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My manager asked for a list of technical blogs he should follow to stay current on technology. His problem is he keeps hearing terms that he hasn't heard of (i.e. NoSql, sharding, agure, sevice bus, etc.) and he would prefer to at least have a fighting chance of knowing something about them without having to be reactive and looking them up. Also I think he wants to have a big picture of all the emerging technologies and where they fit in together instead of just learning about each thing in isolation.

He asked about blogs but I'm thinking print magazines may also help.

What should I answer him?

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migrated from pm.stackexchange.com Mar 9 '11 at 1:56

This question came from our site for project managers.

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stackoverflow.com and Programmers.stackoverflow.com of course! –  Byron Whitlock Mar 8 '11 at 23:44
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Give him a link to dilbert.com. He will see there a lot about technical management, without all those difficult names! :) –  Vitor Mar 9 '11 at 0:16
    
@Joel - This is a great question, but I feel it's better suited for Programmers SE. I'm going to move it to Programmers and a moderator there will merge the answer with that question there. Please take a look at the FAQ if you have questions about what type of questions to ask on Project Management SE. Thank you :) –  jmort253 Mar 9 '11 at 1:55
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7 Answers 7

I find this very worrying. The technical managers that I work with are very knowledgeable and very much up to speed on the latest technologies and trends, perhaps even more so than the people actually doing the development.

The reason for this is perhaps because executive level technical managers are constantly exploring the latest trends in hopes of exploring new market opportunities. If you're a CTO, the ability to stay on top is an extreme necessity if you want to adapt to changing market conditions.

I would be very wary of any technical managers who can't research and find their own answers online. My technical managers and I sometimes compete to see who can keep up. (It's a fun sort of compete, where we can joke about it when one or the other finds a new tool or technology first.)

Additionally, the reason a CTO or technical manager should be ahead of the developers is because the managers should be looking ahead for those dangerous icebergs peeking out of the water while the developers are in the engine room shoveling coal into the engine furnaces.

Sure, the developers will probably know more about how to use the tools than the senior managers -- although the ones I work with can definitely hang -- but it's the technical managers that should be looking ahead to strategically steer the business in the right direction, and to do this requires strong research and analytical abilities.

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It's not possible, or necessary, to know everything about everything

While we all try to keep up on the latest trends, cool technologies, hip terminology, it just isn't possible to cover all the bases and stay up-to-date across all of them, while also being effective at your job.

Some technologies really don't hang around long enough to be worth knowing about and others are still so nebulous that its' not clear what benefit they'll actually be.

I'll take a guess that this has come up because of one of three reasons:

1) The technical manager is trying to keep up with a clique of people who are playing some power games by using bleeding edge technology to make him (and maybe others) look out-of-touch. The best way to win this game is not to play - you can't possibly be 'cooler' than them, so don't even try. I actually caught a group of guys making up terminology to run rings around their team leader who was desperately trying to gel with them.

One way to nip this in the bud is to ask the people involved to explain what the technology is to the rest of the team and why it is useful/advantageous. It is not necessary for the TM to admit they don't know, just ask for the guys to include everyone else in their tech-speak discussions. If their use of the terminology is genuine, he'll get an explanation. If they were playing power games, this won't happen again.

2) The technical manager is actually out of his depth, treading water and desperately asking for help. A simple Google search would yield either a handful of blogs/forums or the programmers.stackexchange.com question asking for recommended list of blogs, like this question is. You can type the example terms into Wikipedia, for example, and follow some of the topic links to read around and pick up others.

That they've asked you to come up with this (and they couldn't) is a bit worrying.

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Have them join the developers for lunch, every day.

IMHO, a good manager leverages the knowledge of their developers, instead of wanting to "side-load" that same knowledge.

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I like this answer the best. But it also should be a part of the manager encouraging the developer's to be constantly learning, practicing and growing their skill set. –  crosenblum Mar 9 '11 at 14:41
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Well there are your basic sites like Stack Exchange (of course), Tech Republic, SlashDot, Wired.com and about a million others.

You'd really need to find some sites relating to your specific work if you can.

As far as printed publications, there's eWeekly, PCMag, PC Weekly, Computer World, and again about a million others. Many of these also have a good amount of news on their respective sites.

All of the 'tech news' sites and magazines I know of are pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to relating to "Current Project X" unless you find ones that are specialized in your field of work.

In my opinion, he needs to get involved at a community site related to the work you are doing if at all possible.

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This is where I think twitter is really useful. The power of social media to help push the cream up.

Suggest he follow thought leaders on patterns and process practices. Follow the developers or tech leads for the host platforms you target. Follow some of the leaders of the domain(s) you build for. Often the leaders of these different areas will help promote good ideas or ideas they recognize for promise (and often linked to a more complete thought via a blog post), and from those promoted retweets you'll get a sense of what to pursue further.

From the occasional banter back and forth on twitter you'll find some exceptional, but perhaps previously unknown commentators on very technical concerns that will be of unique and particular interest to your technical effort.

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I'd first recommend he read and re-read this book by Joel Spolsky, "Smart And Get's Thing's Done" http://www.amazon.com/Smart-Gets-Things-Done-Technical/dp/1590598385

Great book for technical manager's to how to be a great manager, how to work with programmers, how to create a great developer environment, that get's thing's done.

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You can tell him at least get a news feed or just go to the followings sites. This will at least should help him to get a bird's eye view about the technology or software related things that he may need to learn more about. by the way you are a great employee that you are even coming online and posting questions for him to be able to help him and for that you deserve a raise :)

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