It’s the People, Stupid!

I’m a career technologist. Building software systems that people find useful (as possibly love) gives me a great thrill. I’ve spent more than 25 years learning many arcane bits of knowledge that makes it possible for me to contribute to the construction and maintenance of these software constructs.

Historically, I have mainly focused on technical skills and software development techniques. I tended to avoid practising “softer” skills such as communication, leadership and mentoring. In the last couple of years, I had an epiphany, and changed emphasis to include those things.

The first thing that made me reconsider was a private conversation with Jeff Fredrick (who should really tweet and blog more – he knows too much good stuff). I’ve forgotten the exact details of the conversation (it was a couple of years ago), but Jeff talked about his career development, and his deliberate choice to move into technical leadership (he’s now CTO of TIM Group), and the people skills he needed to make the transition. We contrasted that with my own career choices (mainly “keep my hands in the code”). I recall his main point was that learning the people skills made him much more effective as a technologist (in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!). Essentially: it’s the people, stupid!

It didn’t change my behaviour straight away, but it made me think harder about the skills I had been neglecting, and seek out better ways of working with people. With a hat-tip to people like Bob Marshall, Ben Mitchell and Jeff Fredrick who pointed me towards the reference material, here’s the main things that I feel have contributed most to my development over the last couple of years:

I’m still working in the code, but as the above list shows, I’m working towards using empathy and humanity in my work. As always, it’s harder than it looks.