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I was recently assigned a task of managing a small project.

The project has some technological aspects but the job is mainly doing managerial things: scheduling, making sure people do what they are suppose to, going to a lot of meetings, etc. Basically, it's not how the average programmer or even a team leader would like to spend his time.

Since I am not going to sneak out of this, I have found myself wishing I could teleport myself to some point of time after the project has ended. After pondering about it some more, I reached the conclusion that I hate working like that and I can't allow myself to work on a project that makes me think this way. I have to make the most out of this project.

So my goal is to make the most out of this unwanted project. How do I do that?

I thought about writing every day a "What I have learned today" list, that will help me see clearly that I am learning from this and not wasting my skills.

Do you have any recommendations on what can I do?

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closed as off topic by DKnight, Mark Trapp Jan 6 '12 at 14:54

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This is a little off-topic for programmers.se , but if you don't like the managerial side of things you need to make sure whoever put you in charge knows you don't want to do it again. If your company doesn't have a job advancement track that goes technical and not managerial you might want to suggest one. Otherwise, I suggest you tackle your job as a problem solving experiment and use the same tools as you would in programming. Break the problem down into smaller peices and tackle them one at a time :-) –  DKnight Jan 6 '12 at 13:03
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Find out why you are being assigned to it, don't do it because they are too cheap to get a real manager. You could end up cleaning the toilet the next time. –  prusswan Jan 6 '12 at 13:46
    
Hi the-lights, you haven't provided any specifics that programmers can help you with: if there's something specific about the software development aspect of the project you need help understanding, feel free to ask about that, instead. –  user8 Jan 6 '12 at 14:55

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I like your suggestion of making a list of "what I have learned today", but I would also say that it might be a good idea to create certain goals and objectives for your self that you can track your progress with during this project. That way you keep your eye on the goals instead of the frustrating aspects that are demotivating you at the moment. These goals could be things like fixing x number of issues per week, reaching project mile stones, your team completing x number of y per day, etc.

Another thing you could do is try to think of technology solutions that will make your management work easier. For instance work on a really cool Excel spreadsheet that manages and tracks certain variables about the project and reports on it in fancy graphs. This will give you a technological distraction while adding value to your management work and impress your superiors all at the same time. You could also perhaps think of new and innovative ways to slice and dice management data that you have / make use of in this project, or present feedback reports in an innovative new way that perhaps sheds new light on something. I know this is a bit vague but its very difficult to be specific if I don't know enough about the job or the project.

Lastly I think that developers are problem solvers by nature and we (usually) get satisfaction out of solving problems. So talk to your team and ask them to make a list of their top 3 frustrations in this particular project or in the team that YOU could help them with. Sure some will be outside of your control so forget about those, but try to put some focus on making changes or doing things different that will solve problems for your team. I'm sure that will bring a good amount of satisfaction.

Hope that helps.

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I have been criticized as being horribly depressing for this viewpoint but in my eyes I feel better about doing less than satisfactory work by looking at the results of how bad things could really be for me right now if I didn't catch X number of breaks, and also how thinking, how is the work I am doing right now going to pay off in my long term security.

What I mean by this is, if I get depressed about managerial discussions, scheduling in an awful tool that I have no choice over, writing drab reports to other people who will write drab reports, then I have to think to myself how fortunate I am that I live in the once great country of the USA, a pathetic vampiric crumbling empire that seems to do everything in its power to make life as difficult as possible for vast majority of the population. The fact that I even have a job that affords me a wife, a nice house, an active social life, the ability to give to charity and the ability for modest savings makes me feel so unbelievably fortunate in the face of so much human despair that I see around myself everyday.

I live every day of my career not only thinking about how I can get ahead, but who I should suck up to, who I should avoid being seen with, and what do I have to do to ensure I will not be replaced by someone younger or someone offshore who is more desperate than myself. I am only 28 so that is not a huge concern just yet, but I still actively look at everything I am doing day to day as slowly working to a position where I can jump into being a project manager, a business analyst, a software architect, or really anything technical at all that increases my versatility in quite possibly the most unforgiving and cutthroat job market that any of us have ever seen. I am winning now, but what about tomorrow? The day after? How can I be certain that I won't be destitute when I am 50 and nobody will want to take a chance on me anymore?

Welcome the opportunity to learn project management skills, it is a window of opportunity that you are lucky if it opens to you once in your entire life, and you will only be stronger for learning it.

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Wow - what a sad way to live your life. –  Randy Minder Jan 6 '12 at 14:49
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@RandyMinder Quite the opposite actually, bringing security, joy and happieness to my wife and children and doing so autonomously brings more fulfillment than I could ever hope or questionably even deserve. I feel blessed in this moment, so I take this opportunity to mortgage potential future suffering into the present knowing I have the means and fortitude to accept it and live with it in the now. –  maple_shaft Jan 6 '12 at 15:05
    
I also am bringing security, joy and happiness to my wife and two kids and I don't spend one second of my day wondering who I should suck up to, who might replace me or who I am seen with. I am 52 years old and been developing software for 20+ years. Why in the world would you want to exist that way? You can't possibly spend 8-10 hours of your day with that sort of paranoia and then come home, turn it off and live a normal life. Can't be done. –  Randy Minder Jan 6 '12 at 17:22
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@RandyMinder The human mind is massively parallel. That paranoia really doesn't consume me, it is more like a background worker thread with a low priority on a continuous loop :) –  maple_shaft Jan 6 '12 at 17:41

Take the opportunity to be the kind of manager you would like to work for. You have a chance to be involved in all those decisions that affect the development. Try and mentor some of the other programmers. If you find one that is really good, try and learn something from her.

Now's the time to see if you are cut out for this. Be careful, you might like it.

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