From the start of this month, I am officially the Blockchain Training Manager of Kingsland University - School of Blockchain.
It was a tough decision to leave my previous company Ocado Technology, as this was the best company I had worked for yet.
But with this new opportunity, I decided to switch gears and leave the embedded industry.
Now, I am the manager of a blockchain training team, responsible for leading blockchain courses onsite and online around the world.
Apart from that, I am contributing to our blockchain development team as a software developer.
This is something entirely new for me and is a great challenge.
So, in two words - not doing embedded anymore. Now doing blockchain.
But do you want to learn how this all happened and what are my thoughts about it?
The journey thus far
I have spent nearly 3 years in the embedded industry, but for a long time I felt my place was not there.
From my perspective, doing embedded is a great way to get in touch with the hardware, learn how the machine works and not just rely on abstractions.
That was my goal in the first hand, when I started in the industry.
But in the long-term, for me embedded was a bad place to be as it was too isolated from the rest of the programming ecosystem.
But apart from that, by programming embedded systems in C, you don't get exposed to modern software development.
Once you learn the small set of the C syntax and get used to it, you don't really get exposed to nothing new. No new libraries, technologies, language enhancements, etc.
So, I didn't want to be pigeonholed in an isolated software industry. I still think embedded is cool, but it's more suited for people with a hybrid interest in electronics and software development, because it stands somewhere in the middle.
One thing that served me GREATLY along the way was the fact that while not on the job, I was heavily working on my side projects and continued learning programming and computer science concepts not related to embedded development.
This is what allowed me to more easily switch to the other parts of the programming world.
However, even so, I learned a great deal of things along the way. And the challenges which occurred while working on large-scale embedded projects were priceless. No side project can replace the experience I accumulated in this industry.
One thing I am extremely grateful for was the opportunity to work in Ocado Technology. There, I got a lot of value from working on their robotics projects, but what was priceless was the opportunity to be in an environment with great leadership.
Before that, I had heard of the concept of leader-leader over leader-follower. But it was in Ocado Tech, that I saw it in action.
The managers and team leads there were sincerely doing their best to help their people grow and be happy in the workplace.
They were ready to work in favor of their people's well-being over the results of the company,
No wonder that the retention rate was extremely high.
The Bulgaria office has been there for 3 years and it now has nearly 50 people working there. Till the day this article was written, only 2 people have left the company!
During my time there, I was a watchful apprentice, observing small everyday situations which are evident for great leadership. This is what got me prepared for my new role.
Leading a team of Blockchain Trainers
Blockchain is on the other end of the spectrum in comparison to Embedded in terms of popularity and novelty.
This is an industry which is in its very early stage and is just starting to grow and expand. But although this is a risky venture, I am very excited to be part of it.
This means that my upcoming blog posts will include a lot of content aimed at you learning how Blockchain works and how it evolves. If you are interested in learning more about this awesome industry, stay tuned!
As for my new role, I am now a Blockchain Training Manager at Kingsland University - School of Blockchain.
We are responsible for creating and leading high-quality blockchain courses around the world - onsite and online.
My responsibility is the growth of my teammates' abilities as trainers and their well-being.
Apart from leading trainings, we are contributing to the software development process of Kingsland Innovation Center - our "sister" company.
The work is pretty exciting as we have to be constantly at the cutting edge of the Blockchain industry as the people who teach this.
Apart from that, we will constantly travel in various countries around the world.
I can't give away which ones just yet, but stay tuned and you will find out which country we will be visiting next.
Perhaps, you might have a chance to meet our awesome team. :)
Although this all sounds great, I have a confession to make. The new role is extremely hard!
The challenges of leading a team
I didn't just take a 360 degree turn in terms of my specialization. It was in terms of my role as well. I am now a manager and it is totally different from what I had been doing thus far.
Of course, I haven't given up on being a software developer, but I now have management responsibilities as well.
I always thought being a manager is not so hard. Perhaps most other people think the same way.
After all, they are not doing the tough work of solving hard programming problems and implementing complex algorithms, right?
Well, that is all true but the challenges are in a totally different aspect which are actually, at least for me, tougher than solving complex programming problems.
One thing I have to mention, though, is that our company is pretty much a startup. The experience might be totally different if you are a leader in a big corporation.
There is no backlog of tasks for you
In my previous company, I went to work at 9, opened Gitlab and looked at what task I have to work on today.
At Kingsland, I decide how to do my job, what we work on and how we improve our process. I simply have a goal - facilitate a great training team.
That's not at all what I was used to doing and the stress is great. Now I don't have a backlog of tasks. I create it - for the entire team.
So, I better learn quickly what being proactive really means, because simply reading about it is not enough.
You have huge responsibility
In my previous job, If I fail to do something, then I fail to deliver some feature on time or introduce a bug in the system. That is stressful enough.
But now, if I fail, then potentially the whole team fails.
For example, If I fail to provide a good environment for the team, in which they feel happy and are able to grow, they will eventually leave the company. And since we are the backbone of the whole training process in Academy, we can't afford having great trainers or potential great ones leave.
But in the same time, you have to give tough love at times, when it is necessary. You can't just be the good guy who does everything for everyone and tolerates any behavior.
So the challenge is to find the balance in your attitude that will nurture an environment where people feel happy, but are striving to give their best as well.
You have to say no
Being in the organizational side of the team means interacting a lot with other departments of the company.
And at times, you have to have the guts to say no, even when you are talking to someone from senior management.
Being responsible for your team means to defend your team's interests even in front of your own boss.
Sometimes, that might even cost you your job, but even so, it is your responsibility to stay strong and not simply say "yes" just because someone said so.
Helping your teammates grow
One of my main responsibilities is helping my teammates grow to become exceptional trainers.
That is what is requested from us given that we are expected to lead world-class blockchain training.
Beforehand, it wasn't easy to run the extra mile in order to become the best you can be. But now, you have to inspire the rest to run the extra mile as well.
That's even harder. So coaching is now part of my job description.
How do you tackle all this?
Now that I've jumped off this cliff, I have to quickly learn how to tackle the dangers and be responsible not simply for myself, but for the entire team. How do I do that?
There are numerous books on leadership and managing that are out there, which you can all access and learn how to deal with such a responsibility. I can get a hand of those as well. But I think the most important thing is to stay authentic and sincerely care about your team. If you have that, then the rest will come naturally.
There are countless books on being a leader, but none of them can teach you those lessons.
In order to learn those, you have to read the most important book we all ought to read - the one inside us.
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