I started my career as a programmer. I was fortunate enough to get into computing as the Internet revolution was a strong possibility in the early nineties. My career has largely followed the rise of the PC, the Internet, and now cloud computing. Being one of the first on my block with an email address and a web site (which we called “home pages” back then), I started web development very early.
In the beginning
I started my professional programming career as a programmer at the local school district. Some of my software is still running today, and one of their websites for teachers and high school counselors is still online and serving their needs. It’s written in ASP Classic, but it works well. My first applications used Internet Database Connector technology with ODBC data sources and HTX templates on IIS 2 running on Windows NT 4 servers. As far as I know, this was the birth of the “code nugget” in ASP.NET (<% %>). Microsoft still supports this technology.
As my career progressed and I became more senior as a programmer, I vowed that I would never enter management. After all, I enjoyed coding all day, and I saw some examples of bosses that didn’t understand the underlying complexities involved in software.
After a few years as a Senior Software Developer, I became interested in not only programming the software that was the solution but also in performing the analysis work to look at a situation and decide the overarching solution.
Later, I became interested in business, and now I am the Chief Operating Officer at Headspring, LP. Headspring is a custom software company in Austin, TX. We help companies compete by helping them get greater value out of their existing custom software investments as well as creating new custom software assets for them. I can see on a daily basis the real operating dollars generated and saved by our software solutions we have deployed for our customers.
My view of the industry has changed quite a bit now that I am a manager. Because Headspring is a custom software company, I still program (everyone does), but I also do the following:
- Grow our people
- Close out monthly financials
- Perform financial and operation briefings for the company
- Recruit new technical staff
- Set compensations levels and promote staff
- Manage facilities
- Manage vendors
- Help set company strategy
We have a learning culture here at Headspring. Everyone is given time for and expected to foster what we call Continuous Improvement. In fact, CI Time is one of the things we track on our time system. Because we are a professional services company, we bill by the hour; therefore, we track every hour.
In January of 2011, I began a new initiative in my own quest for continuous improvement. I started the MBA program at the Jack Welch Management Institute. JWMI is a 2-year MBA program started and authored by the long-time CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. After reading Jack’s book, Winning, I knew that I could learn a lot from him, and I jumped at the opportunity to apply to be in his Masters of Business Administration program. I have already learned so much about business communication, leadership, strategy, and people management. As a manager, I am seeing that people management might be the most important topic covered in the program.
As a manager, my success depends completely on the work of others, not myself. The only way I succeed is if others succeed. That’s the big difference between hands-on work and management work. People decisions can make or break an outcome. I have learned a great deal since entering management five years ago. I also know that I have so much more to learn. I am grateful for a terrific staff. They constantly challenge me to find other great people they can work with, and I do that to the best of my ability.
The more I learn, the more I discover how much there is to learn.