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Discussion on: I spent 30 years coding full-time, then I switched to full-time management and leadership. Ask me anything.

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paulwong523 profile image
PaulWong

Hi Lorenzo thank you for sharing. I have little to no background in software. I work in a small firm as their marketing graduate and constantly find myself frustrated as I don't have the skill set to implement my ideas or communicate it with a third party developer (no in-house developer). I want to learn how to communicate with software developers and I am interested in software architecture and scalable systems, considering restudying. Do you have any tips on ways to learn how to communicate with developers to lead projects and build towards becoming a project manager?

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lpasqualis profile image
Lorenzo Pasqualis Ask Me Anything

Well, my view might surprise you. I think that developers need to be able to communicate with you, not the other way around. It is fundamentally important for anyone who writes code to learn to have discussions with non-technical people.

If you work with third party developers, select one who has at least a sales engineer who can communicate both with customers and with the engineering team writing the code. If you had your team, I'd recommend hiring a good technical leader that can talk to non-technical audiences.

That said, I'll try to answer your question more directly.

When it comes to scalable systems, I think what you want to read up about is SOA. I recommend this book to get an idea of how to think about distributed systems. After that, it is a matter of experimenting with technologies that are more directly involved in whatever projects you have in mind.

To be able to lead projects, you need to be able to gain the respect of the engineers involved. Acquiring enough technical knowledge to be respected for your technical skills by a group of developers is very difficult without a technical background or coding experience. So, you can take that hard and long path, and dedicate a couple of years learning, coding and experimenting. However, it'd be easier to gain their respect with strong leadership and project management skills. If you partner with a good tech lead, you might not need to learn the tech in full-immersion. You could learn it by listening carefully to the discussions the engineers have and asking your technical lead to be a technical mentor.

Project managers don't have to be developers. They can be fairly high-level if you have a strong lead. You might want to study agile development processes such as SCRUM to get a sense of a possible avenue you could use to lead a project. Here is my favorite book on the topic. There is a lot here. Your question could be a great topic for a future blog post that I'll need to write.

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paulwong523 profile image
PaulWong

Lorenzo, thank you for writing back. It's really encouraging to receive such a thoughtful response. I appreciate how you provide useful resources and direction. I've heard good things about SCRUM, I'll look into it. I agree that getting a mentor and tech lead would be helpful. Would love to read your blog haha.

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guitarkat profile image
Kat • Edited on

I make money specifically from knowing how to talk out ideas and implementation with marketing folks these days. It has turned into a specialization of mine by the looks of it, actually. I started doing graphics in marketing as a print designer (might be from that?)

I'm not a technical lead, I'm just a talkative developer/designer and consultant mostly at times. I like to joke and have fun, so that always helps on the getting-to-know on the clients and then understanding their needs.

Lorenzo is correct in terms of us speaking to non techs. Although, I prefer my project managers to be past devs as they understand our pain points more readily on shipping/maintenance/politics, etc.

I still very much need a project manager to check in on me from time and a good manager for guidance on various matters that may crop up. I suppose that would be a form of mentorship in some ways. I have learned a lot from some managers I've had. :)

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paulwong523 profile image
PaulWong

Thanks for sharing that's really good insight!