From traditional IT manager to ‘knowledgeable leader’
When IT organisations switch to the Spotify model of working, just as ING did a few years ago, it causes a role shift and results in a flatter hierarchy, self-organising teams and the disappearance of traditional management positions. Bridging the gaps between the IT developers and the business are the ‘Leads’: knowledgeable leaders with technical skills.
Marcin Pakulnicki was IT Chapter Lead at Omnichannel/Domestic Bank up until last year, but he has since become IT Area Lead. He and his colleague Han Markslag regularly speak at conferences about what they have learned as IT Chapter Lead – which a role that combines hands-on software engineering skills, HR leadership and stakeholder management. Marcin will be holding a talk about the topic once again at Qcon in London on 4 March.
Marcin: “Qcon is one of the few high-quality and truly independent IT conferences in the world. It’s really good exposure for ING. My talk during Qcon will be slightly different from our previous presentations, which were more focused on the position of the IT Chapter Lead role within the organisation and the bank’s IT journey in general. At Qcon I’ll be zooming in on the role itself within a modern bank.”
You and Han called your presentation ‘Death of the IT manager – Being a tech lead in a modern IT organization’, is that true?
“Yes, because it sums up precisely what’s happening: IT management layers are disappearing as organisations transition to agile working, and tech leads are gaining an ever-more important role in the transformation and growth of those organisations. They coach software engineers, make sure the team can function optimally, hire new people and are the first point of contact for the stakeholders. They have a say in the bank’s IT policy and strategy. I’m now an IT Area Lead myself, so I manage IT Chapter Leads, but their role is so much more important than mine. You can’t do anything without them! IT Chapter Leads are knowledgeable leaders and connect with the engineers. The IT Chapter Leads provide the input for innovation and also manage the innovation process.”
What have you and Han learned in your time as IT Chapter Leads?
“Leads are people with an engineering background. They might have led a team before but they haven’t necessarily developed strong HR skills, and yet this role places considerable demands on such skills and also on your stakeholder management skills. You have to take a proactive approach to your stakeholders, seek them out and get things done. People with the right combination of those skills are worth their weight in gold, but so difficult to find!”
Does speaking at conferences help?
“Conferences definitely help us to come into contact with people who might have the right potential. Meanwhile, lots of people and organisations are keen to know what it really means to adopt agile working like ING has done, including how the Lead role can look and what it requires. The feedback from audiences repeatedly confirms that there’s a need for this kind of information. So far, we’ve always presented to a full house, and whenever we run workshops on things like soft skills for tech leads they always sell out immediately. So it’s a very hot topic, and we’re always happy to share our insights because that benefits our community as a whole!”
Marcin taught himself to code and originally started out as a Flash developer. He is crazy about new technology and his passion lies in making technical innovations scalable. Marcin: “ING is a fantastic company for software engineers; in terms of IT, we are way ahead of other organisations.” He is keen to tell the whole world about this, which is why he is speaking at ever-more external events and conferences. Marcin is a big fan of science fiction films and Eastern European sci-fi authors such as Stanislaw Lem.