Welcome to the Programming Leadership podcast! In this episode, you’ll meet the host, Marcus Blankenship, as he introduces his passion for helping programmers navigate transitions. After all, most engineers don’t plan on becoming managers. So whether you’re a new programmer, you’re on the management track, or if you’ve been a manager for years, be sure to tune in as Marcus will help prepare you to not become just a manager, but how to truly become a great leader.
- For Marcus, his steps of going from programmer to manager, manager to leader, leader to executive and business owner was the hardest journey of his life.
- Making the transition from computer-person interaction to person-person interaction is what the Programming Leadership podcast is all about.
- Leadership is about developing a set of skills where everyone can contribute to problem-solving.
- Marcus’ Website: https://marcusblankenship.com/
Marcus: Welcome to the Programming Leadership podcast. I’m your host, Marcus Blankenship. I never wanted to be a manager. I mean ever. It was literally the last thing on my mind. Of course, most kids don’t grow up thinking, “I want to be a middle manager at a retail store.” Even though frankly, now that I think about it, that’s exactly what my dad did. I wanted to be a software engineer. From the age I was 11, hammering on my VIC-20, typing in those listings that came when your mother would bring home from the grocery store — a big, giant pulpy book that said Easy Computer Games. That’s where I cut my teeth on programming and I knew at 12 years old that was the profession for me. I was lucky enough that I was able to spend my high school years in front of a computer and a BBS, go on to college, major in software engineering — although failed to actually get a degree — and then become a professional software engineer.
Marcus: Okay, technically my title was junior programmer at the time, but you get what I mean. I became then someone who loved the craft of software engineering. I learned many languages. I gained competency and skill. I developed a lot of great software, hard, complicated software and then, frankly, I got promoted. And truthfully, this is how it happened. I was taking a “bio break” as is politically correct in the largest stall of the restroom and all of a sudden I heard someone burst in and yell, “Marcus, you’ve been promoted. Come see me when you’re done.” This was needless to say, surprising for many reasons. I finished up and went to speak with my boss who told me that in the past he had put me forth to become a team leader, a management position at the company we worked at, having very little idea about what a team leader did except the fact that he was a team leader. I nodded as my parents had always taught me to do when unsure if something was going to be good or bad. Agreed to it. Said thank you and went back to my desk to code.
Marcus: Turns out, this step of going from programmer to manager, manager to leader, leader to executive and business owner was going to be the hardest journey of my life. Far harder than learning to program ever had been. See as a programmer, I had opted in to a field where I had to have a very particular relationship, a relationship with a machine. I loved my computer. I even named it. As silly as that sounds, my Amiga 1000 was named Walter, and if you’ve ever named your computer, I hope you’re smiling and fondly remembering your computer’s name right now. My computer and I were buddies at a time, also known as junior high and high school that maybe social situations were challenging. We might say my computer was my friend.
Marcus: It was the gateway to a new world through BBSs. It was a way to interact with other people. I could hide behind a moniker and a handle and most of all I could feel competent, accepted, and forgiven because anyone can even overcome a syntax error. The compiler and I became friends and I want you to just frame my whole life like this, that I was much more comfortable with the computer-person interaction than I was with the person-person interaction. Now I’m telling you this because this podcast, Programming Leadership, is all about that transition. All about learning to go from being an engineer to managing individuals then groups then other managers and of course managing your boss and your clients and your customers as well. And along the way, we’ll even talk a little bit about managing ourselves — because that was truly the most difficult transition to make.
Marcus: There’s a lot of stories that I could tell and my guess is you’ve got your battle stories as well. I want to just begin the podcast by letting you know that I have talked to literally thousands of software engineering team leads, tech leads, feature leads, lead developers, software managers, and all the other titles that we love to use. Not a single one has ever told me that going from an engineer to a people manager was easy. They, in fact, all of them said it was the roughest transition of their life. It was brutal. People tell me horror stories of being dumped into the “deep end of the pool” which sounds awful by all accounts or battlefield promotions, which sounds like we’re at war. Either way, this podcast is going to focus on helping you become a great leader, not just a manager and not some sort of natural leader who finds themselves because leadership as we’re going to talk about in the next episode, is about developing a set of skills where everyone can contribute to problem-solving.
Marcus: We are going to do this work in the context of delivering software and managing all the kinds of people that are in our software universe, from programmers to DevOps, testers, QA, designers, UX, product owners, project managers and well, and especially ourselves. I’m going to assume that you have been or are an engineer or that you loved that kind of work and so therefore maybe you’ve struggled with this particular maker to manager transition. I hope you join us. I want to let you know that the podcast will be sponsored by various folks who are interested in putting their message in front of you. This will happen from time to time and no more than once per episode. I also want you to know that I’ll take your questions along the way so you can mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to answering your questions on the air, discussing things with interesting people and your feedback. Thank you, and we’ll see you on the next episode.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to programming leadership. You can keep up with the latest on the podcast at www.programmingleadership.com and on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time. This has been a Humble Pod Production. Stay humble.