Cover image for Becoming The Duck

Becoming The Duck

tkeeney profile image Terry Keeney ・2 min read

Last week I read a fantastic article that perfectly captured the inner turmoil and deepest fear developers ultimately face as they make that dreaded ascent from being a contributing member of a dev team to managing and overseeing said team. That sentiment - combined with an altitude of 35,000 feet and an hour and a half to kill - has inspired me to finally pen my own ornithologically themed thoughts on tech leadership.

The concept of rubber duck debugging boils down to audibly describing your problem to an inanimate object (like a rubber duck) in an effort to spark an idea or solution. Making the transition from developer means it's your turn to become that inanimate object. It's time to become the duck.

Over the last few years I've noticed that when a member of the team has a problem (sometimes) the best thing you can say is nothing at all. Your time for talking is done. More often than not they just need a sounding board to bounce their problems off. It almost certainly won't be easy at first - after all who doesn't love flexing their genius and solving the hard problems - but there comes a time when you step aside and go from problem solver to solution enabler.

A day will come when you too make the journey. It won't necessarily be easy but it'll soon be obvious that your input in these matters is almost never actually needed. The challenge comes in recognizing when someone needs a duck and making yourself available in this capacity. Once you've mastered this you'll find more and more of your conversations end with an abrupt "Never mind! Figured it out!"

Avoid the Seagull, Embrace the Duck.

That is all.


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Jason C. McDonald

Excellent article! While I aim to be a sounding board for my dev team, I don't think I do this quite enough.