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How to understand the managers?

rlxdprogrammer profile image Marcell Lipp Originally published at on ・5 min read

All software developers need to corporate with managers and it also helps a lot for you carrier to have a good relationship between you and your managers, since mostly the managers can decide about your promotion, salary, project etc. Quite often the personal goals of a developer and the goals of a manager are going against each other and that means conflicts between managers and developers. To avoid such situation as first step all developers need to understand, responsibilities and goals of managers. By using this knowledge you can get better results from the discussions with your managers.

First see really briefly what are your main goals as a developer: you would like to have enough time to work on your tasks in a comfortable way, you would like to use the most modern technologies and try out all your ideas, you would like to participate on technical trainings, you need a good salary and good work-life balance. Most of these points costs money for your manager, but you can ensure all managers about your needs if they can see that it is beneficial for them as well.

As many companies so many different manager positions with different role description. I would like to focus on two main type of managers: the project manager, who is responsible for a project or subproject and the team manager who is responsible for a developer team. In some cases the two responsibility is owned by the same person. In other cases these roles have a different name. And of course there are other manager roles, like sales manager, but most of the cases they have less connection with the developers.

The team manager

The team manager has a team of developers. Usually the team manager’s responsibilities are the followings:

  • Find the right team members (do the interviews etc.)
  • Support the integration of new team members to the team
  • Monitor their performance and skills
  • Let them improve their skills in a defined direction based on project needs (for example sending them to trainings, find a proper mentor for them etc.)
  • Provide the right developers with the correct skills and experience to the projects
  • Collect feedback from project managers
  • Do regular feedback sessions with the team members
  • Setup goals for the team
  • Organize off-work programs for the team
  • Do decisions about salary changes
  • Decide about holiday requests
  • Remove the members from the team which are not fitting well into the team
  • Regular feedback to the high management about the results of the team

That’s a lot, right. And to be able to do that the team manager needs to have a technical overview to identify the needed skills and good interpersonal skills.

There is one more important thing: most team managers has its own budget. That means the team manager is also responsible for some money. Here the incoming is from the projects achieved by the team. For example if the team is finishing with a milestone of the project there’s a predefined fix price coming to the team budget.

The costs are the following: salary of the team members, training costs, costs for equipment (computers etc.), cost for the office (rental fee, coffee etc.), costs for off-work programs etc.

Until the incoming is more than the costs everything is going well, otherwise the team manager will have certain issues. The project prices are usually designed in the way that if the team can achieve the projects within the planned time frame the team has profit and everything is fine. This will happen if well-motivated people with the right skills are working on the project. If you are in such a situation (you are working effectively and successfully on your current project) you will have a good chance to get higher salary. Or for example if you can prove that taking part on training is making you more effective on your project then you have a good chance to be sent to that training. Otherwise not, your manager won’t pay for a training which if not making your daily work on your current (or upcoming) project more effective.

Let think about situations like ramp-up time of a new team member. This is something called overhead, it costs a lot (salary, trainings etc.) but doesn’t earn money directly. Such periods need to be planned as short as possible. That’s why for example changing projects too frequently is not a good idea.

As summary: the goal of your team manager is to keep the budget balance in positive, so what ever you are asking from him need to refer to the fact that you work producing a good money for the team in the past or the investment would make you able to produce more money in the future. Of course it is not the best idea to use these words, but you should keep these thoughts in your mind.

The project manager

The project manager is responsible for one project or subproject. The goal of the project manager is to make the customer satisfied and to make the project beneficial for the company. So the tasks of a project manager are the followings:

  • Regular communication with the customer
  • Create time planning for the project (including main milestones, etc.)
  • Create cost planning
  • Create resource planning of the project (how many developers with which skills are needed in the different periods of the project)
  • Track all progress in the project
  • Regular reporting to the high management
  • Organise the project meetings

What is important here: it is not a goal for the project manager to make you happy. His goal the reach the milestones in time. If overhours are needed for that the project manager doesn’t mind. If you are not working well the project manager will send a request to the team manager for an other developer. The goal of the manager is just to keep the plan.

The project manager is also responsible for the project budget. From cost point of view it means: the incoming is the paid price by the customer. The costs are the money paid for team manager for the work of the developers, the costs of the meetings, software licences and the travel costs.

So if a project manager asks you to do overhours he is just trying to achieve his personal goal. On the other hand it is good to have a good relationship with the project manager, because he is giving feedback about your work to the team manager, which can strongly influence your career. To be able to achieve a good relationship try to help him at planning phase with estimations which are as good as possible and then try to achieve them.

As summary it is good to have a good relationship with your managers. Never forget: without them your wouldn’t have a job, they are also part of the big machine, just like you. To be able to have a good relationship always try to understand their goals and try to support them to achieve these goals. That’s the best what you can do.

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