Interview with Dan Rohtbart, Software Engineering Manager at IBM

Published on Jan 19, 2018

2 min read

image for Interview with Dan Rohtbart, Software Engineering Manager at IBM

Location: New York City and Armonk, NY
Current Role: Software Engineering Manager at IBM

What’s your background and how did you get into management?

I’ve always loved helping people learn and loved how quickly software development turns ideas into reality. Before moving into management, I had three careers: product development, management consulting, and marketing analytics. My first management opportunity happened shortly after the Hour Of Code inspired me to teach IBM marketers an introduction to programming. An executive saw the spark in me and took a chance.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

My greatest challenge is patience. I work in a huge, shifting, ambiguous environment. When I see a sensible opportunity to deliver value, I need to be patient and build more significant stakeholder support before driving forward.

What is your approach to hiring?

For every position, my goal is to have a diverse pool of candidates come across my desk in the first round. I do those first round/phone screens myself: behavioral questions about similar projects. About 50+ resumes lead to 10-20 screens to generate 2-3 candidates for second-round interviews. I enlist a panel of technical experts and future colleagues for second-round interviews. Their input is very important, but ultimately I’m integrating it with my own judgment to make the final decision.

What’s your advice for managers who are just starting out?

Your ability to have an impact is a function of peoples’ trust in you. Weigh your decisions and statements on whether they will build or erode trust from your team, manager, peers, and stakeholders. Err on the side of over-communicating – people will tell you when they trust you enough to tone it down.

Whats your work day like and how do you manage your time, emails, etc.?

Mornings are all about the team members in India. Scrums, sprint planning, one-on-ones, weekly team communications checkpoint. Generally tactical, current and next sprint. Afternoons are with stakeholders and peers, planning longer-term growth and change for the team. Email, Slack, and chat flowing constantly through the day.

What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?

Constantly taking notes in meetings. Always typed – always searchable. Every action item has an asterisk – while closing out my day I complete or delegate every one of those action items before closing the document with the meeting notes.

Share an internet resource or tool that you can’t live without.

Rands Leadership Slack

If you could recommend one book to managers, what would it be and why?

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: A Round Table Comic: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (the cartoon version). An engaging reminder that every new job is different – always reflect and grow.

Where can we go to learn more about you? (LinkedIn, Twitter, Github, etc.)

My LinkedIn page is https://www.linkedin.com/in/danrohtbart/

This series asks engineering managers to share their experiences with the intent of helping other engineering managers learn and improve. Have someone you want to see featured or questions you think we should ask? Contact me.

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