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The "People Leadership" Lesson is part of the full, Engineering Management Fundamentals 101 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Jem discusses the importance of recognizing that people are not static and that as a manager, one must adapt to the different needs and moods of their team members. Jem also addresses imposter syndrome and the need for self-improvement as a manager. He concludes by highlighting the difficulty of the job but also the fulfillment and rewards it can bring.


Transcript from the "People Leadership" Lesson

>> People are squishy, people do not fit into a box, it doesn't matter what your preconceived notions are. It doesn't matter what they look like even you may have the same background as them, people are all different. You're gonna leave this course, you're gonna walk outside or turn your house, your apartment wherever you are.

And your perspective is gonna change, and who you are today, right now, is going to be different from the person you are tomorrow. And that's a really weird thing to think about, is that people are not static, people are squishy, and you have to adjust that. Even, for example, in some of my one-on-ones, people show up differently depending on their mood.

Some people are straight complaining, I shouldn't say complaining, they have a lot of things to say, a lot of gripes. And I listen, I say, okay, they don't need me to actually interject and do anything about it, they just wanna get off their chest. They feel better, and that's fine, we talk about one of the roles is therapists, that's totally fine.

Some days people are just like projects, they're heads down, they're focused. I'm just there to check in with them, and all they wanna do is talk about work and business, nothing personal. And the same person can show up very differently throughout the week too. Because when they leave and they step away from the computer, life happens all around them.

And that's what's tricky about engineering management and people leadership. The code doesn't change, that's what's beautiful about code, it doesn't change unless you do something. Humans change by default, and that's just something you have to recognize, and you have to adapt yourself. So when people say, Jim, I wanna become an engineering manager, I'm always like, are you sure?

Really? Even after listening to all this, you really wanna be an engineering manager? It is fulfilling, it is rewarding in a way that is very difficult to describe. But it's a difficult job, there's a lot you have to take into account. So again, you don't have to become an engineering manager to advance your career, there's many ways of doing that.

If you do it and you come back to software engineering, you'll be a better software engineer, that's the truth. But if you're not prepared, your motivations aren't there, you don't understand the realities of software engineering management, don't do it. No one wants a miserable software or manager. Do I wanna talk to my boss?

They're like, [SOUND] hey, how's your day? [SOUND] These people, things keep changing or just absent. Hey, I'm doing this, cool. You wanna be engaged, you wanna be there for your team. So you really make sure, if you wanna become a manager, make sure you're certain. Make sure you're aware of all of these things that you have to take into account, question?

>> Just a comment here in chat. Shifting your mindset from being an independent contributor where you find joy in your own accomplishments. Versus shifting to finding joy in others achievements was a big step for me in transitioning to management.
>> I love that, whoever said that, I love that, finding joy in other people's accomplishments.

Yeah, and that's so different from being a software engineering where you find joy in your accomplishments and take pride in that. You have to take pride in others. But there's always that nagging doubt of, did I actually do anything? Were they naturally good? I'm filling out paperwork while they're doing their thing, and you'll never know.

And maybe after maybe a year or two, you can look back and be like, I did do something, but you never know for certain, that's that's hard to deal with. So really, it's about technology, it's about being coming a software engineering manager. But if you can't tell the challenges around people, there are business challenges for sure.

Project management, technology choices, things around the business. But the people leadership part is is definitely the most challenging. It's the most rewarding but it's also the most challenging part. And it's better to think of it as people leadership, leading others. And the truth about engineering management and one of the hardest part is you have to be better.

You have to show up every single day, you got to be that person. If there's low energy, you got to bring the energy. There's a lot of energy, you can't be the low person. And sometimes the team's just like, they're in a groove, they're vibing. You don't have to force them to sit through a team meeting.

If they're all like, we're heads down, we're doing well, you have to be able to make that call and step back. You have to know when to listen, you have to know when to talk. You need to know what people need in that exact moment. Sometimes people are feeling down, maybe they're gonna leave.

Maybe they just need talking to, maybe they need a salary increase, maybe they just need a new computer. Maybe they just need someone to tell them, hey, I know this is hard, and I'm here for you. But the fact is you have to be better, and that's hard, cuz that's a personal thing.

We talked a lot about By making your team do something or getting your team to do something, convincing partners and customers and all these other things. But the truth is to become a good people leader is you have to become better. And there's nothing hard in the world of changing yourself, and that's just the the honest truth.

And that's that's the responsibility that, there's some days I don't want it. I'm like, I just wanna sit back and chill, I would love for somebody to tell me what to do, I do it and then I go watch Netflix, or I check out. But I'd say most Fridays I'm always like, as much as I wanted done, did I do anything this week?

And that's, that's hard to deal with. And the truth is just showing up all the time, being the person people look to, is what counts in the long run. If I'm inconsistent, people don't trust me, they're not gonna listen to me, why should you? And that consistency, it doesn't matter, I've been sick.

I have gotten two hours of sleep cuz my son's up all night crying from something. Maybe I just got some bad news about the company, maybe it's a reorg coming and the team doesn't know it. But I have to think about how to deal with that. There's so many things that go into it from personal and a business side.

But I need to show up every single time for my team, and that's what they're counting on me to do. And that's hard, that it's hard, it's hard to do that and it's a lot of responsibility, you're like, that's not fair, that's not fair to me. I'm a person just like everybody else.

But that's the truth about engineering management, is you have to be better, question?
>> Folks are asking if you're gonna address imposter syndrome at all?
>> I can't now, yeah, it doesn't go away. It doesn't matter how high you climb, it doesn't matter what your role, you will always be an imposter.

I heard an interesting interview the other day on NPR, it was about a Nobel Prize winner. And they're talking, they're like, wow, you're so smart, you won this Nobel Prize. And I'm like, yeah, but I built on a lot of other research, and I don't feel like I'm as smart as people think I am, and I still don't want a Nobel Prize.

So it doesn't matter how high you go or what you do in life, you will always deal with imposter syndrome. Do I belong here? Have I earned this place? And there's, there's nothing anybody can do to fix that. There's no title, there's no money, it's just a personal belief inside.

And as an engineering manager, yeah, especially in early one, you have nothing about impostor syndrome, cuz you're not doing anything. You're not shipping code, what value am I providing to the business? Why are people paying me? Why are people listening to me? You just have to believe internally that, yeah, I belong here, I'm doing something, I'm making an impact.

But it doesn't go away, it gets worse as an engineering manager.
>> Do you have to be available outside of core work hours as a manager?
>> Good question, I don't recommend it. Management is one of these things that, there are so many things to do. Even when you close out the year, you're gonna be like there's so many things I didn't do.

The list of things you could have done and should have done maybe is always log into things you didn't do. And if you don't set down deals in your life, it will just take over. I have never worked harder in my life than I do as a software engineering manager.

I used to work in a kitchen, I worked in a kitchen in a restaurant for seven years. I've got you know, scars, my arm burns forking in the kitchen standing 12, 13 hours a day in the heat, yelling at people, getting yelled at, and that was not as hard as this.

I was actually a manager in a theme park in South Georgia, where it's 90 degrees and it's super humid and it's sweating. And dealing with teenagers who don't wanna be here you there and customers who are feeling entitled to things. I'm working 15 hours a day walking around, and that was not as hard as engineering management.

It's definitely the hardest hardest job because at the end of the day I at the Friday when I close my computer, I'm not satisfied that I did as much as I could. I am a little bit better now, but initially I wasn't. And that, I should have done more, could have done more, just drives you mad, and you have to accept that.

So, I forgot which rant I went on, but yeah, it's, a challenging job. Grace Hopper, a very, very famous admiral, has a conference named after her, a very, very influential figure in tech, said. You manage things and you lead people, you don't manage people. You do in terms of the role, but people are not things, they're not static, and you can't make them do anything.

You have to lead them, sometimes you're from the front end you got example, sometimes you do it from behind. It's like making sure they're everybody's happy and not falling behind. And where you need to sit, it totally varies on the situation, the day of the week, the team, so many other things.

But that's the truth about engineering management. So the takeaways are, there's many paths to management, there's different ways to get there, sometimes accidental, sometimes deliberate. You have to have the right motivations, cuz no one's telling you what to do, no one's telling you how to spend your time.

So you really need to dig deep and be better and figure these things out. Cuz if you don't, life will figure it out for you, but it'll be a very painful lesson. An engineering management is a difficult job. There are absolutely days when I'm like, man, I miss coding.

I miss these really technical sessions my team looks like all jumps in and I'm like, this is the fun stuff. I haven't lost that thrill for doing that, but I have to step back. And just like doing that, watching other people have fun, it's sometimes difficult too, and I wanna jump in there.

But I have to take satisfaction when they come up with an answer and say, yeah, okay, good job, team, let's move on, and that's that.

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