Differences between managers and programmers, part 2

If you are attending a presentation, you can tell whether the person at the lectern is a manager or a programmer by looking at their PowerPoint presentation.

If it's black-and-white, all-text, multimedia-free, and rarely has more than ten bullet points on a page, then the presenter is probably a programmer.

If it's colorful, with graphics, animation, and pages crammed with information bordering on illegibility, then the presenter is probably a manager.

It's fun watching a manager try to rewind their presentation to a particular page. As you step over pages, you still have to sit through the animations, which means that instead of "hit space five times" to go forward five pages, you have to "hit space fifteen times, waiting three seconds between each press of the spacebar" because each page has three animations which you must sit through and experience again.

Comments (29)
  1. asdf says:

    Every presentation I’ve seen by a Microsoft programmer had colorful graphics and annoying transitions.

  2. Wierd – I’ve alway wondered about how the PM’s manage to take all that time.

    I usually have a background, but that’s it. No transitions – who wants to waste all that time writing transitions?

    It’s the content, not the transitions that matter.

  3. kensi says:

    I agree that you can separate good presenter from not-so-good by seeing how presenter delivers information, whether points support the presentation or randomize it, whether multimedia used to convey an idea or to show PowerPoint skills. However what it has to do with the presenter’s occupation?

  4. megan says:

    i have a presentation to do later this month at a conference which will go unnamed and they gave me a PPT template to use with a background. Grrrrr.

  5. quanta says:

    Raymond’s assessment of PMs vs. devs is so uncanny, I may replace my tea leaves with this URL.

    Personally, if I hear that stock "zooming racecar" WAV one more time on a PPT, I think I’ll just snap.

  6. Ken says:

    programmers = enjoy stripped down environment. logic/preciseness are keys to performance.

    An important aspect of being a manager is sales – whether it be selling an idea to upper management or to workers. The more enthusiastic reaction a manager can get, the better they’re doing their job – or so its generally perceived. Afterall, how do you think the manager got his job in the first place? He sold himself as being the right guy for the job.

  7. Aarrgghh says:

    If nobody else is gonna mention Edward Tufte’s well-known affection for PowerPoint…


  8. esteve says:

    hey, a programmer uses Latex to do its presentations! PowerPoint is for managers.

  9. kensi says:

    To Ken:

    RE: programmers = enjoy stripped… > check http://thedailywtf.com . This is inexhaustible source for logic.

    RE: aspect of being a manager is sales… > I though you folks are defining it as “Program Manager: Leads the technical side of a product development team, managing and defining the functional specifications and defining how the product will work.” (from http://www.microsoft.com/careers/careerpath/technical/programmanagement.mspx )

    RE: how do you think the manager got his job in the first place… > so how does the programmer?

  10. sweavo says:

    Bah, I just wave my hands and enthuse. If someone wants notes, I tear off my shirt cuffs.

  11. jaybaz [MS] says:

    When this guy walks on stage, you know you’re about to get really good information. Otherwise, there’s no way they’d let him in.


  12. Catatonic says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but programmers prefer dark backgrounds with white text, while everyone else likes white backgrounds with black text.

  13. Ken says:

    to kensi

    (from http://www.microsoft.com/careers/careerpath/technical/programmanagement.mspx ):

    "Program managers typically have a software development background. This technical expertise is blended with evangelism, empathy, conflict negotiation skills, and a passion for driving projects through to completion. "

    = sales. no?

    yes, a programmer must sell himself to get the job in the first place, but a manager does it on an ongoing basis…

  14. Keith Moore [exmsft] says:

    Here’s another technique:

    Ask an "uncomfortable" question — one in which you expect the presenter to be less than truthful.

    If s/he lies, then s/he is probably a manager.

    If s/he tells the (painful) truth, then s/he is probably an engineer.

    Remember: Engineers are terrible liars and should never be allowed to talk to real customers.

  15. You wanna know someone who is a programmer turned manager. Their presentations are colorful, with graphics and rarely has more than ten bullet points on a page and they dont use transitions :)

  16. Larry Combs says:

    KC: I think that answer pretty much pushes you over into the management side. :)

  17. BigJimInDC says:

    The animations are my second biggest PPT peeve, my biggest is presenters who read me what’s on their slides word for word and think they’re giving a great presentation… last time I checked, I could read just fine!

  18. LaTeX? Real Programmers doing grand presentations use overhead projectors, with printouts on cellophane (possibly *made* with LaTeX), marked up by wax pencils.

    And that’s only when whiteboards aren’t available and napkins aren’t big enough.

    But back in my day…

  19. Daniel Szabo says:

    What about the mail signatures and message formats? I think this should be part3: A guy with a plaintext message, with one line signature is a programmer, i’m sure.

    A sender who is using html mails and colorful signatures, longer and bigger than the real information content of the message itself (you know, tel/fax/cell/web/icq/office/etc, each with different font and color). And the bitmaps! If you get a screenshot from a manager, it will be a 900k bmp plus base64 overhead.

  20. KC Lemson says:

    Ken: No, PM is not a sales job. A PM definitely wants to help build something that *will* sell, but their job is not to sell the product, their job is to build a great product that someone else can sell. The better a PM does his/her job, the easier it is for the sales person.

    I have ‘manager’ in my title but I don’t manage people. I probably fit into the manager category as Raymond describes it about half the time, and the programmer the other half. That’s the interesting thing about my job, to me. I like straddling both worlds.

  21. Back in Exchange, for Exchange 4.0, we had a contest each week for the best signature.

    There was one PM who won the contest every single week.

    Unfortunately, the only thing he did in his job was to win the contest, which is why he stopped being a PM soon after.

  22. Bill says:

    You have some amazing insights

  23. JerryP says:

    I work for the company where the managers introdiced the FPM (foils per minute) index – you saw at the agenda that the presentation takes 60 minutes and he came up with 50 foils (printed for overhead) and some backup foils.

    One of the first five was always the "growing" foile – a line starting at the lower left corner – reaching the upper right corner and something like "Increase, better, more performance" or so.

    Now they use PPT with pie charts :-)

  24. CS Student from Germany says:

    I’m shocked!!!!

    My computer science professors are managers!

    Thinking about it, maybe that explains why they don’t know a fuck about programming.

    Universität Augsburg…

  25. Prabhakar says:

    Can someone teach me, to prepare a PPT slide with animated delays which needs 5 clicks to move on to next??

  26. Nobody’s mentioned the nifty "Presenters mode" in powerpoint which lets you skip back and forth in your presentation (without the transitions). It uses the dual-monitor setup to run the ppt display on the screen, while showing a timer, the slide notes and a navigation strip on the notepad screen. Very cool, and well hidden in the "Setup slideshow" menu item…

  27. Making PM jokes is a Microsoft pastime as old as the invention of the PM job.

    I think the issue of fancy vs. simple slides is orthogonal to a person’s presentation skills. Which is not to say that slides don’t matter – but their style is irrelevant – you can have simple slides that are a disaster (think copy/pasted text/reams of code) or very meaningful. Same with multi-colored, super-duper transitiony slides as well.

    In my short career at Microsoft (still going on, thanks) I’ve seen just as many appalling manager slides as programmer slides. In fact there, have been few talks that I’ve gone to where the slides and content were really good – and for a good reason: giving good presentations is really, really hard. You need to prepare, you need to go through your deck, maybe do a mock presentation and time yourself. Since most people at Microsoft have 50 other things on their plate, all these steps get skipped and people jump straight into the presentation. At this point, the only thing that makes a difference is natural talent and practice.

  28. Years ago, Raymond showed us (and part 2) how to tell who is what role in a meeting with a mix of managers and programmers. And now I think I got a better approach. If at least 8 out of 10 sentences coming from their mouth are questions, then the perso

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