The Attentive Manager

Random Observation/Comment #349: Being a manager is much like being a parent. As with all non-parents babysitting children for a night or weekend, I am merely a tourist seeing the town, instead of a captive within its walls. I probably cannot give the most realistic advice about being a manager, but I have yet to be jaded by years of experience.

see lemons attentive

Responsibilities with the summer internship classes have been steadily increasing with more interns and more projects under my umbrella. Now, being an “overall program delivery manager”, I felt like I should try something different.

At the end of the summer, I conducted mock interviews for each individual intern as a parting gift in the form of free career consulting service. In this meeting, I essentially asked the interns 4 main questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How was your internship here?
  • What are 3 main lessons learned?
  • What would you do differently?

During the interview, I jotted down notes as if I were a typical interviewer, and then afterwards, we reviewed and I gave my main suggestions. At the end, I suggested that each intern speak with the others to share feedback (since I wrote different ones based on what they spoke).

As an experiment, this went well. It took around 5 hours and 11 full pages of handwritten notes, but I found it as useful bonding time. Here is a summary of the quick pro tips for interviews:

  • Prepare your elevator pitch and hone it to your audience
    • Story method
      • Talk about a story on how you’ve grown in the past few years into finding your interests and passions. Describe the correct mind-set (e.g. analytical, methodical, detail-oriented, etc)
    • Credentials/Objective method
      • List clear results and objectives you have. Think more about the value and why someone would hire your from those first few sentences.
      • Some focus on flexibility while others mention technical expertise or deliverables on each project. Give these examples and examples of side projects that you’ve created yourself
  • Internship explanations (generic for all internships that you’ve ever had)
    • Time frame and number of projects – always mention this because it can be used as a time management hook
    • Team size and lab setup – working together in a lab encourages the fun aspect and increases teamwork to complete common goals
    • Technologies used – probably new to you and given a steep learning curve, shows flexibility and ability to work under pressure
    • Methodologies used – especially important for BA/PM to mention how you asked the right questions and dynamically adjusted to issues. agile project management. Met directly with front office stakeholders
    • Business background – for both dev and BA, need to know the bigger picture, mention the specific product and your users
    • Business value – why did you build this? What were the results of it and who wanted it?  If it’s a new technology like Hadoop with big data, tell them why people should be excited about it
    • Results – What was built in the prototype? What was the greater reasons behind this? Opportunities for firm to adopt new technologies?
    • Hand-off intentions – make sure you mention the projects went off to become something that goes into production.
  • Key buzz words and themes people look for
    • Project ownership and work ethic – Interviewers want to see that you take a personal stake in the project’s success. The aligned passion results in higher work ethic as it’s the best motivation out there. This also aligns with taking the initiative to go the extra mile to do work you haven’t been assigned.
    • Leadership and teamwork – these go hand in hand because you need some type of influence and reputation before you can lead and make suggestions. A leader motivates people and keeps them focused on the objectives ahead.
    • Rising to the Challenge – Examples about how you got out of your shell to change or adjust to difficult roadblocks are key to a good interview. You want to express how you can work under stressful time constraints and juggle multiple projects.
    • Understanding the Environment – Knowing what’s valued by interviewers is important. Some companies are slave drivers and want their developer to be a code monkey, but most companies really invest in their people and want their people to work well together. There’s a corporate culture that needs to be expressed along with networking.
    • Managing Expectations – Give examples of saying “No” gracefully and knowing how to prioritize multiple projects
    • Effective Communication – Public speaking is the extreme case of this, but this really focuses on running meetings and describing complicated ideas in an easy to relate manner. This is a MUST for a BA.

This particular interview method of an attentive manager was very time consuming, but I found it very rewarding. I learned much more about my interns, and I hope my advice was overall useful.

~See Lemons Attentively Manage