Josh Work Professional Organizations Trip Reports Conference Report: 2000 LISA: MetaLISA Workshop

Six major topics were covered:

Staying technical

We had a good hour-plus discussion on how to stay technical and manage your boss. Some ideas that came up included having both responsibility and authority, getting someone to do the nontechnical aspects while you concentrate on the technical ones, defining and reviewing roles and responsibilities, using agendas to run and control meetings, knowing when to say "I don't know," holding regular "town hall" type meetings for the user community, and apologizing when you screw something up.

Retention, hiring, and "coaching out"

The general concensus here was to involve the Legal and Human Resources departments as soon as possible and to document everything. If you need to encourage someone to leave, you can either treat it as a pure performance issue or possibly a security issue (for example, if the employee in question has root). If performance is an issue, you can use improvement plans or a probationary period. You'll definitely have to manage the morale of those who stay.

This led to a discussion on hiring. First, how do you find qualified applicants? You can look online, though for more signal and less noise you can go by word of mouth, the sage-jobs list, and even campus recruiters. Second, how do you convince these qualified folks to join your company? Some thoughts for managers focused on looking at the long term not the short term, since you cannot easily get rid of someone you've hired: do you have to raise or adjust the salary of the new hire? of the rest of the team? do you have to train people? are bonuses involved?

This led to a discussion on retention. In order to keep employees on your team, we determined that managers need to have flexibility in providing raises (both in terms of frequency and amount) and reviews (more often than just annually). Providing perks, such as training, conferences, laptops, high-speed network access, soda and beer, flex time, toys to play with (both computer-related and non-), cool projects, good management, good coworkers, good environment, and respect and recognition, can help you retain your best employees.

Leaving gracefully

If you find yourself in the position of leaving a job, you should leave gracefully. Hand off your responsibilities, make sure no batch or cron jobs run from your own account, document everything (both what happens and why), and put read-me files in nonstandard directories and hosts. Be professional and do what's right for the company; don't send any hate mail. Whenever possible you should train your replacement. You need to, as a manager, plan for your people leaving, be it by leaving the department, leaving the company, or being promoted out of that position.

Some other questions that arose included:

Talking (up) to management

When talking to your management you have to remember to tune to the audience. Talk about the technical issue in terms, such as business speak, that your audience is familiar with. You need to focus on the business reasons and issues and not the technical jargon. You should ask your peers, or even your boss, to review any messages you're about to send. Find something in common with the manager and use that as a basis for establishing rapport in your communications.

Talking to now-subordinate peers

When you're the one who's been promoted to lead your team, there are a few things you need to remember. You have to be careful with social events; as a manager you're no longer "one of the gang." There is going to be some information you cannot share with your team, and they are going to know that. You have to treat everyone the same regardless of how you may feel towards them (such as friends and non-friends in the same team). The dynamics will differ by group size; managing one or two people is different from managing ten or twelve. Finally, you have to be objective and impartial.

General tips & techniques

We wrapped up the day with some general tips and techniques for being good managers. They included:

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Last update Apr24/02 by Josh Simon (<>).