The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Technology Leadership
The best part about technology leadership, is that almost every technologist can do it, though few are up for the adventure. To do so requires a willingness to depart from the world of ones and zeros a bit and enter a different world governed by actual human beings. While human beings are in fact, mostly harmless, this other world is a bit unnerving for the average technology geek. Therefore, I’ve assembled this hitchhiker’s guide to help you find your way.
Just like intergalactic space travel, technology leadership is full of surprises and perils, which may drive you to drink a pan galactic gargle blaster, which of course, won’t do any good. It will only make you feel like you just had your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped ‘round a large gold brick.
You will often feel over your head and overwhelmed. As a leader, people will look to you for answers, but you won’t know what to do. You might have to talk in front of a large group of people, only to find yourself without a word to say and a leg that won’t stop shaking. Just breathe and remember this advice: don’t panic.
Know where your towel is
While hitchhiking the galaxy, it is of imperative importance that you know where your towel is. This conveys confidence and poise to the rest of society. After all, if you know where your towel is, you must be really amazingly together.
What’s your towel? What gives you that immense physiological confidence you need to stand up as a leader when feel like you don’t belong? Perhaps it is your business suit. Perhaps it is your graduate degree. It could be your TI-85 Graphing Calculator. Perhaps it’s the latest edition of Harvard Business Review.
All of these things, in practical terms are nice to have, but non-essential for the practice of leadership. However, for you, it might give you that personal confidence you need to do what you otherwise may not: lead.
Go ahead. Carry your towel. We all need confidence boosters. You are fooling yourself if you think you do not.
Leading the technologists
You thought it would be cool to be in-charge. It turns out, us technology geeks are a bit of a handful. One day, you may find yourself talking to a long-winded application architect discussing abstract academic principles that they think should matter to you. You are almost certain that you will die from internal hemorrhaging as if you were listening to the Azgoths of Kria, but being fair, it’s more like Vogon poetry. In that case, you are best off being polite and offering a patient critique of the metaphysical imagery, the fundamental dichotomies, and the surrealism of the underlying metaphors.
On another day, you’ll look out your office door, and you’ll find an infinite number of monkeys who want to talk to you about this PowerShell script they’ve worked out. Yes, you need to care about these details and hear them out. Being a technology leader means understanding the details and the big picture. The alternative approach, of course, is to exclaim in surrender, “Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”
On another day, you’ll find yourself coaching an employee whose career is stuck in the rut. You’ll ask the employee, “Does it give you a full satisfying life? Stomping around, shouting, throwing people out of spaceships?” to which he will respond, “I think that if it’s all the same to you, I better just get you shoved into this airlock and then go and get on with some other bits of shoutin’ I’ve got to do.”
Of course, it’s not all the same to you, not only because you are the one being thrown out of the airlock, but because your success is wholly dependent on your employees’ success. You must develop the talent on your team. That’s the most important aspect of the job, and often the most overlooked. Ignore it, and you will find yourself in the total vacuum of space with only a lungful of air.
As a technology leader, you also have the distinct responsibility to buy technology on behalf of your organization. That means, you get to work with the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. You know them well. They are a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be up against the wall when the revolution comes.
Sure, they will tell you that their latest technology is “your plastic pal who’s fun to be with” but is actually a manically depressed robot. You think to yourself, “What am I supposed to do with a manically depressed robot?” Then the robot responds, “You think you’ve got problems. What are you supposed to do if you are a manically depressed robot?”
Here’s my advice: don’t forget all of those ones and zeros you learned as a technologist. You’ll need that knowledge to hold the marketing department accountable, so your company acquires technology that actually works. Also, not all technology sales people are mindless jerks. There are some really great ones out there.
The ultimate question
By now, you’ve started to realize that universe of technology leadership can be quite challenging. You may feel like a whale that spontaneously materialized in the sky only to plummet toward the ground at the same rate at which he is becoming initially self-aware.
Your odds of successfully navigating your career are two to the power of 276,709 to one against. Sit down, relax, and enjoy a nice cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. Then you’ll be well-poised to ponder the ultimate technology leadership question of lifecycle, the metaverse, and the internet of things.
I’ll save you seven and a half million years. The answer is 42.
I hope you have enjoyed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Technology Leadership. If by some measure of infinite improbability, you are still reading this article and haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, check it out the book here, or the movie here.
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
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