Development Manager vs. Engineering Manager

My title at EMC is “Software Development Manager,” but my job is definitely “Software Engineering Manager.”

Usually in a software engineering organization, at some level there is a split between the Development team and the Quality team.  The Development team, in theory, is evaluated on its ability to Develop software.  The Quality team likewise is evaluated on its ability to Qualify that software.  While nobody wants the Development team to produce a buggy product, in the end it’s the Quality team who makes the decision on whether the software is bug-free enough to ship to customers.  You don’t trust the Development team to make that decision.  It’s a system of checks and balances.

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Stephen Covey

I learned yesterday that Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, had died.  It impacted more than I thought it would.

I am not here to speak about Covey’s personal life, his religion, and so on.  But I do want to speak about what Covey meant to me and how he influenced me at a young age.

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ProSphere 1.5 out the door

Well, we did it again!  It’s been an incredibly hectic couple months, but our little baby finally hit a milestone and we got version 1.5 of ProSphere out the door.  You can read the official announcement at EMC’s site, and check out the marketing blog entry as well.

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New manager?

I recently got a message from a colleague and friend who was embarking on a bit of a career adventure, going from a strictly technical role to one where some formal management was going to be required.  After (tongue-in-cheek) offering my condolences, I shared the story of the first real lesson I remember learning as a manager.

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What you remember

I didn’t want to write a 9/11 post, to try and put such a huge event in the context of my tiny corporate blog.

But I had a conversation with some colleagues and family over the weekend, and I thought it would be useful to record one piece of information about that day.

I remember many things about that day, sitting here at EMC in Hopkinton.   But one thing that stuck with me over the years is that my manager at the time gave me a hard time about leaving at mid-day to be with my wife, who had been sent home from her work in a high-rise building (if you remember, many high-rise buildings were closed and their employees sent home) and really didn’t feel comfortable being alone.

I’m sure we were working on something really important that day. I’m sure that manager did what they felt was best for the corporation on that day.

I have no idea what I was working on that day.  But I do remember exactly how that interaction felt.  And I remember how absurd that feeling is, in the context of the world-changing events that took place on that day.

It’s a lesson as a manager I carry forward.  I write this not to call out my previous manager but to remind all of us as managers that the world is bigger than our deadlines.

Ship it, move on!

Releasing a product is one of the hardest jobs we have, as creators of software.  Developing a product is a potentially never-ending process; there are always new features to be added, bugs to be fixed, and test configurations to validate against.  A release date pulls the team together, an often-moving deadline to strive against as an organization.  Everybody pulls out all the stops, developers and testers work through nights and weekends, technical writers come out of the woodwork to keep documentation updated, and the leadership team meets daily to ask the question: “Is it done yet?”

The question, of course, is really “is it done enough yet?”.

We finally shipped ProSphere 1.0 at the close of July.  I am not surprising anyone when I say that wasn’t the first release date we had in mind, nor am I surprising anyone when I said we shipped with a backlog of items we wished had made it into 1.0.  But at some point you need to ship it and move on.

Today I have a slightly different team; a few people have changed responsibilities to allow the teams to better meet the needs of our next release.  And while I work to integrate that new team together, I also stew over a laundry list of requirements and enhancements to our product for the next release.  Resolving priority conflicts, providing gross estimates, learning new areas of the product, and making sure nothing slips through the cracks — it’s a busy time.

It’s a totally different kind of busy than when trying to release a product — but it’s just as important.  The context shift is jarring, but the quality of the work done today will impact our working lives for the coming months, and have a direct impact on the satisfaction of our customers with the next version of this product.

This is, of course, the job we all signed up for.  It’s an exciting time.

Introducing ProSphere

In 1996, I joined the CLARiiON team to work on a new Storage Resource Management product. It was a management software leap to go along with the leap forward from SCSI to Fibre Channel. We looked at everything that was “wrong” about the existing solutions, took into account new requirements based on the scalability of the new hardware, updated our products to use the leading edge technologies, and created something entirely new – Navisphere. It was a huge splash for CLARiiON, and helped define everything I think of as successful in a software project.

Fifteen years later, I’m writing about a new big splash for EMC in the SRM space – ProSphere 1.0. I’ll stop you right here and tell you that you need to go read Chuck’s post on the product. I can’t out-do his deep-dive into the industry angles and why it’s such a big deal, so I won’t even try.

What I will tell you is why working on this product was so different from any other product I’ve touched at EMC, and why I’m so proud to be able to announce it here. Just like fifteen years ago, it was a chance to take a look at everything “wrong” while also still looking in new directions at the same time the industry is making another scale leap with Cloud environments. This has been some of the hardest work I’ve done here at EMC. But seeing it get out the door is making it all worth it.

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Rules for blogging here

As I started this blog, I set up some mental rules.

One of them was something I learned from Steve Todd, way back in the day — always excel at your day job before you do anything else at work.  Doing a great job in your primary responsibilities is what gives you the freedom to explore secondary responsibilities.

I’ve been eyeball-deep in work on EMC’s next offering for Storage Resource Management (what you may have heard referred to as “SRM7”).  Never mind my days, it’s consumed my nights as well!  So I’ve let this blog get a bit rusty.

There are some other rules I’ve set for myself, and it’s cool to see that the “social” folks at EMC have codified some of those rules into a little video that people here actually get training credit for watching.  It’s short and sweet, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Areas of concern

Early in my career as a manager, I attended a discussion where the question was raised: are we people managers or business managers?  Is it more important to be good with people, or to know the business side of your product?  Over time I have realized it’s much more than just those two – and I’ve begun calling them the axes of concern.

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Cool job opportunity at EMC

Check out Len’s post for more info — EMC is looking to hire an overall brand manager for their social presence.   Considering how huge EMC is, how organically our social presence has grown, and how crazy the social space can get, I can’t wait to see how it will go with a dedicated person trying to watch over it all.

Good luck to any applicants!