There comes a point in everyone's career when you realize it's time to begin a more challenging endeavor. For example, you may be ready to move from your current position as an IC to engineering management. However, making the change in your career path can be overwhelming, not to mention the dose of imposter syndrome that comes along with it.
So, how exactly do you prepare for a role that requires you to take on more responsibility and manage multiple teams of people? In what ways can you feel confident in starting your new leadership job? We will look at five steps you can take to make a smooth transition from an individual contributor to an engineering manager.
What's the Difference Between the Two?
It can be intimidating for those with a long-standing career as an IC to transition into management roles. As an IC, you spend your time working independently on other aspects of various projects. When it comes to daily work, you manage your schedule and deadlines separately from other development teams.
Naturally, you have grown accustomed to a particular way and process of working. However, as you transition from individual contributor to manager, you will learn that this role will require you to gain a new set of skills and ways of working and thinking.
The main difference is you will become a manager of people instead of working independently. You are now a part of the team, responsible for managing it and guiding the team throughout the software development process.
As a team leader, you will be offering support and encouragement, and you will be the point of contact for decision-making and problem-solving. To become a good manager, you will need to adapt to the demands of the position and learn how to navigate communicating ideas and people.
1. Become a Student of Your Craft
Okay, you are a first-time manager; where do you even begin? By studying, of course! When you start a new leadership job or career path, you should take time to get to know the ins and outs of the position and what's expected of you.
Gather a deep understanding of what it is to be a manager. The processes, systems, and skills for engineer managers are different from that of an individual contributor. As a result, your perspective will need to shift from technical to one that takes a human approach to problem-solving.
Assess what skills you already have and jump into different aspects of your abilities. Are you a good listener? Great, now how can you be a better listener as a manager? Are you a problem solver? Even better! Ask yourself how you can be more team-focused in your problem-solving.
Asking yourself these questions and learning how to apply them to your leadership transition will go a long way in your overall development and growth as an engineer manager.
2. Gain Additional Education
No matter what job you have, it would help if you strived to learn continually. Growth can only come if you expand. And where you may have gaps of understanding, or you only understand something at the surface level, you can fill by taking more coursework or continuing education.
It would be very helpful to take online courses or attend seminars. There are plenty of learning opportunities for free or at low costs that offer the chance to earn certifications. However, when you're looking to level up to management, you may find that the additional knowledge you're seeking requires you to purchase courses, books, or sit for exams.
When it comes to advancing your career, you have to make investments in your growth. They say you have to spend money to make money. That rings true in every aspect of career growth, like acquiring tools needed for better productivity or courses on becoming an effective manager. There's no better value than investing in yourself.
3. Find Your Voice of Authority
As an IC, you may find finding your voice in your new role difficult. Maybe you have never led a team before, or maybe you feel you don't have the confidence. Either way, you should practice how to be authoritative in a way that is constructive for everyone involved.
This will be the area where you will learn what your managing style is. It will take time to develop as you learn a new way of working and interacting with people daily.
Your voice of authority will also be shaped by your team and the kind of relationship you want to establish with them. Remember, your team is made of individuals, and you will have to learn how to foster authority that is effective as a whole and on a one-on-one basis.
4. Get Comfortable Learning from Others
Have you heard the phrase we are all in this together? Well, that's the mindset you should take on if you want to be a good manager. While you are a leader, a leader knows when to acknowledge when they lack understanding or need additional help to complete a task.
Your team is whom you'll learn the most from if you allow yourself to be open; in turn, they learn from you. Being new to the position, you will surely run into things or processes you don't know, and that is okay.
What makes a good manager is someone who understands this, is transparent about it, and asks questions to gain a better understanding.
5. Ask for Feedback for Improvements
A successful manager is receptive to feedback from those they manage. However, it can be hard to gauge if your performance is satisfactory among your peers, so why not ask them yourself?
Ask them how they feel about your managing style and process. You can do this by having your team participate in evaluations once a month or every quarter. Include hard-hitting questions and encourage your team to be transparent in their response. In this way, you can further promote transparency, trust, and openness with your team.
Time to Get Started!
Moving up the career ladder pushes you to learn and grow where you may not have experience. However, with an open mind and some preparation, you can excel at any position you take on. Nexton is all about the true potential inside you, what you are made of, and people who challenge themselves is exactly the type of talent we seek.
Management is no easy task, and coming into management from working as an individual contributor will require you to step outside of your comfort zone and learn a new set of skills. However, if you are willing to put in the effort, you may find your transition to management less daunting and even enjoyable! Reach out to us if you want to discuss your career path and dreams. At Nexton, our door is always open.