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Learning how to lead: strategies to grow your technical leadership A.J. Brush Deb Agarwal.

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Presentation on theme: "Learning how to lead: strategies to grow your technical leadership A.J. Brush Deb Agarwal."— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning how to lead: strategies to grow your technical leadership A.J. Brush Deb Agarwal

2 A.J. Brush 2 Human-computer interaction with focus on technologies for homes and families built using sensing, inference, and prediction.

3 A.J. Recent Leadership Positions Project Leadership examples – MSR Menlo project HCI lead – MSR HomeOS project HCI lead Technical Conference/Society – Pervasive Program Committee Chair 2009, Pervasive Steering Committee ongoing – SIGCHI VP of Membership (2006- 2009) – Organization of several workshops Diversity Leadership – MSR Women’s group – CRA-W board

4 Deb Agarwal Create software and tools to enable scientists to address complex and large-scale computing and data analysis problems Project PI for ~15 years Example science areas – Understanding California watershed dynamics – Global FLUXNET Carbon flux network – Environmental management data management for an advanced simulation environment – Carbon capture capabilities for coal plants – Knowledge discovery workflow tools

5 Deb Leadership Positions PhD student – Collaborating with fellow students Cost-Free Expert to Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization Staff Scientist – Leading a single project Group Lead – 5-6 people – Small set of projects – collaborative tools Department Head – 22 people – Wide diversity of projects – cybersecurity research to environmental science Senior Staff Scientist


7 Leadership Roles Technical Leader – Direct technical vision for project – Form collaboration/partnership – Arbitrate technical differences – Lead exploratory projects – Evaluate riskiness vs. milestone decisions – Small projects with teams of less than 10 people – Large multi-organization projects with teams of more than 50 people Manager – Focus on project management / people management (from a few people to over a hundred people) – Hiring/career building 7

8 Leader/Technical Leader's Job Take responsibility for a project  Organize and empower people to get the project done  Keep/get project on track  Keep project funded Champion project and the team working on it Represent/defend project Become recognized as an expert inside and outside your organization  Provide wisdom to guide your organization's actions Communication, communication, communication!  People skills are very important

9 Understand Your Organization Know how to get resources you need Understand the political realities of your organization – Within your organization - management priorities, organizational priorities, external pressures, … – How funding works – when and how to get it and how to keep it – Recognition opportunities and appropriate timing of recognition for project and personnel Know the critical organizational project milestones/expectations

10 Understanding your organization's leadership opportunities/ladder Find out what your organization rewards  Ask your manager, peers, senior leaders  See what matters on performance reviews  Identify role models and talk to them  Technical leaders are often not obvious Examples – Submit proposals/lead projects – Help write vision statements – Service externally

11 What leadership is NOT Doing all the work yourself  You don't scale Telling people what to do  Working with researchers is like herding cats Making all the decisions yourself  You don't have all the information  You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room Assigning blame when things go wrong  No one will want to work with you


13 Leadership Qualities-1 Energetic and passionate – Able to motivate self and others – Passionate about what you are doing – Passionate about the impact of your work Solid technical background and proven track record – Accomplished ideas – Good reputation – able to engage people, especially those with funding – Project management – able to assess solutions Good business sense – Aware of the competitive business environment – Able to align research with business goals and strategies 13

14 Leadership Qualities-2 Strong communication skills – Able to sell ideas – Able to align/realign team – Able to sell results and solutions Strong people skills – Can motivate and engage team members – Can effectively resolve conflicts – Can navigate and manage company politics Strong network (connections) – Knows how to get things done inside the company – Can find proper support, resources, and contacts Authentic, with High Integrity – Earns respect, establishes trust, maintains humility 14

15 Leadership Qualities-3 Takes ownership and holds self accountable – Organizes and empowers team – Obtains sufficient resources – Establishes reasonable milestones Is a recognized expert inside and outside the organization – Is sought out by management – Provides a steady hand in tough times – Provides wisdom to guide actions of the organization Maintains relationships – Manages down as well as up – Communicates in a timely and sensitive manner 15

16 Able to Build Collaboration Within the Team Create a shared vision Create a long-term plan with short-term deliverables to divide research Establish clear roles and responsibilities Discuss preferred work styles Establish effective & regular communication Build a research team with a group identity Establish a process to get work done Clarify upfront how the “rewards” will be shared Understand what others want from the project – win/win

17 Building the Team Empowering people to take a role that fits them – Team lead on a sub-project – Technical expert on a topic – Trouble-shooter – Let key people know they are important Helping people to recognize when their talents are a better fit elsewhere – Identify their talents and passion – Work with them to identify a role that fits for them (inside or outside the organization)


19 How to act like a leader Build your brand  What do you want to be known for? Deliver on your promises Start leading from the bottom up  You don't have to be project lead to exert leadership over a team If you have an idea, take ownership and do it (after appropriate checks) – E.g. A.J. started the women’s group, intern lunch series, got projects started

20 Steps to Get from Here to There Find good leaders to work for and with Offer to take ownership on part of a project Learn to lead without power  Most of your teams will not report to you  Removes the messy evaluation part of the relationship Help others on your teams to succeed – enabling the team rather than just yourself Be visible (not loudest) Be passionate not dogmatic

21 Build a Team and Collaboration to Work With Pay attention to what the other researchers around you are doing and who is doing good work (internal and external) Help others to solve their problems Find things that you are passionate about Share the credit, take the responsibility  Recognize everyone's contributions Be humble! Collect the people who add value to the collaboration/team

22 Leading Through Crisis Do your homework – Study the problem – Understand the options Recruit upper level management to help deal with crisis – Bridge funding – Opens up lateral opportunities Be honest and up-front with the team – Before the rumor mill gets out of control – Lay out a plan for the future – Recruit their help (get them involved where possible) Once its handled take some time for yourself!

23 Leader Examples A.J. – Menlo project leader – My boss Deb – My boss at GM – My first two bosses at LBNL – Leading through crisis – Current collaborator

24 Leadership Disaster Stories AJ – Dysfunctional work group/destructive criticism – Summer Internship example Deb – Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty – Cybersecurity for Open Science

25 Leadership Challenges Deb Taking the time to do it well Empowering people on the team who are remote Asking for help Imposter syndrome Networking Growing my replacement Listening with an open mind

26 Leadership Challenges AJ Balancing moving the group forward and being “bossy” Growing replacements and knowing when to let go Changing styles to match needs of different team members Giving constructive criticism/being the “bad guy”

27 Final Thoughts Good leadership is a collaboration not a dictatorship Look for the win/win for everyone Make the hard decisions Be honest – admit when you don’t know Always support the team externally – Take responsibility for issues – Share credit broadly

28 Thanks! Tessa Lau, 2009 CRA-W leadership panel Patty Lopez, CAHSI 2010 presentation

29 Recommended reading How To Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed, Robert Kelley, 1998

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