People Write Software

It may not always be true—at some point Artificial Intelligence might write most of the software we use.   But for now, people write software.   If you expect to lead software developers, whether you do so as a manager or a senior engineer, you need to figure out how to work effectively with people, not just software.

This may seem obvious.  But often the best engineers are promoted to senior engineering and management roles, without substantial people skills training.   In this way a team loses a great engineer, and gains an unknown leader.  This is an instance of the Peter Principle.

Training can help.   Seek out courses and trainers that have good references, ideally from those you trust, so that you make use of the good ones and avoid the bad.  In years past I have worked for both Adobe and Salesforce, both of which had good people-skills training available—a benefit of working at a bigger company.   If your company does not currently offer interpersonal skills training, work with your management to identify and hold training for you and your teams.  

Many resources are available on the internet and through publications.  A well written blog which often deals with  relevant people/engineering issues is Michael Lopp’s Rands In Repose.   I aspire to write as well (if not as prolifically) as Mr. Lopp.  He has also published a book, Managing Humans, which is on my reading list.

An older book worth considering is: Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams.  It fits squarely into this topic, and still packed some punch last time I read it (2nd edition).  But when working to improve your people skills you don’t need to focus on just the engineering-centric sources.   Another impactful book I have referenced over the years is Crucial Conversations.   The ability to prepare for, hold, and succeed with critical conversations is a skill that would benefit anyone, but is necessary for leaders.

This short post cannot hope to address all of the issues one could or should know to work well with people.  Over time I will use this blog to post my thoughts on various management and leadership topics, many of them people-centric.  My single best suggestion is: Seek out good coaches and role models who demonstrate strong people skills, and are willing to mentor you.