Program Director, Technology Resources
1. Describe your role for UT.
It’s pretty cool to be in a position to help someone take an idea about how to improve a business process in their area and work with them to hash it out, refine it, sharpen it and then see that collaboration result in a real tool. It’s rewarding to catch up a couple months later and hear about previously hidden trends they now see in the data or how they now spend more time in the field exercising their area of expertise.
2. What was the most important lesson you learned as a new manager?
It took me a while to understand that it’s more important what the team can accomplish than what I’m adding as an individual. To that end, I try to help each person on the team find the role that suits them, makes the team stronger, and still delivers for our clients. It’s important to listen to the team and know when to lead and when it’s smarter to follow. I don’t think there is a magic formula for making that work and I’m ok admitting I don’t have all the answers.
As an IT manager, it’s also important to be comfortable with not knowing how to do everything that team members can do. Having a diversely skilled team provides a lot of problem-solving options. Why limit the options to your experience and knowledge?
3. What advice do you have for managers to help develop their team?
Give your team room to grow, explore, and take chances. Mistakes will happen and how you approach resolving them sets the tone for what the team will be willing to try in the future. If you say you have their back when things get tough, you better be there for them. It’ll likely pay back next time you make a mistake too.
One other thought is to make sure the team gets credit and recognition for their successes up the chain. Nothing is more demoralizing than breaking your back and having your boss swoop in for the glory.
4. Why is learning in the workplace important?
So much of what we do is creative. What you know today is important, but the potential to learn and grow is what really shapes a career. In technology, learning and exploring is required as part of ramping up a new project. Don’t overlook learning opportunities between projects. I’ve seen some great leaps forward or complete shifts in approach based on someone taking the time to learn a skill or technology that initially seemed only loosely connected to their role.
5. What is your favorite way to learn (feel free to mention any tool, subscriptions, or services here as well)?
It really helps me to talk through an idea and bounce thoughts off someone I trust while I’m getting up to speed. After that, I like to get my hands dirty and learn by doing. I read a lot too, but when I’m reading for work, my preference is to see how someone in a different field is solving the problems of their profession. It’s probably silly, but sometimes it helps me to say, how would a lifeguard, or a mechanic, or an urban planner, etc. approach solving the problem we’re facing? Mostly the results are ridiculous, but I’m typically not stuck at the end of the thought experiment either.