Reflections - first time manager

The challenge of shaping a person's future and career without any formal training - a typical scenario.

By Hamzah Javaid

November 10, 2022

Management is so much more than a team hitting their OKRs and achieving a company’s objective. You have the power to influence a person’s mental wellbeing, their hopes and desires, their confidence and self-development. Management is coaching, training, mentoring and so much more. At least that was my belief going into the role - I took the role of manager extremely seriously.

“people leave managers not companies”

As a budding philosopher, I always start with “why”. Personally, I find I subscribe to a somewhat deterministic view, and so I asked myself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to be a manager?
  • Why this person and why me?
  • What is expected of me?
  • How do I know if I’ve succeeded, whatever ‘success’ is?

The truth is, I never fully answered these questions but asking the why helped me shape and understand the how. As I now reflect on my first stint as Data Science manager, here are 3 key reflections.

Don’t be dogmatic with Plan A

Winston Churchill famously had the quote:

“Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even should they rarely stick to their plan”.

Embedded within this quote is the acknowledgement - making a plan is everything, whether or not you are able to stick with it is not always in your control. As a first-time manager, I set goals, objectives, and targets for my direct report (DR) as best I could. I read ‘Measure what matters’ by John Doerr and had started listening to my first ever audiobook ‘The Making of a Manager’ by Julie Zhuo and studied Google’s Aristotle project - what more could you ask more.

A screenshot of my audiobook library on the Audible app.

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

I naively assumed the next 8 months would all go to plan … it couldn’t have been further from the truth. It wasn’t that my DR wasn’t hard-working, ambitious or intelligent in fact quite the opposite but rather I’d forgetten an important teaching:

“Humans are as different on the inside as they are on the outside”

Behavioural pyscology teaches us many things about what drives and fundementally motivates human behaviours.

sometimes people prefer to do things their own way. Our project changed and time became limited, but I still pushed my DR to meet the objectives. This approach only made things worse.

Lesson Learned: Having a plan is essential for success, but being able to adapt and have a backup plan is equally important. Flexibility and an open-minded approach to change can ensure that even when things don’t go according to plan, the ultimate goal can still be achieved.

The desire to be a people pleaser. A manager can be friendly but not a friend

Quarterly and Annual performance reviews are nerve wracking

Allow your team members to be honest, to openly say what they feel and most importantly dom’t judge them. As a manager, I remember

We are more honest with search engines than with our family

To set that up, the only thing one has to do to get the green check mark is to reference a ressource that has a link back to their Mastodon profile. Be careful, this link MUST have a rel="me" attribute. That is, when I wanted to get a green mark next to my website on my Mastodon account, all I had to do is to write the following:

<a rel="me" href="">Mastodon</a>

So, if you like lists:

  1. On your website, put a link to your Mastodon profile (the link must have a rel=me attribute)
  2. Go to your Mastodon profile, click Edit profile, and, in the Profile metadata section, add a link to the resource where you put a link to your Mastodon profile
  3. Profit?

Humans are not code, you find this out quite quickly …

You need to manage people as they want to be managed.

In a way, it is closer to a public mail verification (with a website instead of mail) than the blue badge, but it if you believe that a verification process should be a security feature, it gets the job done. By taking 5 minutes to set that up, you seriously limit the risk of impersonation. This is especially relevant on a website that allows anyone to open an account with the same username as yours on any instance. Do it.

Posted on:
November 10, 2022
4 minute read, 717 words
Manager Reflections
See Also:
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Charlie Munger - LatticeWork
Active Listening