Everyone can remember when they first learned how to code. Your first “Hello, world” was surely a memorable moment.
And, for most of us, learning to code was structured, at least somewhat. Maybe it was all self-taught from a book, or a course, or a friend showing you some cool tricks. We usually start from basic syntax, go on to learn about variables, types, conditionals, loops, functions, etc. Almost all programming language books have the same table of contents if you think about it.
But the first time you managed a team?
If your company was like the absolute majority of companies out there, you had almost no structure to that learning at all. The lucky ones usually got some sort of 2-day management workshop.
From that point on, you probably tried imitating your previous managers. You boss might have mentored you here and there for the first couple of months, but usually only in your 1-on-1s, and not actively coaching you as you go along.
And when one becomes a CTO/VP for the first time? That’s usually even worse: There was probably no technical peer or boss to help guide you, and more often than not that promotion happens when one starts at a new company, where there’s lots of learning required all around.
Yes, sadly that’s the way things are in the industry. Yet, you should not simply accept it. Managers should strive to better standards, real learning, just like the coding profession itself.
It’s common to send developers to conferences, workshops and buy them books/video courses. There’s no reason managers shouldn’t be treated the same.
For tech executives this means two things. First, making sure they keep advancing and becoming better, by coaching, meetups with peers, etc. Second, instilling a culture of learning for their direct reports by actively mentoring and coaching them, letting them know they are expected to advance in their profession, and so on.
Chad Fowler has recently gathered a great list of resources, which I believe is of value to all tech managers and not just CTOs. Add a book to your reading list or subscribe to a new podcast, that’s a great start.
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