A few months ago, I found out about a technique called the 5 Seconds Rule- the premise being I have 5 seconds to make a decision and go for it. I applied this for the first time when someone asked me if I would like to be a speaker at the spring edition of Codecamp. My answer was yes (within 5 seconds) and there was no way out of it anymore. I committed.
Fast forward to present day, a few months later after being a speaker, and I am considering registering for the autumn edition and being nostalgic about that first presentation which I decided to share here too.
I have to admit, the topic I chose was the easiest choice for me at the moment. After all, you can’t be wrong if you present something real, from your own experience, right? So I chose to discuss about the challenges I face and the lessons I’ve learned working between two worlds: development and leadership. Here are the main ideas that I’ve discovered because I am sure I’m not the only one to uncover these before.
“Myths are a waste of time. They prevent progress.” – Anonymous
One of the first things I learned had a major impact on my career choice. We shouldn’t let myths dictate who we are or what we can do. We often hear things like “developers don’t need creativity” or “developers don’t like or need to interact with other people.” These facts make it seem like developers and leaders are completely opposite and you might think that you are forced to choose one. I couldn’t disagree more and here’s why. As a developer it is almost impossible to work on a project without being involved in a team, having daily meetings, participating in brainstorming sessions and sharing ideas with others. Regarding the creative part, the way I see it, coding means finding creative solutions for different problems and combining existing ideas to fix a unique issues. If that is not creativity, I don’t know what else is.
A developer can also be a leader
There are multiple things that can be done in order for you to act like a leader. Some of them might be your decision, others can be actions that you are already doing without even noticing.
Going beyond your job description is one thing you may be doing without realizing it and I think it might be a first indicator that you are leader material. Perhaps you’ve felt like the project you are working on could use some help in organizing the documentation and decide to do something about it. Maybe you’ve had an idea that could be implemented across the entire company, for example, an event is happening and you decide to share your idea and get involved. Or, maybe you noticed that a colleague could use some help and decided to talk to them even if they are not on the same project with you. All these indicate a very important fact: you are willing to allocate your time to areas that are not in your responsibility just because someone else besides you may benefit from it.
Putting yourself in awkward situations is a decision that can help you more than you could ever imagine. Be a speaker at a conference, even if you know for sure that you’ll be nervous, you won’t know where to stand, or how much you should look at your audience without being awkward. Trust me, I’ve experienced these feelings, but they don’t matter to me anymore. What matters is now that I have presented, it’s an experience I will never forget – teaching me a lot of things like how important is to prepare before a presentation, how to treat the Q&A section, how to control the timing and more.
Expanding your network might seem unrelated to leadership, but I think it’s worth it. Being involved in different organizations, participating in community events, getting to know people from different domains with different points of view has helped me to be more open minded, see things from different perspectives and last but not least, connect with someone that may have more information or collaboration in a specific area you may need help with.
Encouraging others to grow is one of the things a leader should definitely do, but you don’t have to be ‘officially’ a leader to do so. You’ll interact with people who are at a starting point in their careers. Share your experiences with them, tell them the things you would have liked to know when you were in their place – don’t keep all this info yourself just because you are not their supervisor and you are not responsible for their careers.
Becoming an ‘official’ leader
If you’ve discovered that leadership is part of who you are and decide to accept a job that will give you the opportunity to focus more on this area, congratulations, you are now an “Official” leader! Take the time to celebrate, but make sure you allocate some time for setting your expectations and paying attention to challenges that might and will arise.
Accepting the fact that I can’t and shouldn’t be the best at everything was one of the first lessons I learned after transitioning to a new position. A part of me was always trying to keep up with the development world, making sure that I completely understand every new framework and that at any given moment I will be able to write code efficiently. There is nothing wrong in being informed, it is actually important to be aware of what is happening in the domain we are working on, but be careful on how you select and prioritize the info. You now have other responsibilities and if you aren’t able to answer some technical questions in the future it is perfectly fine and normal. Pay attention to general information and trust the team – they are the specialists – to understand and study the technical details.
Another important lesson for all the developers out there who aren’t writing code anymore – let your code go. I had the chance to provide leadership in the same project where I worked as a developer before. We all know the feeling we have when we are so proud of a piece of code written by us and other developers want to make changes there. Don’t reject changes just because you think your code is perfect, no matter if you are still a developer or not. But when you aren’t the lead developer anymore, there is actually no sense in being overprotective with your code – it’s not like you’ll be able to improve it on your own.
Finally, I’ve learned the importance of making your voice heard. I am a strong believer in having an idea that may actually make an impact and you believing that it should be shared with other people. Maybe it will be accepted or maybe not. Maybe others will see it as a good idea or maybe you’ll end up asking yourself what you were thinking in the first place. It doesn’t matter though, because by sharing it you’re not keeping the idea to yourself. You’re getting valuable feedback and now that you are an official leader, take advantage of this to have an impact and help others have an impact!
If I had to share three takeaways it would be these:
- Don’t let others define who you are.
- Your actions and not what it’s written in your contract makes you a leader.
- Leadership can be the most challenging, yet most rewarding part of your job.
More about Andra and her colleagues experience at Codecamp spring edition at Iasi:
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- Developer and Leader – mix & match - July 15, 2019