Are you new CTO, VP Engineering, Director or Senior Manager of Software Development – either doing the role for a first time or taking on the role in a new company?  If so, this section is for you!

As you may know if you read this blog, I recently (November 2011) joined to work on the next generation of online shopping.

Many times when a company hires a senior leader or executive, it is to address some larger issue within that part of the organization. Since these roles are typically more expensive, you wouldn’t hire someone unless you really needed it; and in my past 3 roles that was certainly the case and things were messed up and I was expected to fix it. However, this was not the case with Decide – they had a great team that were executing well, and while they were missing a senior technical leader, there weren’t any problems.

My first few weeks were jarring – things were humming along, I was learning the team, technology and product, but after a while I became frustrated that I wasn’t able to add more value. I was used to being critical and important – the “go to” person for everything, and here in this new role I felt almost superfluous. So after a couple of hiccups and rough starts I picked up some books to help guide me in my leadership role. I read through the New Leaders 100 Day Action Plan and The First 90 Days – both were good reminders and provided some framework and structure I could use to integrate into my new role.  One common theme in both books though, was the importance of securing early wins.

When you join a new team as the leader you start from ground zero, you have to earn their respect.  People will be testing boundaries and looking at you skeptically – will you be the boss they hoped or will they be a bad boss?  Smart people will want to work with someone who they consider a leader, and while you may be the manager by title and position, it will take some work and time to establish you as a leader in the team.  Your leadership, and your team’s confidence in your authority, will be determined based on how you interact with them and on your early impact on the organization.

While I am certainly still integrating into my team, I have put together a series of posts that detail some of the things I did to help ease my transition. While these may prove useful to larger companies or bigger teams, most of these posts are really targeted at startup leaders – the CTOs, VP Engineering’s, and engineering managers that take on a new role in one of these fast paced, rapidly changing environments.

Each of the posts cover a different topic and my ideas and templates to help you get started.

  1. Understanding the strategy
  2. Conversations with the team
  3. Understand and assess technical risks (Technical Risk Assessment)
  4. Focus on early wins

As you read through these posts, definitely let me know if you have feedback or comments – I know this won’t be my first last new position and I know I could certainly use some additional tips.  You can leave them in the comments or just email me directly – and thanks in advance!