It’s been a year since I’ve moved from being an individual contributor to managing a team of approximatively 14 developers. So far, this has been a very interesting and rewarding experience but, of course, it has also been a very challenging mission… there is so much to learn in order to be effective at this job! When making such a switch, it’s hard to even know where to start and what to be doing. It’s also very easy to fall back to what you know best: your previous role.
In my case what helped tremendously was to embrace the fact that moving from senior engineer to manager wasn’t a step forward, but more like a side step on a different track. Something that could be summed up by this overly simplistic schema:
This might sound obvious to you, and some larger companies will even highlight this fact in their career progress paths. However, since I’ve mostly worked for small and early stage startups, everyone was focusing on actually building the company from scratch and not really building long term career paths! Because of this it was very tempting to think that being a software engineer with years of experience would make me a good manager.
Of course some knowledge is carried over, of course, but in a lot of aspects it was quickly clear that I was just a complete beginner. Thinking like a junior manager makes it easier to be okay with looking up very simple resources, start learning from the beginning. Running effective staff meetings, conducting 1 on 1s, managing your own time… there are countless great advices on these topics, and accepting that you have to learn these first is important. I can’t overstate how having solid basis helps with confidence and reliability.
It takes time and energy, but your previous background helps learning faster and improve quickly. It’s an investment worth making.
Since you scrolled this far, you might be interested in some other things I wrote:
- One on One Meeting Format Ideas
- Force Multipliers
- The Certainty of Failure
- Writing my Manager README
- Engineering Team Meeting: Format & Topic Ideas
- One on One Meeting Opening Lines
- The Developer / Manager Feedback Loop Difference
- Note Taking During One on Ones
- Don't Simply Be The Manager You'd Love To Have
- Startup & Tech Book Reviews