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A Door Opens and I feel Optimism and Hope


Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash


I found out I’m leading up a new Scrum team at the same time many of us are getting vaccinated, going back to the office, buying tickets to sporting events, concerts, and theatre. I feel like I'm opening a door from a dark cabin and seeing that the snow is melting and a few hardy green vines are pushing through the dead leaves. However, my time in the dark cabin started even before the quarantine, even before my current job.


Renewal, reawakening, a feeling like maybe it will be OK. I spent so much time in the pandemic looking inward, doing my own work, but not connecting much outside my little room with my desk and computer. I read, of course, mostly short articles that related to my professional interests.


My professional life and my personal life are intertwined. So much of my self-identity is tied up in my work history. I've always tried to embrace the role I'm in. Whether it is help desk manager, web developer, software engineer, full-stack developer, data architect, engineering manager. I've had all of these titles at various points in my career.


In each role, the work overlaps. As an architect, my role was building infrastructure and code for developers to use. I often wore both hats, proving the infrastructure worked. Also, my role as a data architect in particular had a certain bittersweet quality. It was a role in my previous job that felt isolating because I did not have the team of direct reports that I'd had for many years in my role as an Engineering Manager.


It also hurt to lose that role, because I lost it because of my own mistakes. I came from a full-stack engineering manager role into an operations manager role for a data engineering and reporting team. It was a huge team with a crushing, time-driven backlog. I am an extraordinary developer, and I mistakenly thought I could develop my way out of the problem by spending my time developing a reporting system the team could use to automate the reports that were killing them because they manually ran and delivered every report.


My big mistakes

  • I didn't trust the intern-turned hire to develop the application and wrote it myself

  • I didn't delegate Scrum Master roles into the team for 3 months and tried to run the teams as a single Scrum

  • I didn't work enough with the team to establish impact metrics for review

  • I started work at 5 am and didn't finish often until 7 or 8 at night

The door is opening because, after two years as a data architect, I am becoming a full-stack engineering manager once again. This is coming as we exit the pandemic so I feel like I am coming out of my cabin and finding an awakening world where I have a second chance to do better.


It’s made me think out the Product Owner role. More so than any other in Scrum, it can make a product and team experience great. It all boils down to company impact. If you are delivering products that matter, then the job is exciting.

Looking back and my failings, I always need humility and a breath to catch my own failings. I get ideas that I think are good and I will often cling to them, even if they aren't right. It's human and natural for someone intelligent and driven to feel self-assured that they are always right, but it's not true. Often I am wrong, and I need a way to keep both the connections of my team and articles and common best practices of the community to keep on the right track as I venture forth from my cabin and enter the wonderful green world once again.

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