Last night (this morning), I clicked “publish” at about 3 AM and went to bed. Now, those of you who follow this blog probably assume that I clicked “publish” in WordPress, firing off a 3 AM blog post.
I did this in Visual Studio, where I published a little web app called El Dorado to Azure. I source control the thing in Github and I publish to Azure, where it serves as a little line of business application for me and some of the staff at Hit Subscribe. And, while a Visual Studio publish isn’t exactly state of the DevOps art, it gets the job done.
The significant thing here isn’t any of the techs that I’m using. It’s also not the fact that I was up late coding, nor is it the purpose of the app.
What matters here is that I own a non-trivial and growing business and that I’m also writing code.
The Classic Management Track vs Technical Track Conundrum
Years ago, I wrote a blog post in which I told a story of something most enterprise-y/corporate programmers encounter sooner or later. It’s the “where do you see your career going, management or technical” question.
Choose wisely, young programmer. Down one path, expense accounts and Gantt charts await. Down the other, UML diagrams, and… well, probably also Gantt charts.
I could never really wrap my head around this dichotomy. I mean, I get that furiously banging out code and leading departments are somewhat divergent activities. But I never understood why the line blurred so little and so infrequently.
I poked around the internet a little to see if this was still true, and I think it mostly is. I found some posts like this one, talking about the coding dev manager. But this has always seemed like just taking the role that most companies call “architect” or “tech lead” and having people actually report to it. That just kind of kicks the can down the road slightly. If you’re a “coding manager,” you’re probably in a fairly vertical, tech-focused organization where line managers still don’t really think about “the business.”
Are Technical and Business Savvy Mutually Exclusive?
So this begs an interesting question. Are technical savvy and business savvy mutually exclusive?
Oh, I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not honestly asking whether techies can become startup CEOs or whether leaders with f-you money couldn’t learn to code. Of course those talents can both exist in the same human being.
What I’m asking is whether or not someone can do both of these things meaningfully, at the same time. Can someone run a department (beyond a “tech-lead-y” line management role) and also have legitimate business reasons to bang out code, and do it halfway decently?
I have a hypothesis that the answer is yes.
Yes, people can run non-trivial organizations while having good reason to code. And no, applied, simultaneous technical and business savvy are not mutually exclusive.