I picked up a copy of Michael Lopp’s Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager during my trip to California, and I’ve been nibbling on it over the past few days. I say nibbling because I have not yet taken my pencil to it, which generally requires more focus than what I’m allowed to give it right this minute.
I met Mr. Lopp a couple of years ago, and in that single encounter, we had a brief albeit rather intense conversation. I am a technical indiviaul contributor by nature, and the couple of management gigs I have been involved in were not enough to drive me to the other side. Yet I find the subject and logistics of managing people very intriguing. I had the opportunity of living under Ben Horowitz‘s indirect (i.e., I never reported to him directly) direction (or, in buzzword bingo terms, leadership), and I was amazed about his enduring care about managing the company. The interesting characteristic about his management style is that it transcended all levels of the company. Early in Loudcloud’s history, Ben would go into one of our large conference rooms to tell people about management, about how he sliced and diced the very critical problem of running the company, running organizations within the company, and running groups within said organizations. Anyone was welcome to show up, and for those of us that were individual contributors, these sessions gave us a lot of context as to why things were done one way or another. It wasn’t perfect, but it was very very very good.
Which brings me back to Mr. Lopp’s book. In the light reading I have done so far, skimming tidbits from different sections of the book, I have found very useful insights, things I have not had the time to stop and think about because, well, my regular non-management job keeps me very occupied, and not being a manager, some situations are just not there for me to consider on a daily basis. Yet it’s usefulness cannot be undervalued, even if you are sitting on the opposite end of the table facing your manager.
My recommendation: buy the book. Nibble on it. Read it. No everything in there is completely applicable (every situation, job, culture and company is different), but it is likely you’ll find a lot of goodies you can directly relate to, or, at a minimum, you can infer conclusions from. And, if you’re a valley creature as so many of us are, his insights into the culture are worthwhile reading about.
More as a go from nibbling into actually jotting notes. And oh, yeah, subscribe to his personal weblog. Well worth it.