Challenges of having two roles

Today I play two roles in the team, Technical Reference and Head. I’ll describe, at least I’ll try to, on how I saw both roles bellow. As I told in my last article, both happened in some kind of natural way and I try to improve in both areas daily. Today I understand that being a “boss” which is able to help the team to grow technically and driving them to the right solution, makes things a lot easier, instead of being a “boss” that doesn’t talk the same language.

Being the head it’s far away from an easy job, and I don’t do that alone, by-the-way, none of my work is done only by me. I have managers, leaders and huge team that supports me in the day-to-day operations. But, certainly also being the Techref, helps me to understand those that are joining the team, those that are learning new technologies, and the most important part, how each one works under pressure. Yes, you’re reading right, we work under pressure, a lot of pressure, and daily I learn something about people (ok, about technology too) like, those who fall asleep after long journeys fixing some huge production issue, those that sometimes cares too much about small things, that forgot the whole picture. Bellow I’ll try to show how those two roles works for me on my main challenges.

  • Technical Reference: this is my comfort zone, where I can solve problems (usually I got involved only in the big(fun) ones) and I can play with new technologies. Also it makes me being awake for long times, testing, fixing, creating and soo one… But the most important part of it, it’s far away from “dominate” some techs, it’s the task of making others to like that, as much as you and drive them to the adequate solution. Here my policy is not to give the fix/solution right away, even if they ask and they do it a lot. I always(when we have enough time) try make them research and learn by themselves, and then discuss the tech with the team, which from my personal experience is the most successful way of learning. Nobody forgets the tough lessons.
  • Head: this the hardest part of my day. Some from my team gave me the nickname of “boss”, which I still didn’t totally undestand if it’s good or bad, because I call my boss as “boss”, which in that case I’m sure it’s in a good way. With this position came the responsibility of tough decisions. They (and me) expect that I know each one, their capabilities, expectations, where they wanna be in the next years and what’s happening on all environments. Honestly, even that I only do that, I can’t. I’ll forgot some names, faces and the worst to congratulate for some achievement, which I do, not intentionally. I always try to understand where each one must be, which will help to work happier, naturally producing more.

The main “problem” combining those roles are that, both are full time, which makes me to have long night calls to decide something about a new project. Calls just to listen about complains about something that happened during the day, or a call, during the night for some production issue. Yes, I’m a workaholic, if you heard that I usually go on vacation with my laptop, it’s true, it’s always in my backpack. Also it’s true that I returned from vacation in the wrong Monday, one week before and only figured out that, after the third person (one was the CEO) asking me if I should not be in vacation, I had to check, and yes, was the wrong Monday. It’s what happens when you’re always willing to help your team. Now I’ll share my main challenges.

First challenge: keep things happening smoothly in such way, that we can laugh fixing problems and learning new stuff. I believe if we can work all night together laughing about some absurd or some situation (only us understand our own jokes. My wife only laugh in my consideration for the hard work, I guess), the work is way easier. On the other side, some can say that I’m always in bad mood or that I’m a robot that is always online… which, is not exactly true, the true is that, I’m always in a rush, because of the two role, which a took long to realize:

  • TechRef: I’m always trying to see a lot of different subjects and help as much as I can, which sometimes, makes me to talk to quickly to someone that they just think that I don’t care, or sometimes I ask them to send me an appointment to guarantee some spot in my agenda. I would like to be able to attend each one to help them to find the best solution. Making them happy by really solving the issues, not “just” applying some workaround. Unfortunately it’s not possible, the day has only 24hours and the team grown fast.
  • Head: When you have more than 50 people to coordinate, the most common is to be involved only when something bad happened. Which, in the last months as the number of different technologies that we’re involved changed significantly, it is happening too often. To remediate that, we work giving feedbacks as soon as we can, making sure that the subject is fresh in their minds, and always with the real situation, not something hypothetic, which makes easy is to connect facts, not that they’ll accept the critic immediately everyone has his own timing (some is almost infinite :D). I can focus more in the technical side of the team, not that I don’t help them on other stuff, but I have people helping me on bureaucracy and and other things.

My second challenge is: workaround culture, the urgency of being work with tight dead-lines or productions issues ended creating it, or as I like to say, forward culture. Because every time that someone does only the workaround, somebody else will be involved in the same issue again and again until someone fix it.

  • TechRef: It’s a huge challenge, specially when the chances of having the fix already documented are pretty low, then you need to engage people on studying the applications involved to find the solution not just to apply a workaround. I must drive people to understand what’s happening and how to fixit even it consumes significantly more time. The final result usually saves us time and increases the sense of achievement.
  • Head: Break this “bad” culture is really hard, because it’s not only changing the behavior of first response as quickly as possible, it’s to make others willing the same as you. And most important show to them that spending more time in a ticket than just doing the workaround will end saving time later and making customers happier.

My third challenge is: make everyone leading by example. My principle is simple, if you need to engage people for some task or research, you need to be the first raising your hand being available to help on that. That looks “simple”, but in the real world, it’s not, specially because most of the time it involves getting everyone out of their comfort zone.

  • TechRef: Explain others how to fix a problem, is easy. Making other technical leaders to not just solve problems but guide their team to acquire the needed knowledge, to well document the issues, it’s a total different process, and should never be started by their leaded, they should well document, they must go deeper to the issues bringing others to the party with them.
  • Head: As the team grown, it’s impossible to me to solve technical problems and also talk to each one to show them how to proceed, for that we’ve created the squads, which are limited to 7 people with different levels and one team leader. This one is in charge of coordinating the tasks and to make their teammates to look forward for more knowledge and for problem fix and not only for workarounds. First of all, I need to be the example to the leaders and they need to be the example to their squad.

None of the roles makes the job easier. I truly believe that leading by example is the best way to manage it. It should always start from the top levels, if you need someone to work during the weekend, you should be the first one in the list, if you want someone willing to help, you must be the first one helping others. This philosophy makes me pushing hard the squad leaders, as they are my day-to-day eyes and are closer to the team. By the end of the day, even that we’ve crossed dozens of different situations we must have the filling of mission accomplished and I really hope that we had a lot of fun and laughed a lot during the day.

TAGS: #devops

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