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Managing Software Engineers

Posted on 23 November 2002 by Demian Turner

from http://www.paulgraham.com
Software engineering is different because the organization can’t afford to lose the individual productivity of the best people by pushing them into management. A truly great programmer may generate 10 times as much business value as a merely good programmer. Can the organization afford to take someone who can do the work of 100 average programmers and push him or her into a pure management role? Probably not. Can the organization afford to put people with weak technical skills into management roles? Probably not. Once you give Joe MBA a title and ask him to coordinate eventually he will be making decisions that have engineering implications. Thus many of the best programmers are eventually forced at least to assume project leadership and mentoring responsibilites. Since they are still expected to produce designs, software, documentation, and journal articles, the danger is that the new manager will become glued to his or her screen and never look up to see how the project team is doing.

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