I CAN REMEMBER the very first software project I worked on.
Back then most programming was for shrink-wrapped
software that would spend years in development
(since you released only every few years and had long
dev cycles because patching bugs was so costly).
For two years I worked on a project, and when it finally
shipped, I can remember our VP talking about the
launch. I had never had much exposure to him (I was
new, a grad straight out of school), but I remember his
speech about the launch clearly. He talked about
some of the key features and mentioned a few of the
At the time, I had the impression he was out of touch;
the people he recognized were not the ones who had
contributed the most code, and the features he called
out were important but not the ones that
had been the major engineering chal-
lenges. I remember thinking, “How can
he not know what is going on in his team?”
Of course, now, almost 20 years later,
my perspective is quite different.
I have had the opportunity to man-
age very large teams; including some
even bigger than the 400-person orga-
nization I was part of during that first
project of my career. Now it makes per-
fect sense to me why he might not have
known the biggest challenges or top
contributors for a specific project.
The view at the top is different. And
having been on both sides of the org
chart, I have a new perspective.
The lessons here are ones I wish
someone had shared with me in my
moments of frustration with upper
management earlier in my career.
Lesson 1. There Are Only
a Few Levers to Effect Change
You know that a good leader empowers
his or her people. It is the leader’s job
Article development led by
Try to see things from
a manager’s perspective.
BY KATE MATSUDAIRA