“The way you communicate becomes as important as what you communicate” — Mayank Bhola, on being a leader.

“Things become much easier when you preach what you do. I myself haven’t seen any successful leaders who themselves cannot do what they are asking their teams to do.”

Hello! What’s your background and what do you do?

Hi there. I am a full stack developer and a system architect. I graduated from JIIT Noida in Computer science & technology. My craze for black screens with the green font started since I watched sci-fi movies in my childhood. It started out as a pursuit of looking cool at that age, but quickly became a passion when I started developing simple web pages. Since then I have been learning new concepts and technologies till date. Today, I am responsible for designing and architecting large scale technology systems at my day job. As a side role, I help in establishing tech culture and adopt best practices that help scale the organization technologically.

How was your journey from coder to leader?

Fortunately, at the starting of my career, I had the opportunity to work as the only tech guy in my organization and start working on the project from scratch. I didn’t have any mentors at that time. As a consequence, everything I did was a result of self-study or experimentation. That was a very big confidence booster. Luckily, my colleagues and mentees have been very supportive during that time. This lead to a natural progression into a leadership role early in my career. Call it destiny or the nature of my choices, I have been always been to positions where I end up leading the teams. The real field experience of building things from scratch and mentoring people has been helping me to continuously learn how to be a better leader and developer.

What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?

My days are divided based on the famous Maker vs Manager’s schedule (http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html). The first half of my day is focussed on ensuring that none of my team members are blocked anywhere and setting goals and priorities for the teams. Brainstorming sessions, design discussions, code reviews, and interviews are some of the other items during this half of my day. I also try to ensure that all meetings can also be accommodated at this time, but the world is far from ideal and sometimes meetings get spilled over to my second half. Since I write code myself and have projects assigned to me as a developer, I keep the second half of the day for research and development. I try to minimize distractions in this second half by making sure that nobody is blocked by this time. Experiments, POCs, and cost optimizations are some of the other items that I engage in this distraction-free period. Sometimes this segregation reduces to a very fine line and things get intermingled, but I try to follow the makers’ and managers’ schedules whenever I can.

Being able to grow myself along with my team and achieve more every day is what motivates me.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?

The biggest realization I had after leading teams is that it is much easier to build large scale systems and manage thousands of servers than managing humans. There are so many dimensions and variables involved with every individual that no single rule or technique can apply to two different persons. Understanding the motivation and goals of each member is very important when you are working as a team. Another great lesson I have learned while leading teams is that ensuring redundancy in terms of abilities and skills always helps in mitigating risks in product delivery. You cannot rely on a single person for a sizeable portion in a running product or a new delivery. Timely communication and building trust amongst the team members has helped me in numerous critical situation where the stakes were very high and individuals were missing when they were required the most.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about being a manager?

Leading by example is the best advice I have received about being a manager and a team leader. To gain the trust of the team and make them follow is only possible when they see you doing the real stuff yourself. Things become much easier when you preach what you do. I myself haven’t seen any successful leaders who themselves cannot do what they are asking their teams to do.

What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?

I would urge the developers who are considering making the switch to focus a lot on their interpersonal skills. While working as developers, very rarely people pay attention to soft skills, but as you rise up the ladder, the way you communicate becomes as important as what you communicate. Secondly, I would also suggest that if you don’t have the prior experience, start with small teams as this will give you more breather when learning new management skills. Leading big teams all of a sudden can become overwhelming.

Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?

I host my projects on my Github profile (github.com/psych0der). My professional profile is on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mayankbhola/). Soon I’ll be starting my own blog, most probably at mayankbho.la