HomeCoder To Leader“The biggest challenge as a leader is to keep people motivated.” Read how Paul Kuruvilla does it at Shuttl.
“The biggest challenge as a leader is to keep people motivated.” Read how Paul Kuruvilla does it at Shuttl.
April 20, 2020
Hello! I am a self-taught programmer and majored in mechanical engineering. I started programming in my college days as it was an easy way to make some pocket money. Eventually, I grew interested in computer science and started out with courses on Udacity and built a few tiny apps on my own.
Currently, I work as an Engineering Manager at Shuttl, “an Uber for buses” in India. I’ve led teams ranging from 3–12 people, and am now leading the platform team, which builds core components like fleet management, ETA predictions, GPS tracking, and payments.
How was your journey from coder to leader?
I was hired into a management role, not promoted to one. My journey as manager started with a large project that involved a complete rewrite of our backend systems. We grew from a team of 4 backend developers to a cross-functionally staffed team of 13. This is when I realized my responsibility to lead and motivate people and setting our long term vision.
The journey from coder to leader was definitely a transformation to a more experienced and skilled self.
Give us a sneak peek into your regular day at work and how do you regularly motivate yourself to work?
My regular days mostly involve some code reviews, daily standups, weekly manager’s meet. To ease my work as a manager, I’ve built slack bots for team communication pipelines/dashboards to analyze our GitHub data, a web-app for performance reviews, a leaderboard for programming challenges and more.
One aspect of my job I enjoy a lot is mentoring junior developers. The kind of exposure that we get in our early days helps us in growing professionally.
What was the biggest challenge as a manager and how you came out of it?
The biggest challenge as a leader is to keep people motivated. Some feel as if they are not learning fast enough, some felt that they were working on too small chunks of work, and so on. It is tough to ensure that people work on projects that challenge their current skillset and they stay motivated.
I haven’t really “overcome” this hurdle yet, still a long way to go.
What the best advice that you can give as a manager?
Play the long game. Don’t do anything that you’re going to undo 3 months from now.
Learn to recognize when you’re stuck in local maxima.
Focus only on what is in your circle of influence.
Develop an appreciation for Systems Thinking. Treat your team as a ’System’ that you’re tasked with building and maintaining as it evolves over time.
What the best advice that you can give to someone who is starting their journey as a manager?
For those who’re new to the role: aim to be a hands-off manager. This takes some time to get used to but makes perfect sense if you think about it. You’re doing your best work when your team functions well without you!