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I took too much time trying to detect the origin of a problem

Krishna Vemuri

Sr. Engineering Manager at Townsquared

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Problem

"When I arrived as a manager in a new team one of my tech leads, that I assumed was technically good, was lacking focus."

The QA team was telling me about regular customer complaints, and they were concerned about the quality of the code shipped. Given that, I was expecting my tech lead to focus on code reviews, to make sure that the code shipped to production was good, and to ensure that the work was being done by his team. However, I noticed that he wanted to be promoted to a manager role and was, therefore, more concerned with political matters and processes.

Actions taken

"I talked to him about his lack of focus."

At the same time, I organized more frequent one-on-ones with the rest of the team. Progressively, it emerged that his engineers were not getting the guidance that they were expecting. After a while, I finally checked the code that was being shipped, and realized that the tech lead was not correcting anything.

I understood that he was not technically as strong as I thought and that I had completely misunderstood where his problem came from. After a long process, during which I tried to help him to boost his performance, we finally had to let him go.

Lessons learned

"It took me several months to identify where the problem came from, and if I had understood earlier we may have been able to avoid letting him go."

Looking back, I realize that a large part of why it took me so long to realize that he was not technically strong enough is that I hadn't built the team myself. Because of this, it took some time to get the engineers to trust me and to get candid feedback about what was going on.

As a new manager in a team, I would advise making an effort to get to know your team very well and to make an effort to gain their trust. If you don't build a genuine relationship with them, it's really hard to understand where problems are coming from.


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Krishna Vemuri

Sr. Engineering Manager at Townsquared


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