What is a geek’s polar opposite? Who makes it impossible to be perfectly geeky? Managers. They’re not all bad. They don’t all make geek lives miserable. But, there are some who seem to thrive on impossible and arbitrary deadlines, insisting that they know how to do something the “right” way even though they’re not the least bit technical, are enamored with constantly changing requirements, and will nitpick until what little hair you have left is laying in a pile on the floor after being yank from your head in frustration.
Managers are a neccessary evil. They provide feedback, and the best of them provide a good shield between bureaucracy and the geek. The worst managers are fickle, uncommunicative and only out to improve their own chances for promotion while never offering praise in public (or private) for the members of their teams. To be a good manager, you’ve got to be able to switch gears between talking to your superiors and talking to the people who work for you. Being a good geek manager takes this to the extreme. You have to know businessSpeak to talk to your boss, but be able to remove all the bullshit when you talk to the geeks. Geeks despise bullshit. If you want to watch a geek explode, start talking about monetization, marketing or paradigms. It just doesn’t work. Geeks like facts and figures, hard requirements and pizza.
Geeks also like food. If you feed a geek, he’ll be your’s for life. Ply your geeks with pizza, donuts and yes, alchohol (not me, though… Dr. Pepper). They’ll work their bony little butts off for you if you feed them.
Geeks like toys. Make sure your geek can order new computers every year or so. Give them the tools they want/need to do their jobs. If they produce quality work, then reward them with new toys (like my shiny new G4). It keeps them happy, and gives them one less thing to whine about as you work them to death.
Geeks do not like Ken dolls. Don’t be a glad-hander. Don’t say something if you know it won’t happen. Geeks have long memories and low self-esteem. They remember being slighted and hold grudges. If you’re not going to throw a happy hour, don’t say you will. If you don’t think you can get Herman Miller chairs for everyone, don’t say you can. Say you don’t think you can, but you’ll try. That’s all geeks want: honesty. For the most part, geeks will be honest with you. It’s part of the Geek Code of Honor… which I think is based on something from Star Trek.