Key elements of Tech Management 💊
Between passion and obligation, I developed a very early 360-degrees vision of the many technologies and processes involved in creating a digital product.
Transforming this high-level vision into reality was one of my superpowers as CTO.
How it happened?
Since I was at university, I knew my role should be leading teams, so I started to look for opportunities where I could develop key skills. I learnt one of them was managing projects, so I proposed myself for it in practical exercises, and also started a small company.
By the time I finished my studies, I had already led a couple of projects involving +40 people and had learnt many things about running a business, like creating a brand, promoting the service in both offline and online channels, talking to customers, or coordinating the work of +20 part-time contractors.
It all started back in 2009, when I got my first job as a software engineer. I was doing mainly backend development, but I was genuinely curious about product development and other software areas, as my goal was to be able to create applications and digital products autonomously.
I liked backend & frontend, and I engaged with the incipient mobile apps world since the beginning. Although I wasn't too fond and didn't like it that much, I also had to design databases and deploy apps on different types of servers, both on-premise and several cloud providers. I needed all the different areas to become a great full-stack developer, so I went through it.
Later on, starting as co-founder CTO required even a wider approach to technology: product design, metrics, data modeling, systems design, modular architectures, or APIs, amongst many others.
With all these areas of knowledge, and hands-on experience in each and every of them over time, I developed a 360° vision that allowed me as a leader to empathize with all the different areas and professionals responsible for the execution along the different stages of the journey: from getting the requirements, estimating or planning, to the development and deployment.
And that was key to executing dozens of projects and launching many different products during my career at companies like Wefitter, I-surance, Wefox or Revolut. Of course they weren’t perfect or always on budget or on time, but they mostly succeeded in helping the business achieve the goals planned.
My other superpower: Translating business into technology 💥
My CEO and managers felt that I understood them when explaining business vision, interpreted their business requirements correctly, and spoke their language when explaining technical issues. — That’s Business Communication.
Also, the product team felt comfortable when I explained the high-level vision and the dependencies of some areas with others — when they saw realistic calendars and could have valuable technical conversations.
Both parties saw in me a partner who was fighting for their interests. I was the bridge many organizations miss between business and technology.
I developed these 2 superpowers as a consequence of my early exposure to leading projects and building companies. And they were the reason I could grow as a CTO: even when I was not a proper “leader”, at least I could manage all things product and tech with reasonable success.
Now that I have a much better understanding of what being an engineering leader means, I would like to share with you the 3 key elements to achieve a high-level technical vision.
Let’s dive deep into each of them:
One of the most important things for leaders in tech is to get out of their area of expertise (backend, frontend, data) and see the product from a higher-level perspective to generate expansion.
What do I mean by expansion?
Great tech leaders expand horizontally the boundaries of the technologies they know, allowing them to see technology as a whole. They focus on how well the whole engine works to fulfill business needs, not how each part performs individually. Interactions between the different technologies (and the members or teams responsible for each of them) matters, as well as the processes behind. You should keep an eye on it, as it’s your responsibility to care for the combined output, delegating the low-level details of each area to your team.
Great tech leaders also expand vertically. They look a bit further and see the long-term impact of the work done, decisions made, their consequences, and risks taken, among others.
To take all key aspects into account and balance your involvement in the different areas impacting the outcome of your team, I recommend using a simple framework that has worked well for me in the past.
It defines the operation of a business through 3P: People-Product-Process.
Some examples of things to take into account in each of the three areas:
Have the right people with the right skills
Create an environment that helps them perform at their best
Translate business and product requirements to technical tasks along with your team. You can not be the only translator!
Prioritize effectively what to do according to business impact
Define efficient and standard ways of handling each step: from communication between departments to deployment. How do we collect information? How do we decide? How do we report results?
In order to do that, frameworks and methodologies like DevOps, Agile or Dora metrics allow you to get demonstrated results out of the box (well, you must adapt to your current environment)
As you can see, the 3Ps framework allows you to keep everything in mind and avoid blind spots.
🗓 Project Planning
Given that resources (mainly time and money) are never infinite, your role managing projects is finding the right tradeoff for each case.
In order to facilitate it, another framework that works very well is what is known as the Golden Triangle of project management:
What this golden triangle teaches you is that the Quality delivered is limited by 3 variables:
The scope of work aka the features to build
The deadline established to deliver
The budget available
It can help you to make decisions when any of the variables change, i.e. if you have been told to include an urgent feature, either time has to be extended or the budget has to be increased in order to keep the same quality. Otherwise, the final product will suffer. This way you can negotiate those other variables, say “no” in case that cannot be guaranteed, or find alternatives.
Communication is the key ingredient to translating tech into business.
To gain the support and trust of stakeholders, you must continually and effectively communicate how your role in providing technology resources helps all of you to achieve business objectives.
Some tips here you can take to boost your communication with stakeholders:
You are the technical expert. Act as one. — They expect clear and concise answers from you. So synthesize your ideas and bring only the relevant information. Think about what is really important to them, bring only a small number of topics and keep the message short.
Avoid technical jargon as much as you can. Bring metaphors, use examples and analogies to be understood, and of course avoid as much as possible all our tech acronyms and concepts like SDK, API, IDE, Kubernetes, or Microservices.
Speak their language: Time & Money. The more you link every idea to the impact of those variables, the easier it will be for them to understand you — and the bigger chances you will have to get the buy-in. At the end, is on their interest.
If you would like to dive deep into technical vision, within Ignite Mentoring Program we work on this topic! — During sessions 3 & 4, you will work around these and other frameworks in-depth and will prepare a real project where you will have to cover all these areas in detail, as well as communicate it to a business stakeholder.
📚 Free Resources To Grow As A Great Engineering Lead
🎥 Webinar: From 0 to 100: Your First 100 Days as Tech Lead
Have you just landed as a Tech Lead or Engineering Manager, and are you struggling in this new role?
Join me next October 19th at 18:00 CET, and let’s co-create a 100-day action plan to successfully land a tech leadership role and multiply your impact from day one.
🎙The Ultimate Guide to Building High-Performance Teams in Tech
Building high-performance teams is far from trivial.
Your job as a leader is to get the performance metrics right and to spot people who look for growth opportunities from the beginning.
However, you must remember that building high-performance teams isn’t just about hiring; the team and the environment they work in must enable them to make the most of their talents.
How can you get everything right to build high-performance teams?
Get my approach to building high-performance teams, plus some tips you can apply to foster it in your team by listening to my latest entry at Level UP Engineering Podcast!
That’s all for now!
See you in the next LIDR Pill 👋