Managing Computer Programmers/Engineers - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 12-04-2010, 09:22 AM
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Hey guys,

I don't know if this is the right place to post this...mods, feel free to move it.

I am from a relatively non-technical background (majored in English and Anthropology) and somehow wound up managing a group of programmers at an online game company. They work mostly in Flash (Actionscript 3.0, Java, Javascript). It is a Flash site, so mainly I work with Flash programmers.

I'm not gonna go into all of the horrible things about my job or position or how insane my boss is...maybe that will be for another thread. ;p But, I am concerned about my programmers and I don't think I am doing a very good job at managing them. Oftentimes, they complain to me about how they are overworked and underappreciated (which is common for any programmer, according to what I've read) and a non-technical person might have trouble understanding what stuff takes a long time, what is more complicated, how should the work within a project be divided, etc.

It is a Korean company, so it is basically unheard of for these people to complain the owener/CEO/ or his wife (my boss, the "CCO"). In Korean culture, when you are given some task by your boss, you are supposed to keep silent about the difficulties and try to finish the task for the sake of the comapny, no matter how ludicrous the request. Consequently, this causes the programmers a lot of distress.

So, they complain to me. Which is fine because I understand their complaints fully and empathsize with them completely. But, it's getting hard to appease both my manager (the boss) and the programmers (who I work closely with and who we need to survive).

My boss will say something like "I want this to go out on this date and I want so and so to do it". I tell so and so and they say "Well, I already have a lot to do. Why do I have to do everything?". I go to each programmer and ask them to do the task and some people are too busy and some people are not at the level yet or the point at which they can do the task (they aren't on the technical level yet).

But, there is this one guy at my job...who seems to have been the one to develop a lot of features that no one else seems to be able to work on. He is the one who is assigned all big projects, but at the same time is expected to maintain the old ones he made. It is getting to the point where he is so upset, he made me cry.

He apologized for over-reacting, but I don't know what to do.

I already try to help them a lot by addressing their issues with my boss, staying until ungodly hours of the morning to help QA test, and more...

Any programmers out there who can help me???????????????????????
I feel like I am failing.
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#2 Old 12-04-2010, 09:53 PM
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I would say start assigning old projects from the senior programmers to the junior programmers. Follow the 'adopt a junior programmer policy', i.e, each senior programmers takes a junior programmer and for a week explains them the project that they will maintain and helps them on anything that they may have trouble. Also, try to assign core stuff to the senior programmers and feature implementations or maintenance to the junior programmers. You could also make everyone do a small bullet line report each week on what they've been doing (shouldn't take more than 10 minutes). This will help you understand how 'busy' they are. I'm not saying that they're but make sure that they don't take advantage of your kindness and willingness to help. Finally, if they are really unmotivated, try to find out if its work related or not. Sometimes is simply things in the office that causes stress and not the workload itself.(Is there too much noise, would they like to work in a different schedule, its too hot, too cold..etc). When you're developing something, all those things count. You will have to adapt what I said to your work environment, but I hope it helps.
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#3 Old 12-05-2010, 10:34 AM
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Thanks Druk. Just out of curiousity, are you in the programming field?
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#4 Old 12-05-2010, 11:13 AM
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I think Druk made some really good points there.

Another thing to consider - and maybe you do this already - is to use software tools to visualise and plan the workload on each programmer. E.g. some kind of ticket system where each ticket describes a piece of work (new feature / bug / installation / enhancement, which project it belongs to etc), and then assign the ticket to one of the programmers. In meetings with your boss you can then show him how each project is going and how much workload is currently on each programmer, and what resources are available - or can be made available by putting less priority on other projects/tasks. The point is that he can't just expect work to be done when there are no resources available, and you need to demonstrate to him what resources are and are not available.

I no longer post here after VB was sold in 2012. (See my profile page for details.)
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#5 Old 12-05-2010, 08:41 PM
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I've been in I.T. for 13 years and at least once or twice a month I seriously think about getting out of the field and into something different.

I also recently changed jobs, quitting a job I had had for almost 3.5 years to work for another company. I left my previous job due to workload issues and politics. Basically I was expected to do the job of 3 people, people depended on me way too much to do everything, and there were too many projects where I was the only person who knew anything about them despite my repeated efforts to share the workload on those because it's stupid and irresponsible to have only one person familiar with a mission-critical daily report.

Burnout is going to be your biggest challenge. I was burned out for a looooooooong time before I finally left and I lasted a lot longer than most people would have in my situation. Burnout and turnover are both big issues in I.T. But we geeks are not actually hard to manage. Just make sure that the workload is A.) distributed fairly and B.) is not unreasonable.
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#6 Old 12-05-2010, 11:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CountessKerouac View Post

Thanks Druk. Just out of curiousity, are you in the programming field?

Yes! I'm a computer programmer.
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