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Being In Two Minds On Becoming a Manager

Jennie Lees

Director of Engineering at InEvent

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Problem

In the beginning of my career path I had been a senior engineer and a team lead but never a manager. I was looking at my day and finally asked myself, what do I enjoy doing? Writing code was fun and doing architecture was interesting but there was a whole other realm that took precedence for me. I was beginning to get involved in hiring, growing people, and creating opportunities for people to get promoted, and I really enjoyed that. So I thought, maybe I should become a manager. But it wasn't the path I was completely convinced to pursue and so I sat on the fence about it for a long time.

Actions taken

Early in my career I was flagged by leaders as someone who may be a good manager down the line. Yet, I wasn't convinced that it was the direction that I wanted to take. The main factor that was holding me back was that I didn't have any ideal role models for people management. The group of managers that I was exposed to were very limited in what they did. They did the hiring, they had 20 direct reports each, every couple of weeks they would meet with their reports for a one-on-one, and then meet again once a year for a performance review. That was it. In my eyes, this system of management was broken and it wasn't a system that I wanted to enter into.

It wasn't until I had the opportunity to embed myself in another part of the company that I saw a different version of what a management position could look like. I was exposed to managers who were hands-on, who understood everything that was going on, and who were adding value to the team every single day. They unblocked situations, got people moving in the right direction, in addition to hiring, growing, and rewarding people with deserved promotions. With this new perspective management appeared to be a flexible job and a rewarding experience. I could finally see myself following this type of management system and threw my hat into the ring.

I was given the chance to step up into a management role when another manager within the company left. It would have taken a long time to fill this vacancy so rather than hire someone externally I messaged leadership about my interest in the position. I knew the team very well, I had already helped someone get promoted, I was involved with the hiring, and I had actively participated in the team's reorganization so it just made sense to transition into the role of manager because it was what I was practically doing already. I would just now be taking accountability for it all.

The first thing I did after transitioning from team lead to the management was to find someone in my team to take over the team lead role I held before. This would allow me the time and energy to focus on growing the craft of managing, relieving me of some items on my overloaded plate, while also growing a direct report into a leadership role. Additionally, I attended company sponsored classes on coaching, management, and legalities. Furtherstill, due to the fact that our company didn't have any written job description or expectations about the management role, I took the initiative to interview managers. I questioned them about what they did, what made them successful at the company, and any other advice they'd like to give to me. It was a highly effective tool and it gave me the insight needed to fully understand the job.

Lessons learned

  • If you don't know what you want your career path to look like than how are you to expect that your manager will? He/She will pick up on your hesitation and will share with you of being in two minds. So try to be as clear as possible about what you desire, for yourself and for leadership.
  • Once you have made a decision about which direction you would like to take your career, document it and create a plan. Specifically, write down the steps you need to take to reach that next level. Then consider presenting it to your manager that way you both are on the same page about the path your looking to take and so that they can assist you with that endeavor.
  • Look for mentors. Find people who are a couple of steps (if not more) ahead of you that can answer questions and provide useful information. I also found value in peer groups, those who were transitioning into management around the same time that I was. Our weekly meetings were an educational experience that allowed me to soak up a wealth of knowledge. It really accelerated my learning.

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Jennie Lees

Director of Engineering at InEvent


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