Dear Geeks:

(Before anyone gets excited, this is not intended for or aimed at any specific geek or non-geek who has ever worked for, around, or with me. It was originally inspired by this and this, although it isn’t the same format. Thank you.)

An open letter to geeks, from a geek leader:

I like you. I like working with geeks. You’re intelligent, have odd senses of humor, are creative, and usually shower. I chose to move into geek-dom, and, once here, decided to stay. Eventually, I became a leader. I know some of you don’t quite understand why I would want to do that, but perhaps you can attribute it to a management gene or being dropped on my head as a child (or maybe hitting a house with my head going 20 mph when I was in 2nd grade, but I digress).

But here’s the thing: I still think you should know some stuff.

  1. I’m human. I make mistakes. Shocker, I know. Do me a favor and tell me, rather than letting me look like an idiot, okay?
  2. I experience political pressure. Which, in turn, sometimes makes me tell you to do things you think are stupid. And sometimes I can’t even explain why. Please ask, though. See #1 for the reason you should ask.
  3. If we don’t work in an IT/software company, please learn how to talk non-geek to the, well, non-geeks. Actually, this applies even if we do work in an IT/software company.
  4. You have this job in order to provide value to the shareholders of the company. Either you make the stuff or do the work that makes money, or you support the people who do. Shockingly, very few companies will pay you to just sit around and be geeky.
  5. My top priority is to run the department according to #4. That’s why I have the job. They don’t pay me to just sit around and be management-y.
  6. I want to have fun. I want to be a team. But #s 4 and 5 have to come first. Doing both at the same time is optimal, but sometimes we won’t have fun. I know it sucks.
  7. I care more about you as a human than as a geek or a cog in some corporate machine. Does this sound counter to #s 4, 5, and 6? Yup. It’s a balancing act. See #1 for why I mess it up sometimes.
  8. My job as a manager is to enable you to do your job. Your job is to accomplish the goals I set as a manager and the goals of the company. In my world, you and I work for each other.
  9. But I’m still a manager. If I excuse myself during off-color conversations, it’s because I’m trying to be appropriate. Especially since we’re probably different genders.
  10. The way this all works is that we all act like adults. You do what I ask you to do without my telling you how to do it, and you ask me for help or push back when it seems odd, strange, or impossible. We communicate. We don’t kvetch about each other without first discussing the problem face-to-face (or at least phone-to-phone if we’re a remote team).

I think we can all figure this out, really. It’s a matter of respect and priorities.


P.S., It’s okay to shoot the flying monkey into my office. Just be warned that I’m easily startled and might shriek…