Job title: Development Manager in the Distributed Application Server group in the Business Platform Division
Chandra on the forefront of the Cloud. He works on the AppFabric Foundation on Windows Server and Windows Azure. In simple terms, Chandra oversees the development of some of the most cutting-edge technology in the world. That said, he believes that even in the most advanced of work environments, there is great value in a reliable manager.
Chandra, how did a manager affect your success at Microsoft?
I joined Microsoft as an industry hire with 15+ years of industry experience. While this experience was was relevant, it was even more important that I contextualized this experience to Microsoft. The manager who hired me into Microsoft played a crucial role in helping me fit my past experience into my new position at Microsoft, providing me with the right set of opportunities to showcase my strengths and establish credibility on the team. He helped me to build connections and networks that served me well.
Not all tech companies have the same management structure or philosophy. In your other industry experience, have you seen the lack of a good manager impede one’s career progress?
In order to do a great job, an engineering manager needs to combine deep technical understanding, domain expertise and leadership/coaching skills to enable the teams and to grow individuals on the team.
If a manager does not have the necessary technical chops, he or she is not able to provide the coaching to the team members, evaluate the contribution of individuals and arbitrate technical trade-offs.
I have seen managers who are not connected to the team in terms of the technical knowledge. They are, therefore, unable to develop their reports and provide the necessary guidance for the teams and individuals to be successful. This is particularly true in companies where there is little emphasis on the manager being technical.
At Microsoft, our engineering managers are technically competent and are able to lead from the front in addition to being good managers who maximize the potential of their reports.
What are some other traits of a good manager?
A good manager is someone who is self-aware and sincere about maximizing the potential of people around them. They are genuine and have the interest of their reports at heart, provide timely and constructive feedback (both positive and negative), are not afraid to stretch the abilities of their reports and provide a "safe" environment to take calculated risk. In effect, they are someone who is both trusting and trustworthy.
How does Microsoft support managers to do the best job possible?
Microsoft is structured around developing and growing our employees. We also invest in growing the abilities of managers so that they can bring out the best in the people around them.
All managers are expected to go through a series of experiential training courses. They learn about themselves, best management and leadership practices from their peers and they build an informal support network of other managers. In addition to these training courses in Management Excellence, there are a wide variety of other resources available to managers to hone their management skills and becoming better leaders.
The evaluation and review process at Microsoft also plays a key role in ensuring that there is good communication and feedback between the managers and their teams. We have mid-year reviews that are specifically targeted at understanding the individual's career aspirations, their strengths and areas for growth. Employees and their managers create a personal development plan, maintain communication and work together to achieve the employee's career goals.