Forward and to the side

A little over four months ago, I started a new job. My first, in fact, where I wasn’t employed by myself or a family member, where I was a member of a team, not just a lone programmer writing code, running tech support, designing web pages, and handling the books in the meantime. It was a big jump, and I still find myself off balance some days. I wonder when I’m going to be exposed for the impostor I surely must be. I fret about letting everyone down.

Well, those fears are about to get worse.

From the beginning, my boss said I would be “transitioning” to full-time after 90 days. This would be a kind of grace period for me, a chance to show what I was capable of, while minimizing risk for the company. Understandable, from a business perspective, and I was honestly just happy to be hired in the first place, so I wasn’t going to complain.

Now, the grace period is over. The transition is done. Next week will be like starting over, in one sense. In another, it’s like jumping off a cliff, because I’m not going to be the full-stack developer I expected.

I’m going to be the CTO.

When he said that in the call where we discussed it, I think my heart stopped for a second. Sure, as he was quick to point out, a company that’s effectively a startup in size and revenue doesn’t have a lot of “prestige” in its titles. I’m not a C-level executive at Amazon or Microsoft or some other Big Tech corporation. I’ll effectively be running the tech department of a B2B company that…doesn’t really have much but the tech they (we) use and the sales it allows.

But that is a huge shift. It’s a major jump in responsibility. It turns me into not just a developer, but a manager. I had my first strategy meeting today—just an hour-long talk with the CEO-who-hates-that-title about next steps, but still. This is like nothing I’ve ever done. Or even imagined doing, except in my wildest dreams.

For so long, I’ve written about my depression and anxiety, and I lamented the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be anywhere I belong. I felt powerless, silenced by a world that didn’t want to listen to what I had to say. Now, someone does want to hear that. Someone does value my opinion and my perspective. And it’s overwhelming.

I know I’m not executive material. I don’t have an MBA. I never took any classes in business management. I barely understand half the industry-specific terms my boss throws around.

On the other hand, I do know programming. Almost 30 years ago, I wrote my first lines of code. Three decades spent trying to get somebody to see what I had created, to understand why I feel such joy in doing this job well. Now, I’m being thrust into a position where, paradoxically, I may be doing less actual coding.

I should hate that. Management is a running joke in the development community, much like how military non-coms look down on their commanding officers, and the reasons are the same: moving up the chain of command means getting farther away from the action. Oddly, however, I’m okay with it. Oh, I’m well aware that I’m in over my head, but…I am not alone in that. If anything, the only thing I fear now is letting down the team. I don’t want to be the one everything falls on. I don’t want to be the single point of failure. But then I’m grateful that I’m trusted enough to be given that responsibility, and there’s really only one thing I can say.

It’s about time.