Whether it’s staying connected to the bird’s-eye view or taking time to build trust with your team, Cloud Engineer, Kevin Roberts, shares the top leadership behaviors you need to thrive in the tech industry, no matter your experience level.
Whether it’s going after an architecture certification or getting an MBA, continuous learning is imperative to leadership success. While it’s easy to become stubborn and stick to “what works,” the rapid rate at which tech evolves, makes following the status quo a disadvantage. What works now won’t necessarily work a month from now. Listening and adjusting to new ideas is critical skills in an ever-changing world.
An open-minded love for change led me to apply to my current role in cloud engineering at Discover. I enjoy picking up challenging projects, presenting ideas to other teams and pursuing further education and certifications.
I earned my architecture certification because I wanted to better understand all cloud services, not just the ones my team works with. The certification is a prerequisite for most cloud engineering and architecture jobs. I liked learning how to integrate and design efficient software architectures. Learning these new skills will help me stay up-to-date on the latest tech advances, thus building my skillset as a successful engineer, architect and leader.
I’m pursuing an MBA to learn a larger array of soft skills, including communicating more effectively. Business and tech have always been a powerful combination. I believe success comes not just from doing your work well, but from being well-spoken too.
Balance planning and accountability
In tech, the project roadmap is difficult to predict because of the level of detail required for each task. One error can lead to hours, days or weeks of additional debugging, testing and reconfiguration. When accepting a project, confirming that all the boxes are checked is highly tedious. So, we have to find the right balance between planning resources and holding engineers accountable to complete work correctly and on time.
As leaders, we need to do our best to make sure all stakeholders and team-members have spoken and all open questions are answered upfront. Re-iterate ideas to promote discussion around the acceptance criteria and design decisions. These practices help mitigate issues down the line by planning for accountability and encouraging ownership.
People in positions of power—whether they’re directors, managers, or even project leads— have a level of responsibility to leverage their influence for positive outcomes. I believe good leadership is determined by the ability to effectively, and positively influence the team.
At Discover, we emphasize the team’s success over the individual’s. When the team succeeds, we all succeed. Even without a leadership title, I feel a responsibility to my team to motivate, excite and inspire. I try my best to make sure the work I do is beneficial to the company, the individual and society. I’ve even taken on several official and unofficial mentees. I value honesty and try to provide my mentees with all the information they need to take their next steps.
I recognized early on that to take on more responsibility, I had to build trust with my team. As a newcomer, it took a few successful projects before I earned my team’s trust. Through those initial projects, I demonstrated good technical skills and communicated effectively. In turn, that gave me the confidence to speak up more and gave my team the confidence in my abilities.
After every sprint, we hold a “retro meeting.” A retro meeting is a designated time to reflect on the sprint and identify improvements. In order to hold an effective retro meeting, our team has to trust each other. We have to establish openness and vulnerability. We have to reflect on the sprint as a learning experience rather than a failure. Otherwise, looking honestly at a gap can feel like an attack.
When we change our mindset as a team, we create a more open and honest environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspective. So, we deliver feedback alongside solutions. We communicate our ideas effectively, outline our points and reiterate next steps. We encourage as much feedback as possible, as often as possible, to improve and ultimately, innovate.
Hold onto the big picture
In the past, I’ve worked with managers, project owners and architects who don’t take the time to think about the big picture. Pausing to take input from the right people can drastically improve a project. Without the right input early on, projects become poorly designed and require costly re-designs later on.
Yet, as engineers we’re taught to complete the task in front of us. We aren’t taught how to distill the bigger picture down into its interconnected parts. The architect on a project is often the primary person responsible for keeping the big picture close. But ultimately, every engineer should be operating with the big picture in mind.
I encourage everyone on my team to ask questions, share knowledge, improve processes, think about the big picture and promote a positive work environment so that we’re motivated as a team to work efficiently.
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