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Learning how to lead: strategies to grow your technical leadership. Deb Agarwal . A.J. Brush. A.J. Brush. Human-computer interaction with focus on technologies for homes and families built using sensing, inference, and prediction. A.J. Recent Leadership Positions. Project Leadership examples

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a j brush
A.J. Brush

Human-computer interaction with focus on technologies for homes and families built using sensing, inference, and prediction.

a j recent leadership positions
A.J. Recent Leadership Positions
  • Project Leadership examples
    • MSR Menlo project HCI lead
    • MSR HomeOS project HCI lead
  • Technical Conference/Society
    • Pervasive Program Committee Chair 2009, Pervasive Steering Committee ongoing
    • SIGCHI VP of Membership (2006- 2009)
    • Organization of several workshops
  • Diversity Leadership
    • MSR Women’s group
    • CRA-W board
deb agarwal
Deb Agarwal
  • Create software and tools to enable scientists to address complex and large-scale computing and data analysis problems
  • Project PI for ~15 years
  • Example science areas
    • Understanding California watershed dynamics
    • Global FLUXNET Carbon flux network
    • Environmental management data management for an advanced simulation environment
    • Carbon capture capabilities for coal plants
    • Knowledge discovery workflow tools
deb leadership positions
Deb Leadership Positions
  • PhD student
    • Collaborating with fellow students
  • Cost-Free Expert to Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization
  • Staff Scientist
    • Leading a single project
  • Group Lead
    • 5-6 people
    • Small set of projects – collaborative tools
  • Department Head
    • 22 people
    • Wide diversity of projects – cybersecurity research to environmental science
  • Senior Staff Scientist
leadership roles
Leadership Roles
  • Technical Leader
    • Direct technical vision for project
    • Form collaboration/partnership
    • Arbitrate technical differences
    • Lead exploratory projects
    • Evaluate riskiness vs. milestone decisions
    • Small projects with teams of less than 10 people
    • Large multi-organization projects with teams of more than 50 people
  • Manager
    • Focus on project management / people management (from a few people to over a hundred people)
    • Hiring/career building
leader technical leader s job
Leader/Technical Leader's Job
  • Takeresponsibilityfor a project
    • Organize and empowerpeopleto getthe projectdone
    • Keep/getproject on track
    • Keepprojectfunded
  • Championproject and the teamworking on it
  • Represent/defendproject
  • Becomerecognized as an expert inside and outside yourorganization
    • Providewisdom to guideyourorganization'sactions
  • Communication, communication, communication!
    • People skills are very important
understand your organization
Understand Your Organization
  • Know how to get resources you need
  • Understand the political realities of your organization
    • Within your organization - management priorities, organizational priorities, external pressures, …
    • How funding works – when and how to get it and how to keep it
    • Recognition opportunities and appropriate timing of recognition for project and personnel
  • Know the critical organizational project milestones/expectations
understanding your organization s leadership opportunities ladder
Understanding your organization's leadership opportunities/ladder
  • Find out what your organization rewards
    • Ask your manager, peers, senior leaders
    • See what matters on performance reviews
    • Identify role models and talk to them
    • Technical leadersareoftennotobvious
  • Examples
    • Submit proposals/lead projects
    • Help write vision statements
    • Service externally
what leadership is not
What leadership is NOT
  • Doing all the work yourself
    • You don't scale
  • Telling people what to do
    • Working with researchers is like herding cats
  • Making all the decisions yourself
    • You don't have all the information
    • Youdon’tneed to be the smartest person in the room
  • Assigning blame when things go wrong
    • No one will want to work with you
leadership qualities 1
Leadership Qualities-1
  • Energetic and passionate
    • Able to motivate self and others
    • Passionate about what you are doing
    • Passionate about the impact of your work
  • Solid technical background and proven track record
    • Accomplished ideas
    • Good reputation – able to engage people, especially those with funding
    • Project management – able to assess solutions
  • Good business sense
    • Aware of the competitive business environment
    • Able to align research with business goals and strategies
leadership qualities 2
Leadership Qualities-2
  • Strong communication skills
    • Able to sell ideas
    • Able to align/realign team
    • Able to sell results and solutions
  • Strong people skills
    • Can motivate and engage team members
    • Can effectively resolve conflicts
    • Can navigate and manage company politics
  • Strong network (connections)
    • Knows how to get things done inside the company
    • Can find proper support, resources, and contacts
  • Authentic, with High Integrity
    • Earns respect, establishes trust, maintains humility
leadership qualities 3
Leadership Qualities-3
  • Takes ownership and holds self accountable
    • Organizes and empowers team
    • Obtains sufficient resources
    • Establishes reasonable milestones
  • Is a recognized expert inside and outside the organization
    • Is sought out by management
    • Provides a steady hand in tough times
    • Provides wisdom to guide actions of the organization
  • Maintains relationships
    • Manages down as well as up
    • Communicates in a timely and sensitive manner
able to build collaboration within the team
Able to Build Collaboration Within the Team
  • Create a shared vision
  • Create a long-term plan with short-term deliverables to divide research
  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities
  • Discuss preferred work styles
  • Establish effective & regular communication
  • Build a research team with a group identity
  • Establish a process to get work done
  • Clarify upfront how the “rewards” will be shared
  • Understand what others want from the project – win/win
building the team
Building the Team
  • Empowering people to take a role that fits them
    • Team lead on a sub-project
    • Technical expert on a topic
    • Trouble-shooter
    • Let key people know they are important
  • Helping people to recognize when their talents are a better fit elsewhere
    • Identify their talents and passion
    • Work with them to identify a role that fits for them (inside or outside the organization)
how to act like a leader
How to act like a leader
  • Build your brand
    • What do you want to be known for?
  • Deliver on yourpromises
  • Startleading from the bottom up
    • You don't have to be project lead to exert leadership over a team
  • If you have an idea, take ownership and do it (after appropriate checks)
    • E.g. A.J. started the women’s group, intern lunch series, got projects started
steps to get from here to there
Steps to Get from Here to There
  • Find good leaders to work for and with
  • Offer to take ownership on part of a project
  • Learnto leadwithoutpower
    • Most of yourteamswillnotreport to you
    • Removes the messyevaluationpart of the relationship
  • Help others on your teams to succeed – enabling the team rather than just yourself
  • Be visible (not loudest)
  • Be passionate not dogmatic
build a team and collaboration to work with
Build a Team and Collaboration to Work With
  • Pay attention to what the other researchers around you are doing and who is doing good work (internal and external)
  • Help others to solve their problems
  • Find things that you are passionate about
  • Sharethe credit, takethe responsibility
    • Recognizeeveryone'scontributions
  • Be humble!
  • Collect the people who add value to the collaboration/team
leading through crisis
Leading Through Crisis
  • Do your homework
    • Study the problem
    • Understand the options
  • Recruit upper level management to help deal with crisis
    • Bridge funding
    • Opens up lateral opportunities
  • Be honest and up-front with the team
    • Before the rumor mill gets out of control
    • Lay out a plan for the future
    • Recruit their help (get them involved where possible)
  • Once its handled take some time for yourself!
leader examples
Leader Examples
  • A.J.
    • Menlo project leader
    • My boss
  • Deb
    • My boss at GM
    • My first two bosses at LBNL
    • Leading through crisis
    • Current collaborator
leadership disaster stories
Leadership Disaster Stories
  • AJ
    • Dysfunctional work group/destructive criticism
    • Summer Internship example
  • Deb
    • Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty
    • Cybersecurity for Open Science
leadership challenges
Leadership Challenges


  • Taking the time to do it well
  • Empowering people on the team who are remote
  • Asking for help
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Networking
  • Growing my replacement
  • Listening with an open mind
leadership challenges1
Leadership Challenges


  • Balancing moving the group forward and being “bossy”
  • Growing replacements and knowing when to let go
  • Changing styles to match needs of different team members
  • Giving constructive criticism/being the “bad guy”
final thoughts
Final Thoughts
  • Good leadership is a collaboration not a dictatorship
  • Look for the win/win for everyone
  • Make the hard decisions
  • Be honest – admit when you don’t know
  • Always support the team externally
    • Take responsibility for issues
    • Share credit broadly
  • Tessa Lau, 2009 CRA-W leadership panel
  • Patty Lopez, CAHSI 2010 presentation
recommended reading
Recommended reading
  • How To Be a Star at Work: 9 BreakthroughStrategiesYouNeed to Succeed, Robert Kelley, 1998