Management, studying and searching

The last couple months have been one heck of a ride. My promotion has set up many changes in my daily activities and looks to be setting me up for quite a few more. This will be a bit of a different post for me, much less ranting and much more optimism and insight about what’s going on inside my head.

The first real change is just learning how to be a manager and what is expected of me in this new role. While some of my daily tasks have not changed, I still write up requirements documents, test new functionality and bug fixes, and attend way too many meetings, there are a few new things. First, its been so much fun to start training my employees. I’ve got two great guys who work for me. They are both incredibly intelligent, with lots of business experience and have been with this one company longer than I’ve been working. Their one downside? Pigeonholing.

Despite having lots of potential, they’ve been left to the side, doing their jobs very well, and haven’t been taught how to do more than what they have been given. I see so much of myself in them, or who I would have become, had I not been given a few fortunate breaks from really great people. I want to be the guy who helps these guys and gives them the breaks they need.

I know what its like to feel trapped in a job, wanting to do more and just not being allowed to do more. Frankly, it sucks, and once you’ve dealt with it for so long, it becomes difficult to unlearn bad habits and replace them with positive ones. If I have any challenge this year, it is to help these guys perform at even higher levels than they believe is possible.

But it isn’t just my two employees that concern me. Since I started this job, I’ve had one of those nagging feelings that just would not get out of my head. Its not just my two guys, but there are several other people in the company performing the same role, all of whom are extremely competent, but just really don’t know how to be an analyst. Its not really their fault, they’ve not been given the training or opportunity to be turned loose on problems. I want them all to have that chance to do something really great.

So, to that end, I went to my director and asked if I could have time on all of their calendars for us to gather and try to do something really revolutionary within our division… synchronize our processes, documentation standards and methodologies across all the development teams. Talk about a challenge! This is so much work, I can’t even yet get my head around how hard it will be to get this done.

But what great people I get to work with! The two meetings we’ve had so far have shown me people who want this as much as I do. We have such different backgrounds, but we all want to go to the same place. Its so exciting to know that there are others out there that want what has been floating around in my head for so long.

The workload is going to get intense, I know that. Besides this fun stuff, my department has a workload that is beyond grueling for the next year and a half. There is so much to do, but we’re doing things that most restaurant companies never dream of doing. Such an exciting time to be here. I find myself, many nights, doing exactly what I spent over an hour doing this evening… research.

If we’re going to standardize how we operate, we need to find a standard. Sadly, there isn’t much of a real, accepted standard methodology for being an analyst. There are several tools out there, with accompanying bodies of knowledge, but none is really close to being authoritative. So I spend my evenings doing for my full time job what I once did as a part time job… querying Google.

During this research, I turned up a link to the International Institute for Business Analysis. They are the group that creates the Business Analyst Book of Knowledge, a repository for the gathered knowledge of what it takes to be a business analyst. I was familiar for years with its cousin, the Project Management Book of Knowledge, and what a wealth of project management knowledge did that document contain! It is sad that the BABOK is quite less authoritative and not nearly as complete as is the PMBOK.

But the IIBA does have a fairly large network of local groups which gather to discuss their lives as analysts and to learn and grow from one another. A quick review of their website provided me with information that a local chapter could be found within 5 miles of my job. A quick email later, I had all the information I needed to join up with a group of (hopefully) like-minded people who might have greater resources than do I. It is unfortunate that I have to wait an entire month until their next gathering, but I am looking forward to it in a big way.

In addition to my personal search and study, my boss decided that because I had never managed anyone professionally, I should take a class (or several if I get the time) about how to be a manager. I appreciate her concern, and I admit that I have had a few moments of trepidation since accepting my new role, but training classes have never been what I would call a favored way for me to learn something new. I prefer exploring on my own, seeking out areas of excellence and repositories of knowledge which might not be the common or obvious ones.

Still, when the boss tells you to go, sometimes you just bite down on your cringe and go anyway.

I was not wrong about my fears. My first thought was, this guy who will spend the next 7 hours training me, looks just like a used car salesman. Sly smile, greasy hair and gold chains. Did I mention the commercial he would give every 20 minutes for different products they sold after the seminar was complete?

That is not to say that it was all bad. The material was spot on, but nothing I had not already read myself, either in personal study or during school. A refresher course is the best that I could say for it.

The most amusing time was during the discussion about personality types. The other new manager in our department, promoted at the same time I was, was sitting next to me the whole day. He manages the programmers and I manage the analysts. Despite being similar in age, we’ve got very different backgrounds and viewpoints. In the past, he and I have not seen eye to eye, although it really hasn’t hampered either of us from completing our tasks. When our instructor showed the four primary personality categories, I immediately knew I was in the ‘socializer’ group and my coworker was in the 'thinker’ group… two personality types that are almost always in conflict. It amused me rather thoroughly.

But there is one thing that the instructor said that did intrigue me. He had once felt his public speaking skills were inadequate, so he joined a group called the Toastmasters. While my public speaking skills have been honed over years of practice on the stage and generally being the 'socializer’ personality, it has been a long time since I really spent any time practicing those skills.

I put some more research together and found their website and yet again found a group that met not 5 miles from my office. Another quick email and I had all the info I needed to join up. This meeting is only 2 weeks in the future, and yet again, I am looking so forward to this new opportunity.

Even more than the knowledge and contacts that I can gain from these two groups, I think what excites me most is getting to exercise my 'socializer’ skill again. The last few years have seen that skill somewhat wither and waste away. Its been 4 years since I abandoned age-level ministry at the church I attended. That outlet allowed me to meet at least 3-4 new people every single week. Since I gave that up, I just have not had an outlet which could fill that longing that never really went away. There isn’t anything that thrills me more than getting the chance to meet someone new and find out about them.

It also gives me a chance to try out my old stories on someone else! :-D

While I’m not one to wish away any of my time on this earth, let the next two weeks pass quickly so that I might get to open up new avenues in my life!