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Cover image for From Web Developer to Head of Technology in under 5 years, AMA

From Web Developer to Head of Technology in under 5 years, AMA

alexgurr profile image Alex Gurr twitter logo github logo ・1 min read

Hi! My name's Alex and I'm currently Head of Technology @ Shootsta.

I first started JavaScript/Web Development in 2015 and I'm now Head of Technology of a global multi-million dollar organisation.

Happy to help out the community - reach out around goals, careers, progression or anything development.

AMA!

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I'm sure this transition did not happen in a day. Could you tell more about first sign of priority/responsibility switch in your day to day work, I mean what was the point you realise that you are now less Developer and more Engineering Manager?

 

Excellent question. I'll try and break it down.

For me the first kind of day-to-day transition was from basic development to leading projects. I started to get more responsibility. I was now managing technical requirements, work priorities and allocation of tasks to other developers. My work, development split was probably 80% coding/20% project management. You start spending more time managing tasks, working with product & UI, as well as managing expectations with the business. There's no people management or anything with this.

From here the percentage keeps going down. So next I moved on to taking multiple projects. Now you're leading developers across more than one, which requires you to be less actively coding in general - you need to be able to assist from a management perspective at any time. You get involved with more meetings and discussions in general.

Naturally this then leads into people management, with goals, performance and regular one to ones. Again it lowers the coding %. The higher you go, the less coding (naturally). I'm now involved in digital business strategy, R & D and various other bits and pieces. I'm no longer at the level of actively coding on any of these specific projects, only on spikes/concepts. I am still across all the projects at a reasonably high level however.

Each one of these shifts I realised I was less a developer and more of a manager. The responsibility shifts were always pretty clear to me. Originally I said I never wanted to do people management, yet here we are! Don't get me wrong, I'm still very hands on and I'm still a developer, it's just a much smaller % (probably 30/40%) than it was before.

tl;dr development => development with project management => more projects => people management => higher level business focus

 

Thanks for the answer. I imagine it was incredible journey! Good luck in a future.

 

What are your recommendations for standing out in a team of developers? I understand that things like hard work, dedication, etc. are to be expected - but what is it that you believe made you stand out from those around you, to allow you to achieve the status that you have in such a short time?

 
  • Taking the initiative.
    Any developer can get handed a task, work on it and behave like a code monkey. Taking the initiative is about trying to make impactful decisions on your own without guidance (as much as you can). Development process a bit crap? Go out of the way to try and improve it of your own accord.

  • Mentoring others.
    Seems simple and it pretty standard, but this is the type of thing that takes you from a developer level to senior and beyond.

  • Having the confidence to move to the next level and ask for things.
    Ask for more responsibility. Ask to manage your own project. You don't get anywhere in life without pushing for things.

 

I've been having a job for 8 months now, and to be honest I was doing the opposite. Although I am dedicated to what I have to do, I've been living by a simple rule that seems false now: "If nobody asks - nobody needs".

Now that you're quite a clear example where that rule doesn't lead, I am going to abandon it and see what I can do to get the momentum you're getting with your career.

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply! This is great advice. Much appreciated!

 

Do you attribute your success to connections or skills or college?
If it is connections, what according to you is the best way to connect to the people in higher positions without losing self respect?
Also, I am struggling a lot in making connections with anyone. What advice would you give to a 19 year old like me on improving my social skills?

 

I attribute my success to skills and the way I carry myself/come across to others. I haven't gotten any job or career break due to connections with others or through other people.

What I always try and present to others is that 'years of experience' is a bit of an illusion. I have encountered others in this area with 5+ years of experience who aren't particularly good. Like myself, I've also come across others with great skills and passion with much less on paper.

I think social and interview skills are key. When I made the first jump to tech lead/lead developer I had to sell myself. I had to justify why I was right for the position even though I didn't have the relevant experience. You can acquire extra experience/learn on the fly with ease.

I'm not going to lie, making good connections is hard. I also wouldn't say it's overly important (at least, it wasn't for me).

To improve social skills you just have to practice and jump in. You don't pick them up overnight. Force yourself out of your comfort zone.

 

Do you feel happier when you ended up Head of Tech? If so, why do you reckon?
and, What is your MBTI type if you don't mind me asking?

 

Interesting question! I love development and will always be first and foremost a developer, no matter the role. I love being involved in lots of projects and being a key player in business decisions. I guess at this point I acknowledge that the higher up you go, the less coding you do.

I'd say overall, not as happy in the day-to-day role, due to more meetings, less coding and more management in general. I can offset this by coding more at home however and the salary is much higher, improving my overall quality of life.

When you combine all these factors I'd say in life I'm happier.

personality-results

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Alex Gurr profile image
Full stack developer 🚀. Passion for fitness, food, and building JavaScript thingymabobs ♥️. Head of Tech @ Shootsta