6

I am a mid-junior-ish engineer who joined the right startup at the right time as their first employee. I do various embedded software related things for the products we develop but as most of what we develop is currently contracted out I also help with quite a bit of soft-engineering and product strategy stuff. It's quite clear to me that I'm on a trajectory for some kind of technical product management / owner role, and I'm pretty content with that.

The most imminent part of that will involve our team expanding by a few people. My boss encouraged me to start thinking about what kind of folk I'll be looking to hire to help me with the technical development and scaling up of our system. I have no experience with managing people, not to mention hiring, but I want to make sure I do as good of a job at that as possible.

What can I do now to best prepare for this hiring process? What to keep in mind when leading a search for a technical person who is likely to be more technically experienced than me? Are there much quality resources I can find to prepare for managing our product once more people are on board? I appreciate those are pretty broad questions, but hopefully not too much so!

  • 2
    As Joel Spolsky said in his 'The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing': "In principle, it’s simple. You’re looking for people who are smart & get things done" ;) – iLuvLogix Oct 21 at 9:21
  • @JoeStrazzere Simultaneously neither and both and maybe. We don't really have any clear management structure because the founders want to be as flexible and organic as they can (and besides it was just me and them in the company). I know this will have to change and formal management structure will have to be established but they say it's too early to talk about that. – KubaFYI Oct 21 at 17:28
3

Start with listing the company's needs in this field.

Analyse what is being outsourced and figure out what it would take to do it in-house. Then, with that as a base, work on the details. The hardest part is compiling the list thoroughly.

The rest you can pick up as you go, so long as you have a solid idea of what's needed going forwards.

1

Your questions hit at something I've long considered to be odd--someone is very good at skill basket A, so they are promoted into a position that requires skill basket B. They have no idea how to perform skill basket B, nor does the organization have any reason to believe that they'd perform well in the basket B role. That's your situation, it seems to me.

In my experience, your best approach by far would be to search out classes in supervisory skills. Those may be offered by an employers' association or a local community college. You might also find online classes. They should provide you with basic skills for managing people, but it would also be critical to find someone who can assist with tough situations so you can learn good lessons not bad lessons. That person could be a superior, a lawyer, a mentor. There are many retired or even still active executives and HR folks that would be willing to mentor someone. Good luck.

1

My first port of call in this situation would be your manager. You lack management experience, they have it. Instead of you having to focus on both the technical and managerial aspects of hiring someone more technical than you, share that load with your manager.

In an interview situation, your manager will be able to delve into the kind of responses they expect in getting an understanding of whether this person will be the right kind of fit personality-wise for the organisation. Meanwhile, this takes a lot of pressure off of you and allows you to just consider their technical ability.

Once you have some new hires, continue to lean on your manager for support in how best to manage the team. It's their area of expertise, and as I'm sure they would have no issue approaching you with technical questions, you should take the opportunity to do the same in reverse.

Of course ask the question if the company is willing to invest in upskilling you in these areas, too. It never hurts to ask, but the above at least gives you a fallback plan if the resources for training are not available (or, alternatively, a plan of attack to follow while you are also undertaking the training).

0

Managing a team, and hiring for it, are skills. Like all skills, if you want to develop them, and get good at them, you'll need to devote some time to learning.

Learning can take many forms. For instance, you might want to read a book or two on the topic (one I recommend is "Leading a Software Development Team" by Richard Whitehead). You might want to attend some formal training: local universities often will offer relevant courses (this or this) and the good software development conferences will often have a relevant track. There might be a local meetup or group focused explicitly on new technical leaders, like this.

While you are the one who needs to do the learning, you should ask that the organization help you. They should pay to send you for training and make sure there is time in your schedule for it. You should ask your boss to help find you a mentor - someone you can meet for an hour or two a month over coffee and discuss the challenges you are facing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.