The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent my past, present and future employer’s views in any way. Nothing posted here should be considered official or sanctioned by my past, present or future employer or any other organization I’m affiliated with.
Written by Duarte Castelo Grande de Carvalho (dcgc)
ET is an empathetic creature that comes from another planet and tries to connect with other fellow human beings. We are not sure of its intent and its wanderings seem somewhat aimless until it approaches us and we are “assured” of its good intentions. The extra-terrestrial manager comes from a non-technical background but makes the effort to lead a team of people who are technical and have to deal with difficult situations on a daily basis, such as product support.
ET is an adorable, yet pestering creature, in an unconventional way: it likes to lend a helping hand in many ways, even when not qualified for it and not called for. It can be with unforeseeable complications and/or unpredictable situations from dealing with tough customers and certain technical challenges along the way, or with the personal development of its followers, based on a well-known method or framework read in a book or given by its tribe. The creature likes to show its knowledge, its adaptability and its versatility when dealing with a cul de sac. Example of this is the Kepner Tregoe Method for troubleshooting it keeps referencing to its engineers (that no one follows), and the framework for interpersonal skill development it keeps praising (that no one uses).
ET is a natural explorer in the habitat it resides. When in an organization, ET likes to mingle and to interact with creatures from its kind (managers and business people) but also likes to meet/greet, analyze, profile and influence with its beautiful innocent blue eyes, people who are outside of its tribe (engineers and programmers). ET knows limited English and looks to improve it to fit in (American company), but when doing so, it also likes to learn other tribe’s language: it starts by learning some basic words in the process (IT vocabulary), with a picture, the word and if it is good/bad (e.g., “brick wall in flames” is called “firewall” which is “good”). It usually ends by attending an internal seminar and/or workshop about what type of team and/or what the team’s technology is, and reads/completes an online course based on the team it has to be managing. ET is an insufficiently advanced alien, so when the material is not enough for comprehending entirely what it is managing, ET phones home (mandela effect).
ET bonds with people the same way it connects with its famous finger and with telepathy/telekinesis: it knows what “buttons to push” (how to destabilize people), what “doors to open” (what opportunities to leverage), how to manipulate people’s psychology (how to mess with people’s heads) and looks ahead on who to help/dismiss based on goals (creating or destroying people’s paths inside the corporation). The healing finger is used when the blame needs to be shifted somewhere else and the glowing heart is a sign of gratification from its work; these are the visual cues for its team to understand if the ET is happy or sad. ET does not get emotional for its team, it sees them as a piece of machinery having to be dismantled, maintained and oiled every once in a while.
ET quickly develops a fondness for chocolates and metrics. Ticket closures, call times and customer satisfaction rates/feedbacks are very important because it details if a team is performing good or bad according to the pre-stipulated SLAs, and if ET keeps its comfy job as a manager for a product support team. For ET, the real KPIs were not the customers it made happy along the way, but the five-star feedback it receives. Long term milestones are a wonderful thing, plans are an amazing thing too, but the number-based metrics it achieves are indispensable, and causes unavoidable happiness, as genuinely good numbers make people above it ecstatic. Everything needs to be flashy flashy quick quick.
Don’t be like ET:
Have genuine empathy for the engineers you manage: product support is a fucking soul-sucking job.
Don’t try to camouflage yourself to the point where you “stick out” too much: it is not needed to force yourself to fit in where you don’t belong to begin with; a manager is a manager and that is fine.
Stick to the program: work on what your abilities are tailored for; managing people to the point where they help achieve the team goals (aligned with the department/organization), not on tampering with an engineer’s work, which involves not only technical work but communication and trust relationship with the customer.
Don’t be an opportunist and don’t achieve ends without looking at means: you will get animosity from your team.
Metrics are not the end-all be all: things like ticket closures and call times just encourage shitty service and are the worst metrics to judge by. It punishes your good, honest employees (especially higher tier ones) and rewards your bad ones.