The reference to Michael Scott’s blank self-help book, titled Somehow I Manage, from The Office TV show is intentional. I’ve officially been in a management roll for just over a year and I regularly feel like I’m winging it. On any given day it has been challenging, good, hectic, stressful, frustrating, rewarding…pick at least two.
I often feel that my life consists of endless meetings and I long for the ability to put my head down and code, however, I can say that my contribution within a team has changed in ways that I did not expect. I continue to develop my technical and interpersonal skill sets, but the emphasis is different. The majority of my focus is now on project requirements, system architecture, environments/tools, build/release cycles, and team coordination.
In our recurring discussions, my boss has listened to my thoughts, worked through problems, and given me a lot of good advice. One that stuck out was a method he called the “trust triangle” (I’m sure it’s in my notes somewhere). A quick online search presents several different interpretations, but his fit especially well within software engineering. Below is my interpretation and how I’m approaching and using this method.
The Trust Triangle
This simplification attempts to answer a crucial part of human relationships. The idea is that when each corner trait is present, you demonstrate trustworthiness. For example, a person who communicates well and is reliable, will be given more responsibility.
The focus of this post is on professional development, but there are obvious ties to personal relationships as well.
How can I prove myself and grow my career?
How can I assess and grow the people on my team?
What are the qualities that make a person trustworthy?
Responsibility / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / Trust \ / \ / \ / \ — — — — — — — — — — — Communication Reliability
Responsibility and ownership of a task or project is given on the premise that it’s within your capabilities. Generally, what you are capable of grows with experience and increased technical skills over your career. However, it’s not unexpected to have larger responsibilities thrown at you to see if you’re capable of rising to the occasion. Failure to deliver isn’t necessarily a personal failure as long as communication is maintained.
A common approach is to :
- identify the problem(s)
- discuss potential solutions
- select and implement
- was the problem solved? if not, repeat.
Reliability is showing consistency in some method of measurement. How you are measured will depend on the current task and understanding what those measurements are will required to succeed. Familiar metrics would be meeting system requirements, scalability, security, etc. Less tangible measurements are code maintainability, leadership and mentoring skills, adaptability, etc.
Communication Strong communication skills are crucial in STEM. How else will you convey complex information, collaborate with your peers, present to a variety of audiences, and provide documentation? Unfortunately, the stereotype exists that many in the STEM fields struggle socially. If you do find yourself in that position, there are a variety of resources available that can help you determine where you need to improve and steps you can take to do so. In my experience, the following are two of the most common areas people struggle:
Information sharing - How do you explain a complex topic to people with a different backgrounds? Think about how you would explain a concept to a five year old (ELI5), someone familiar with the product/sales/market, someone with a different technical background, and someone that shares your technical background. What you are describing remains the same, but how you describe it will change.
Public speaking - There are a number of ways to practice public speaking. Organized resources exist, such as toast masters or a speaking coach. Alternatively you can ease your way into public speaking by starting with those you are already comfortable around. Daily stand-ups are a small activity where everyone is expected to contributed. Another option is volunteering to deliver ‘how-to’ presentations or internal seminars since it allows you to share information that you’re already comfortable with to a familiar audience.