And that’s ok…
My background has always involved the overlap of design and tech. At school, it was a passion for Design & Technology (or CDT as we called it). At uni it was Product Design. From then, it has been front end web development, bridging designs with client side interaction.
I work with a team of Front End Developers (or Client Side Designers, or Interaction Developers, or Behaviour Specialists, or whatever new buzz words sums us up.. but that’s a whole different conversation) as their manager.
My team in my eyes is brilliant. I can always, with confidence, take on a new challenge and know that the guys will either be able to do it already; take a little practice run before cracking it; or spend a few days researching and come back grinning knowing they’ve worked it out. And quality is always at an optimum.
Not too long ago, I would have been part of that process… getting my hands dirty in trying stuff, learning stuff, doing stuff.
That has changed since stepping up my management role.
I feel my team have surpassed me in the technical ability stakes. Yes, I have years of hand-honed CSS skills under my belt, and often see things in a different way to the new fly-by-the-seat-of-their-CSS-pants young guns to solve problems. But it’s the core skills that have are now seen as the norm in the role of front end that I no longer do on a daily basis where I feel I`m getting overtaken.
I try to stay aware of as much new web tech as I can, and always try to have a play to at least get to grips with the principles behind them, but it ultimately comes down to a simple matter of volume; there is only so much time available to work with new tech vs time needed to actively a manage team who are doing the work.
My team is far more experienced and skilled than me in the Coffeescripts, Backbones, Nodes, and whatever other new jiggery pokery is available as part of a toolkit of front end development. I go to them to get the professional answers on what technologies are capable of what features, on which device and how long they will take to develop. I ask my team to clarify what is possible, by when, and who is best suited to do it.
And I like it that way.
To me, my job is to ensure the front end output for the company I work for is the best it can be. I need to ensure the team we have producing the work are the best we can get. To allow that to happen, I should be hiring people with the best skills and knowledge, ninjas of front end, who will very likely be more skilled in coding than me.
As I see it, in my position, management is a niche skill. Proper management. Not just management by procedure, or checklists, but real personal “come on team, lets sort this” management. It’s much more about empowering a team of already highly skilled individuals to push to produce the highest quality they can and to constantly aspire to improve, hone, and learn new skills.
So, I’m not embarrassed the people I manage are better coders than me. On the contrary, I’m proud, because to me, that means I`m doing my job, and doing it blummin well.