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Level Up

Baby (How Much I LFO You) by DJ Koze. Fun track from a coworker with many Avalanches vibes.

Dang, I make one happy post then take a break from writing forever? Well a month is certainly not forever, but it feels like it when you’re going away at a two week cadence pretty consistently. It hasn’t bene perfect but it’s been pretty damn good. I can look back on each weekend and see things I’ve done with friends. Going camping, attending concerts, playing music, hanging out – it’s refreshing! I’m not going to write it all down here. I don’t need to and some of it involves secrets that aren’t mine to share anyways. Still, just another reminder to go out and have fun when you can. And if you don’t think you can, see what you can change in order to do that. You’re not a machine that converts calories into dollars, and you definitely you shouldn’t live your life acting as the inverse of that.

But that’s not what I’m interested in writing (and learning) about today. I’m going to keep this one mostly professional from here on out, or at least “professional” in the sense that I’m going to write about work. My team has gone from “my team” [of one] to my team for real. It hasn’t been formalized yet, but that verb choice tells you the whole story. There were two EE teams at my job and they took very different approaches to how they developed the management side. The other team spent a lot of time trying to find an outside person to lead the team, and finally landed someone. They weren’t really comfortable letting someone internal move up to that role, mostly for age/experience reasons.

Then on my side, they just let me have it. I’m not sure if I want it, but now I have it. To clarify: they asked me several times if I wanted this, and I said yes, but I wasn’t exactly 100% confident. I have been here the longest of the people on the team (~2 years vs ~3 months on average), but they’re all 5-10 years older than me. They’re definitely more technically advanced, more experienced, you name it. Telling people what to do is awkward, telling people who are older than you what to do is bizarre. I guess I should clarify what I mean by manager, since there are three types of {engineering} management (apparently):

  • People management: making sure people are happy when working
    • I only do this/will be doing this for interns
  • Technical management: making sure the thing we’re building will actually work
    • I will be doing this, but on a lesser scale, since the people I’m working with are technically proficient as all hell
  • Program management: making sure people are building the right thing at the right time
    • I think this is the one I’ll be doing 90% of

It also means I’ll be doing a lot less hands-on design work probably. That part bums me out a bit - I felt like I was just getting good at this whole thing, then boom, onto something new. I keep going back and forth on whether or not that sucks? Like, I want to be a fancy schmancy elite engineer who can solve anything. On the other hand, that would’ve just been “more of the same”. That’s the whole reason I went to startup-land in the first place. It allows you to get a taste of everything (many hats). I didn’t want to be the world’s best VCO designer [sorry ADI], I wanted to be a great engineer.

I’m not sure if this part will help with developing that. Well, slight takeback, it will definitely help somewhat, just not sure if it’ll help more than the other options. More experiences always make you better, but all experiences have a saturation point. Many of my friends are in this role – some of them even started here as their first job out of college! That part blows my mind: how can you manage something you’ve never done before? People say that’s not necessary, but I strongly disagree. I’ve had a few managers in my life, and it’s like day and night here. If my boss could do the thing I’m assigned to, the advice and feedback I get is so, so much better. I’m glad I have some experience here, but I’m concerned it’s limited.

I’m interested in hearing advice for next steps too. I hate self-help books, so I’m not exactly deep-diving into them. I’ve started skimming blog posts or Twitter folks who are more regularly involved in this topic, but it all the same problem. It’s too high level (“be aware of your team’s issues”) or too low-level (“using ThisBuildSystem is best used with CustomWorkflowA"). I totally understand why: every person is different, so when you get a group of them together, you’re only amplifying the possible permutations.

Sorry if you stuck around looking for conclusions, this exercise is primarily for helping me get my thoughts out when I’m stuck in the mud. Hopefully I’ll be able to contribute back later, but no promises!