, just wrote and published a book on the topic entitled, “Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams.”

I spoke with Ron Lichty at the 2012 Silicon Valley Code Camp conference about his book and his companion presentation, “Crash Course in Managing Software People and Teams.”

The number one rule of managing software teams is “you’ve got to connect with them and you have to gain their respect,” said Lichty.

One person in his presentation asked if you can be respected as a manager if you haven’t been a programmer first. Lichty doesn’t think it’s possible. Taking the leap from coder to manager means you have to leave the coding behind. We heard this time and again from different presenters. If you become a manager, you can’t continue to code.

“If you continue to try to code, you will code and not manage,” said Lichty.

The goal of managing software teams

“When you manage programmers you want two things,” said Lichty. “When they’re working on their own you want them to get into the zone. And you want all the rest of the world to disappear. You want them to climb into the microprocessor and just listen to the gates open and close. And then when they climb back out of it you want them to be part of a team and you want them to demonstrate teamwork and you want them to interact with each other.”

Doing that, admitted Lichty, is not easy.

Watch the video, especially until the end where Lichty has a great joke about the difference between introverted and extroverted programmers.

 

 

Tags: , ,

2 People have left comments on this post



» Michael Baun said: { Apr 12, 2013 - 11:04:03 }

” And you need that training because software people are not the easiest people to manage. ”

I completely disagree, software people are as easy to manage as any one else.

» Glenn said: { May 24, 2013 - 10:05:29 }

“One person in his presentation asked if you can be respected as a manager if you haven’t been a programmer first. Lichty doesn’t think it’s possible.”

Not true. I can think of at least two managers I’ve had who never been developers but who were outstanding managers.