Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Leadership, Defined.

Well, it's happened. It took a few years longer than I would have liked, but I've successfully made manager. The story takes some time to tell, but largely it's about a GM getting fired, and my whole organization bumping up a level to fill in. My direct manager went from 30-40 employees to over 130, which is a great reflection on the work we had been doing.

I'd delivered the cloud optimization dashboard within IT, been around the world demo'ing it and showing teams how to get control over their cloud infrastructure, and even writing public articles about how IT does cloud optimization.

It was clear this project had more legs- the whole industry was going to hit this problem about 12-18 months after we did. Getting me closer to the development and BI team was important, so we could deliver faster and push the designs to other teams. Several teams across the company reached out and asked to work with us on the logic and data. The Azure product group even finally came knocking to take this prime time.

So I was moved to our engineering arm of the IT infrastructure division. I was also given the Cloud Consulting team, a small team of brilliant cloud architects that help the rest of the company with tough design challenges. Saying "Given" is of course poor word choice. The consulting team does a lot of what the optimization dashboard does, with a much higher technical ceiling, and an emphasis on design.

So here I am, reporting to a new manager, with a new to me team. Almost all of the team members have more tenure than me, and most are the same level. Heck, since I was promoted so recently, I'm barely even their peer.

Now here's my opportunity to take my passion for leading, growing, serving, and putting it into practice. The last few weeks have been crazy. Some of the employees like to have long running discussions with me daily, others have spoken to me once. I've been transparent, honest, and open about this situation- I am young, I am a new manager, and I am new to this team. I committed to them that I will do my very best to support, learn, and enable each person. I want everyone on the team to feel empowered to go achieve the goals they have, and to truly enjoy their work. The consult team has the unique opportunity to essentially work on whatever projects they want to. There is no shortage of cool things to go help design and build around the company, but there is definitely a shortage of talented cloud architects.

I think the team was tentative the first few weeks. With any new manager, there comes a general sense of unease. Humans are change averse. Was this change made to deconstruct the team? Why did they put such a young engineer in charge? Is he going to make us all work on his own projects? After sitting down with them, doing a fair bit of listening, and chatting about the value I see in their work, I think things are starting to relax a little bit. But one thing I know is, building trust takes time. Building relationships take time. Building a cohesive team takes time.

This afternoon, my manager told me the way I handled the team in the first staff meeting was as if I had been doing it for years. That blew me away. It reminded me- I am ready for this. I have prepared for this. I have taken the training. I have spent countless hours reading books, discussing leadership, learning from great mentors, and so much more. I am ready for this.

Bring it on, Microsoft. We will reinvent you as a passionate, people focused company that focuses on loving individuals, not software.

Senior Service Engineering Manager, Rick Ochs