A friend of mine in Microsoft recently published a great internal document a he titled Growing As A Technical Leader and was kind enough to ask me to contribute through answering five questions he gave me. It was thought provoking enough that I decided to share the questions and answers here.
Q: What is your current role and how does your day to day job look like?
A: My current role is S+S Lead for Microsoft International. A typical day involves getting up mid morning but working later in to the evening as I spend lots of time on the phone with colleagues in Redmond discussing S+S strategy, rollout plans, business models and generally providing WW field input.
Q: What are the toughest challenges you face?
A: The toughest challenge is keeping on top of and focusing on only a few areas of technology – there are so many exciting products and technologies to take up my interest.
Q: How do you approach these challenges?
I try to go offline for periods of time. It gets harder and harder but I often stockpile a lot of interesting document and print them out (sorry, I still enjoy paper). Then I go find a quiet place to read them – sort of like Bill Gates Think Week’s but more “Think Days”. I think all of my previous team heard this advice from me at some point or other.
Q: What are your secrets to become a technical leader?
I think one real secret is find a niche and become an expert in it – become known as the go to person for that topic. It makes you indispensable and a hub of information. Always be looking for the next niche though as once a product has become mainstream more people will become the experts.
Q: What are the two most important skills a technical leader requires to have?
A thirst for information and an ability to turn technology in to something that makes sense to your parents.
Q: How did you develop these skills?
By trying to put myself in the shoes of the customer – or my parents. It’s easy to get caught up in technology and forget that people will only really buy it or use it if they can see the benefit for them. It’s a real skill to be able to make technology real for people through stories, analogies or listening to their issues and relating technology back to those.
Q: Do you have a specific technique (e.g. problem solving) you would like to share?
Networking – lots of people ask me about this. The secret to networking is figuring out what you can give to the other person, not what they can give to you.
I know some of the answers are brief but I’d love to develop further if you have questions a some of this will hopefully be part of a book I’d like to write this year.