I count my self lucky that I have a very supportive manager throughout my career, especially in the past few years. My manager did give me assignments, support and the psychological safety for me to take on challenging roles. I have been known to take on programs that relate to non-traditional technologies. My first prime time software project management role was to plan for a SOC with cellular technology for the embedded systems market. Basically saying that we take a cellphone chip and make it work for kiosk, handheld controllers, etc. Prior to taking up the current management role, I was the software project manager for the next generation vision processing unit, a technology that was brought in through acquisition. I am new to the technology, the team that I need to work with are new to the company’s culture and processes.
In a way, I thought I had been prepared for the new role as a “leader of leaders”. My manager has publicly announced to the team as well as to the higher management team that I will be his successor should any changes happen in the future. I heard this from him for at least 3 years before I took over the role, therefore I am clear on the path set forward for me. The good thing about being identified as a successor is that the company provides some management training that I can attend. This is so that I get some knowledge before actually taking over the job. Most of the training provided are on the standard process, methodology and management culture in the company. Basically knowledge to do the basic job as a manager.
At the same time, my manager also brought me along to events like offsite discussion, management forums. This exposed me to other leaders in the organisation, so that it’s easier to get help and talk to management.
With all this, I thought I was set.
I was wrong and I realised that I really don’t know what I am doing after taking the helm for the first few weeks.
I feel like a “Post Turtle”, the story goes like this
An old rancher is talking about politics with a young man from the city. He compares a politician to a “post turtle.” The young man doesn’t understand and asks him what a post turtle is. The old man says, “When you’re driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can’t get anything done while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down.”
I could go around reading books after books, watching videos after videos, I realised there’s a lot to learn in a short time. I am already on the rocket heading to the moon and I better know what to do. This was about a month after I took over, the organisation was trying out a new program where they hired an external professional 1-1 coach for the senior manager. Due to the cost, there’s limited seats for this program but one of the managers that has been identified to sign up to this program has turned down the offer. So happen another manager told me about it and I quickly made a deal to take his place in the program.
We had to take some personality assessment, the coaches will look through our report and try to personalize my approach to management. I was asked to provide names of managers and peers who could give feedback for me. They feedback he obtain is checked against the assessment and tells him more about me. Herein lies my first breakthrough!. The coach went straight to tackling the main problem that I have, and also provided general insights into what others in the industry is doing. Gives perspective and widens the mindset.
I was told, and passing the message along, that not everyone who is reaching out to help is sincere about it. Some people will turn on you to using the information that you give them. Having an external coach helps in the sense that they come from outside the organisation, therefore impartial (it could also be said that they would not understand the context of the organisation, therefore would only give general advice). Since they are paid, the external consultant do have my success as their priority.