Tech Manager—Location, Location, Location

Everyone knows this is the mantra shouted by every real estate agent from millennia past. I can just hear King Tut getting a sales pitch from the Executive Tomb Builder “You want to be right here. In the Valley of the Kings. Nowhere else has a better location.” Today you may hear it as buying the right home in the right place. Locations near good schools, parks, shopping, etc. All of this improves your life.

Speaking of location, I did a search on the web for “where to sit in a movie theater” and got over six million results. Crazy as it might seem, a lot of people have opinions about the exact best place to watch the silver screen and eat popcorn. If you want to get a good laugh, search on “Sheldon - the acoustic sweet spot” to get a short clip of how Sheldon Cooper finds the best place to sit at the movies.

Any application of this mantra will do. So I will apply it to CAD/BIM/Tech Managers to say that you need to check your location in many ways. How can location improve your work life, enhance your career, and set you on the right path toward advancement?

Where Do You Sit?

I have always requested a specific location for me and my team in the building or floor I work on. As Tech Managers, we need to be in the thick of it. You do not want to be off in some corner. You might think that you can get more done if others would not pester you so much, but that is not your lot in life as a manager of technology. You want and need to be right in the center of project flow. I usually desire a spot that others might consider too noisy or chaotic. I want to be right off the traffic flow. I want to be next to the place people congregate. That is usually close to the printers/plotter or by the lunch room or maybe right off the main entry hall.

This gives everyone access to me as they pass by. It allows them to stop and chat or complain or ask a question. If I am distant from their desk, I stand little chance of them passing by and stopping. I will take a smaller office, with no windows, if it gets me closer to the action.

It will be noisier and you need to get used to that. If you like library sound levels, then you may bristle at the thought of being in a “shared space” office location. You may feel like you get less done, but others will appreciate what you will do for them. And that is what this is all about—serving the customer, not yourself.

If I happen to have a team member or two that support tech with me, I encourage them to sit away from me. Better they be scattered around the office next to the design crew. I do not want my whole team to be down some hallway and clumped together. Station them on the factory floor where the work is being done. You would be amazed at how much you might able to address and fix just by overhearing conversations around you. You stand out by blending in with the project team.

Where Do You Walk?

When I am not in my office, which should be a good portion of the day, I walk around. I do not try to find the quickest way to the lunch room and dart back as to avoid people. I want to see people and talk to them. I walk around the plotters, break room, manager’s row, and any other place that might be an opportunity to talk with people. When I walk, I stop and talk. I keep it brief, but I do make a point of engaging. If people are busy, let them get back to work quickly. If they do have something that needs to be addressed, they can mention it. “Are things going okay?” is a simple question that can open a large topic or they can move past it quickly if they are busy.

Where Do You Not Want to Be?

You do not want to be in a location that makes it hard for folks to come to you. I am amazed at how some staff do not want to walk to your office. So bring the office to them by sitting closer. I actually have moved to open desks for a few hours to work just so I am closer to the design teams as they wrestle with the software. Being close to them, I can answer questions, suggest workarounds, or just get a feel for what works and what does not.

I have heard of tech team fortresses that have locked doors and make people knock to get in. That will frustrate them and they will soon stop coming to you.  You do not want to be in another building or on a different floor from the production work.

You do not want to be out of sight from the firm’s leadership. Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t let that happen to you. By mixing in with the project teams, you are right in the thick of it. Ready to assist as needed. You can listen to what causes delays and gather ideas for improvement.

Where the Action Is…

That is where you want to be. Right in the center of the activity. Get in there and stay in there. Location, location, location.

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