As a senior software engineer for many years, I felt very good and comfortable. Okay, there were all kinds of mostly interesting situations, a handful of interesting requests, expectations, people, countries, journeys, technologies, ups, downs, then ups again, deliveries, short deadlines, long deadlines, clients, colleagues, technologies, frameworks and so on. But I felt very good. Comfortably tucked up in my comfort zone, where everything has its own order, where I sovereignly established a balance between myself and the rest of the planet, where everything is predictable enough, and yet, from time to time, a spark of dosed dynamism shines, just enough to keep me from falling into a rut. And I didn't think about leaving my comfort zone at all.
Okay, sometimes I would wonder what it would be like to do a completely different job, but those thoughts would disappear very quickly as soon as I imagined myself in different role.
When you work as a software developer for many years, things sort of fall into place. It is clear to you what is expected of you, you look at tasks and assignments from the right perspective, over the years, communication has evolved to a high level, you are aware that you are part of a team, you know that encountering new things and technologies you've never seen or heard of before is part of the job, you look at your younger colleagues with a lot of empathy and understanding because you were once in their shoes, your problem-solving skills have improved to unimaginable levels, I wasn't even aware of all the kinds of tasks and problems I could solve until I did it.
Most important of all, you know very well that you are part of a team and part of an organization and that you know how to get the best out of yourself at every moment in order to contribute to the best possible result.
Ever since I came to the Serengeti, everything was happening in that rhythm. There was no uncertainty whatsoever.
However, on a perfectly normal day at work when nothing out of the ordinary seemed about to happen, I received a proposal from my superior to assume the role of development team lead on a project at a renowned enterprise client. At the very beginning, I was a bit reserved about changing the role, but after thinking about it a bit, I accepted. My previous experience told me that there were no dramatic differences between a senior software engineer in a team and a development team lead. It was somehow natural for the most experienced member of the team to act as an example and as a leader, to provide solutions that are most often accepted, to be a mentor to younger colleagues, to roll up his sleeves in critical moments and develop what is needed, to provide stability in the most difficult times. And that's it. The only thing that raised some doubts was the enterprise environment. It is known that enterprise environments have a very clearly defined set of rules and procedures and especially clearly defined positions and roles.
And I was right.
A leadership position in a software team in an enterprise environment is very different from the role of a senior developer. And sometimes that difference is drastic!
When you are a developer, things depend on you, your technical skills. The results depend on your work. On the other hand, a leadership position requires a completely different perspective. Results depend on how you manage the work of others. It's a completely different dimension, you need a different set of skills. You have to assess the ability of your team members, you have to assess how ready and capable your team members are to perform a specific task, each one individually. You have to assess how much development potential they have. You have to plan the performance of your team members, and again, each one individually. You have to manage time, manage conflicts, delegate, give feedback. You must have the ability to make good decisions and so on. It's a completely different perspective of work.
Your results depend on other people's work, on how you manage other people's work.
When I accepted the position of development team lead on a project at a renowned client and very soon realized all this, suddenly I no longer felt comfortable. Something that was supposed to be a logical continuation of the journey, a painless step up, turned into something I did not expect.
And what shall we do now?
I remember the first lesson from the textbook. How to explain wave-particle duality? In a word, hard.
It was a textbook on electromagnetism in the second year of my studies. When I read that sentence, I had the impression that I would never be able to master that. When the author tells you in the first sentence, right at the beginning, that it will be difficult, what else can come to your mind. Of course, I mastered it successfully. Admittedly, on the third attempt, but in the end, it's only the result that counts, right? After that I knew that there would be nothing that I would not be able to overcome, that there would be no obstacle that I would back down from. Because when a man at some point in his life masters electromagnetism, everything else seems much easier. Or...
Years of experience have taught me that if a person is motivated and persistent enough, there is no skill that cannot be mastered. And so it is. The nature of the developer job brings constant facing things that are unknown to you. That is why it is one of the most beautiful jobs in the world. I started from scratch, calmly, thoroughly, and things started to work out.
What makes the difference between top companies and good companies is caring about the career growth of employees. Especially in employee growth planning. The moment it was known that I would take over the development team lead position on a project at a renowned enterprise client, I received an email from the HR department, inviting me to leadership skills training.
At that point, it was just what I needed. Develop the skill set necessary to perform the job at a high level. Improve all those soft skills that I may have lacked. That was it
As education progressed, so did I. As the project progressed, I got better and better. And the project kept getting better and better. And of course, the result was there. And everything went back to its normal course again.
In the end, what matters is the result. And that's what counts. That is a characteristic of top companies, and Serengeti is definitely one of them.