Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Should I start bossing around?

Success in Belgium often is measured by how many people you can boss around. This may be a metric if you studied business school, but I have found it strange when you are an engineer. The engineering school barely could sneek in a class of macro economics. And boy-o-boy was that a succesful and well attended class. Forget about any business or management classes. So, to measure the success of an engineer based upon how many people work for you doesn't make much sense to me. As Rummy would state: that's the old world [1] (hierarchical system).

At the age of 30, I value an interesting job that allows for lots of new experiences and technologies much higher than jumping on the management train. At least for now. Sure, I'll take the lead of a project any time (aka project manager). But I am not ready yet for becoming a 'people manager'. And that's just the way Sun works. You are either a people manager or an individual contributor.

Last week, I got a new manager - a current colleague who chooses to become people manager. My current manager got promoted to director and got a bunch more people reporting to him. For the first time in my almost six years at Sun Microsystems, my manager will be local near the Menlo Park campus (aka "Sun Quentin", named after its resemblance to the big buildings of San Francisco high security state prison San Quentin).

My former managers were all located in Burlington, Massachusetts. This setup required some adjustments. Formost, you have to be able to work very independently. Not only were they located across country, I barely got to see them or talk to them: no casual chit-chat in the hallway or near the water cooler. One had to be proactive and schedule (briefing) time, but it always felt more official than a chat in the hallway. In addition, my managers have been quiet hands-off. Besides setting the overall goals, it was up to us to fill in the blanks and to define the individual projects. It was as if I had my one person shop set up within Sun. So I adapted. And once you got the hang of it, it is actually quiet a nice setup. This might change now. My new manager is only two offices away. Staff meetings will be in person and no longer on the phone. Bye bye emailing and checking out the stock market while the meeting dragged on. Hopefully, this won't change to much my style of working. While change is inevitable, being able to work in a flexible work environment has always been one of the major attractions to work at Sun. I believe it has played a big role in the overall success of Sun. On that note: as we launched the new kick-ass Solaris 10 operating environment yesterday at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, SUNW broke the $5 barrier.

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