Life as a Technical Manager

Simon is an experienced Technical Lead who joined Skyscanner in early 2012. He loves coding, reality TV and classical music in equal measures.


What role do you perform at Skyscanner?

I am a "Technical Manager", which means I lead a team of developers both technically and in terms of line management. I lead the team that provides back-end web services for the website and mobile clients.
Is it more "technical" or "management"?
Skyscanner values and rewards people who are technically skilled, but doesn’t believe in promoting them to roles where they never get to do what they love. Because our technical teams are small, as managers we’re able to take the time to manage and keep a handle on the quality of the code that the team produces. The only way to do the latter in my opinion is to get into the code yourself.

So you still write code?
Yes, around half my time is spent writing code. It's what I enjoy most and it is also expected of somebody in my role.
What do you code in?

Mostly it is a typical .Net developer's stack: C# 4, N-Unit with mocking frameworks, Castle Windsor etc. Some Javascript now and again. We interface with a mix of SQL and NoSQL databases in addition to a service bus, RabbitMQ.
What do you do the rest of the time?
A lot of it is spent performing development tasks that are not necessarily about writing code, such as gathering requirements, and prioritising and planning the contents of upcoming releases. As a line manager I am also responsible for the progression and general welfare of my team. I spend a fair amount of time mentoring and pairing with developers to make sure they are happy with what they are doing.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping track of all the various threads, requests, interruptions and priorities. Making sure everything gets done and nothing falls through the cracks, while simultaneously being able to allocate time to shut it all out and concentrate on a specific bit of code. You have to be good at multitasking and context-switching to do this job.
What do you enjoy the most?

Delivering code regularly and knowing that so many people will be using it straight away is a great feeling. I enjoy management and mentoring, but coding is still one of my favourite activities.
How does Skyscanner University help you develop as a Technical Manager?
Skyscanner University has a lot of great technical sessions, but I also find it a good way to learn about the domain we are in (i.e. the airline distribution industry) and to pick up management skills such as the art of negotiation.