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Dr John Hawkins

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Career Milestone

Posted on 2008/01/10 23:06:22 (January 2008).

[Tuesday 8th January]
Today was actually quite a monumentous occasion for me, career wise. First of all today marked one year since I started my current job. Whilst at most companies this wouldn't be much of a cause for a song and dance, there does seem to be a culture at my place for making a bit of a big deal out of this event - which I thoroughly approve of. I guess this partly stems from the fact that we're still a relatively young company, growing very rapidly, and particularly for people working in the remote (i.e. non-US) offices a year at the company actually feels like a significant degree of seniority.

Perhaps more significantly than that though, today my manager anounced a reorganisation of our team in London. For the majority of last year we'd been just a small handful of people in London working as a subsidiary of the main engineering team in California. Fortunately we had been given a significant and very clearly defined chunk of the project to own - and over the course of the year it had been gradually recognised that our bit was the real "value add" (as management types like to say) of the whole initiative. This, on top of the fact that the London team had been seen to do a fairly good job of it, had meant we expanded significantly towards the end of last year, more than doubling in size.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the team in London has now grown to the size where it is becoming too big for us all to be sitting in regular meetings together and so on, and so the decision was made to split it into two separate teams.

And I've been chosen to lead of one of them.

It's important to note the difference between a lead and a manager here - I won't be in charge of hiring and firing, or deciding people's salaries or anything like that (although in my company even managers don't really do that kind of thing directly - it is all decided by committees). Still though, I will have responsibility for the deliverables of "my team", and am supposed to guide them and motivate them and all that kind of stuff.

Throughout all of my career up to this point I have always been just a regular software engineer - an "individual contributor". I guess I have been the principal developer on projects before - laying the groundwork for other people to follow and so on - but never someone really responsible for other people's work. So this is a really big deal for me. Especially at a company where the hiring bar is so high - I still think I only got in largely by luck - by being in the right place at the right time, and when I started I definitely had feelings of inadequacy... and yet here I am now leading a team of some of the best engineers in the industry - several of whom are more experienced than I am. It is a bizarre situation to be in.

Frankly, I am pretty nervous about the whole thing - it was enough of a challenge to just work out what the right thing for me to be doing was previously, but to have some hand in deciding what other (highly paid) people should be working on as well is really intimidating. I guess to a certain extent I had been doing this role already over the past couple of months - as the team had been expanding the job of bringing the new starters up to speed had fallen largely to me for one reason or the other (I suspect mainly just because I was more consistently in the office than anyone else). So probably it's just a case of continuing in that vein. All I can really do is try my best. If the worst comes to the worst, my work as an "individual contributor" was recognised at the higher echelons of the project, so even if I make a complete mess of being a lead I would hope I can still go back to what I was doing before.

Anyway, concerns over my career progression aside, to celebrate my one year anniversary at the company today - along with a couple of other people who started the same day as me - I organised an outing to my old favourite - The Cittie of Yorke. To my surprise the turn-out was actually very good - most of the people I work with on a day-to-day basis came along, as did a lot of other engineers I didn't really know so well (although presumably the latter category were there for the other people celebrating their one year anniversary). I couldn't entirely escape the slight feeling of awkwardness created by my new assignment, but other than that it was a fun evening.

Comment 1

Congratulations my good man, splendid news!

I am sure you'll be just fine at being a lead. What leads need to be is not twats. You're not a twat, so as long as you just be yourself, you'll be brilliant.

Congrats, mate. Well deserved!

Posted by Rob Lang at 2008/01/11 08:53:30.

Comment 2

Congratulations John!

You'll be fine at leading your team. Honestly. Ask yourself who is it organising all those social outings? OK, perhaps not major, but to management, that's a "team player" etc. :)

Posted by Nigel at 2008/01/11 10:18:24.

Comment 3

Good stuff John!!!

That's great news mate, I am sure that things will be fine, just be yourself and they'll love you! Of course remember to be a bastard every now and then!

Posted by Lox at 2008/01/11 17:25:53.

Comment 4

CONGRATULATIONS JOHN. I'm sure you will do a first class job.

Posted by Mad Mumsie at 2008/01/12 16:46:57.

Comment 5

Congratulations - you're a manager! Seriously John, I'm sure it's a well deserved promotion and it's good to be a lead rather than just a people manager.

Now you just need to stop believing that you only got your job by being lucky - perhaps you're actually good at what you do?!

Well done!

Posted by Simon at 2008/01/14 01:44:33.

Comment 6

He always was a modest lad when he won prizes at school.

Posted by John's Mum at 2008/01/15 21:12:57.

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