The problem with experience..

I’m finding that as we grow as a company, and there are more people to do more specific things, i’m also less able to do those specific things.

When we were small, we all had to chip in to all parts of the business. IA, brainstorms, coding, setting up project sites, uploading, HTML, CSS, PHP, ASP, Javascript, Project Management etc. etc. There was the danger, of course, of being a jack of all trades, and master of none, but still the proverbial finger was in many pies.

Now, we’re a bigger company, nearing 40 people, there is someone to do each of those things, and as a result, I’m less required to do any of those things. I do little HTML, i do little PHP, i do little IA or setting up project sites, or helping out with IT issues.

At the time, it seemed a wonderful thing to be able to hand off chunks of work so i could concentrate on my core responsibilities, but now i’m finding myself less able to do any of those periphery jobs when required, because its been so long since i last did them well. Not to mention, my core responsibilities now being anything but what my core responsibilities used to be, even my core is getting rusty.

I suppose its like learning a language. I used to speak fairly good German when i was young, but after not using for most of my life, my Deutsche is nicht so gut. The same with British Sign Language, and the same with, unfortunately, the things which I’m supposedly meant to be guiding my team on. I’m all word docs and spreadsheets these days. Microsoft Manager Hell ™.

That being said, I’m learning a great deal from all of the discipline specialists which sit beneath me. We have some great UX people, we have fantastic developers in my team and Rory’s team – who daily inspire me in the way they work and approach problems. We have amazing designers and creatives. We have some really solid experience in all of the teams – which is helping me broaden my understanding and abilities, but at the same time, not specialising in any one thing. I’ve come full circle – jack of all trades, master of none.

I wonder if there is a golden route (mean,third,circle,egg,goose) through a career which keeps that specialism, but at the same time helps one progress in seniority, or does specialism restrict how many people you can be truly responsible for? I suppose its about job definition, and being able to do a bit of your specialist work for say 30% of the day, and the rest of your jack of all trades for the other 70%. Michael “Rands” Lopp thinks a manager needs to keep his hands-on-ness to a certain extent, but make it a bit of the project which you own, therefore shouldn’t dip in and dip out at will. Other schools of thought suggest managers should let their team develop, and you just stay well away to ensure a feeling of ownership (and help keep micromanagement at bay). I’m finding it hard to keep away, because perhaps I’m not ready to give it up yet, and hard to balance both ‘work’ and work. I think the next twelve months of the team are going to be interesting to see how my role further develops. Stay posted.

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