Looking to the future person

It is becoming increasingly clear that we'll be hiring a second full-time IT-type person some time this year. What's more, they're likely to be directly reporting to me. That would turn me into a straight up Manager, something I haven't been before. This is somewhat scary! The closest I've been was two jobs ago when I was providing work direction to two other people, but the actual time-card signoffs and vacation approvals was handled by someone else.

Which means I'm giving thought on what we'll need in terms of skillset for this nebulous person. As I see it, there are five primary knowledge domains that we're interested in:

The "buying things" one is new to this chart, in the past I've always had either a purchasing department to handle things like chasing down late orders, or have had single-source contracts that take a lot of the choice out of what we can buy. When you get to the senior levels and get 'recommend' powers (if not straight up purchasing authority) this kind of thing is actually pretty key. In fact, right now I have a specific order that I need in my hands by next Thursday OR ELSE, and I'm having to apply mallet to a supplier to get it. I never had to do this kind of thing before.


The tricky part is, what weight do we assign to each knowledge domain? Based on my workload right now, I'd have to say "automation coding" is primary. However, come August the pain we're feeling may be somewhere else entirely. Come August, our product should have been released for several months and we'll then have a lot of operational experience, and what we may need most of all is someone to share the midnight callout duties more than anything else.

And then there is the whole, "Now that I'm a manager-type person, what work is most suited to that?" question.

For me, of those five domains the Automation Coding portion is the domain with the highest interrupt costs; it takes me a good while to get back on track after someone asks me something random. Considering it's my job to be interrupted (even though that's a bad thing for systems administrators), this suggests having Someone Else do the automation coding part is a good idea. On the other hand, for large web-scale and highly homogeneous infrastructures automation coding is the majority of the systems engineering work needed to make it all function.

Right this moment, it's looking like my #2 will have to be someone with some years under their belt, which runs against our company's proven track-record of hiring promising people right out of college. Automation coding is that curious mix of a lot of Software Engineering crossed with the domain specific knowledges of OS lore, management frameworks, and application-specific functioning. Of these, it's the OS lore that's the hardest to train for.


If I've done my job right, by the time we release the automation framework should be largely completed and should be good enough to handle at least half a year's worth of scale. If we release, and the industry loves us like a loving thing, we'll be scaling out madly. At that point, having another set of hands well versed in the Network Configuration and Server Hardware parts will be more important than a systems programmer. THAT is someone who could be a fresh-from-college person, much like our summer intern IT last year.

Won't know until we get there.


Congrats on your promotion and addition of new staff. I've somewhat recently been put in a similar situation - having staff directly report to me. For me the most difficult part is delegating work. Not that I have a "hero" complex, it's just hard to tell someone to do something you know you are capable of.

The thing I guess to keep in mind is that your job is to help ensure resources (your time/brainpower and other peoples time/brainpower) are used optimally.

Anyway, cheers

You may want to consider the "When I go on vacation" or "When I become very ill" scenarios when hiring a new member of your team, especially if your team is small.

Having worked, and managed, small teams - I would say that having a peer that you can trust is invaluable in getting things done and not having to worry if it is done right.