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[Question moved from Project Management queue]

I have a question from a developer perspective. I am currently on a team where I likely have the most advanced technical skills, and the management team has little to no development experience. This frequently leaves me in a position where I am on my own. At times, I get asked by management for advice on projects from a technical perspective, which is expected. However, the consultation and support that I have been giving lately seems to be overlapping what seems like should be management responsibility. I received a question from management the other day, and it kind of threw me off, so I am wondering if others can offer advice.

I was asked by a manager as to whether our department should merge with another department, that has their own database/server implementation, but is currently operating as a completely separate unit from ours. It is not like two units who are working side-by-side that could benefit simply by coordinating more. This would be a big change to absorb the technical support for a business unit into an IT division. I expressed that the overall vision would have some benefits, though I was concerned about the feasibility and planning to make it happen. I basically referred the manager to my director and told the manager that the issue was above my level.

The things that are going through my mind are all of the steps that I think typically a manager would be heavily involved in, such as a budget analysis, funding acquisition, resource/staffing analysis, project plan, work breakdown structure, and architecture, just to start. Most of this seems like it would be management tasks, except for needing advice on the architecture. I was recently promoted to a more senior role, and I know part of my job is to give advice. Usually this has been from a more technical perspective, though. Sometimes senior engineers do provide feedback from a staffing perspective, though this seemed like too much was being asked of me.

I was curious to get others' thoughts. Is this the kind of question that would normally fall into the responsibility of a senior software engineer? What other options would I have to handle situations like this in the future? Any advice would be appreciated.

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    hey there. Seems that your question is on topic here, but as of now it is currently written in a way that it's not. You are asking for us to determine "whether my response was appropriate", and that is primarily opinion-based, and also lacks a goal we can help you with. Perhaps rephrasing your post to remove that and maybe putting it something like "What other options I have to handle situations like this in the future?" or "How can I professionally decline doing such things in the future?" or maybe "How can I approach management about this so we can clarify my role on these requests?" – DarkCygnus Dec 8 '17 at 0:01
  • I'm trying to understand how you go from being asked whether you think it's a good idea to merge with another business unit to detailing all the stuff a manager does. The way you state it, it sounds like the manager was curious if from you're perspective it was a good idea, not if it was a good idea from hers. That said, it's not entirely clear what it is you are asking anyway. – NotMe Dec 8 '17 at 1:28
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    Your manager asked you a fairly broad question that seems like it could've been answered entirely from a technical perspective and, even if it couldn't have been, what exactly someone with any job title is "supposed" to do will vary greatly between companies and it's generally in your best interest to do what you're asked, if capable. – Dukeling Dec 8 '17 at 5:23
  • @Dukeling I think your comment is the answer here..... – Mister Positive Dec 8 '17 at 12:28
  • I wouldn't assume they're not thinking about the other areas of management. They're just trying to get an insider's perspective. Japanese assembly line workers have been encouraged to make suggestions. They're not management or engineers, but they have insights gained from actually doing a job for an extensive time that you can't get from a book. – user8365 Dec 8 '17 at 16:01
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This is the type of question I as a manager would ask my lead and/or most valued employees if I knew the topic would or has come up for discussion.

Being a senior developer with technical skills higher then your manager would allow the manager to gain insite into the feasablity of the move from a technical standpoint. Since you would be in a position to point out pitfalls or areas of conern that he may not be able to see or know about.

I would not expect anything less of my manager. One would not be happy if such a merger would happen without any consultation with the senior developers.

Hope this helps.

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Yes this is an entirely appropriate question. As you move up in seniority, you are often asked to go beyond the technicalities of your job and into the technicalities of the next higher job or from the needs of your individual unit to the needs of the business as a whole. Someone needs to be able to analyze situations like this and apparently, your boss thinks you are the best person he has available. I would have been highly insulted if I was not asked to provide input into such a consolidation that could affect my ability to do my job if I were in your position. It is a compliment to your technical ability that you were asked.

This is also part of grooming people for promotion. Your career development should always include doing some tasks that would normally be done at a higher level, that is part of how you gain those skills and your performance on them is part of how management decides who is and isn't ready for the next step up.

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    +1; especially in the US tech field there is an expectation of promoting the person who’s already doing the job - you don’t promote a random techie to manager and then see how it goes, you grow them into the role and then promote them. – mxyzplk Dec 9 '17 at 14:52
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Don't try to be a manager if that's not your work responsibility. Concentrate on the technical architecture; would there be significant improvements in process, or monetary savings, by bringing the IT components together.

Let the other managers worry about the managerial side of things.

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Examining the outcomes in Google will probably yield an extensive variety of definitions for what precisely a specialized lead is in charge of. Some will disclose to you tech leads are programming designers who never compose code. Others will demand that specialized leads are mid-level supervisors who may have been programming engineers at one time. Still others will state that tech leads are essentially the best or most senior developers at the organization and they are pioneers just by sheer nature of yield. I think the appropriate response is some place in the middle of those.

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Thank you for the feedback on this item. My personal policy is that I do not provide recommendations to management unless I know all the facts or at least a substantial portion of them. In this case, I probably knew 10%-15% regarding the business unit's structure and technical architecture. My director has been with the company much longer, so he probably knows more about their setup and can provide more feedback.

At the same time, I probably could have phrased my response differently. In other companies where I have worked, if they were going to absorb a large business unit into our department, a team of two managers - one technical and one non-technical - would have been sent in to research the unit's business process and technical implementation, in order to evaluate the situation. I probably should have recommended a fuller evaluation to this manager. In talking to him, it did not seem like he had done much review yet.

This gives me more feedback for next time. Thank you!


On a side note, I am glad that stackexchange is here to offer advice from other professionals. In some ways, I am taking on new responsibilities with this position, and occasionally I feel like I could use a mentor, though there really is no one available in my company. I am grateful to have the opportunity to get feedback from other professionals in the field.

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