Deciding if Management Is Right for You
Engineering Leader at Justworks
The Leap Into Management
It took me around one year to decide whether I wanted to move up to a management role. While my peers were happily accepting their promotions, I decided to take some time to reflect on my options. I did a lot of thinking: What are my intentions behind taking such a role? What would my duties be? How would this role serve my personal growth?
Additionally, I wasn’t fortunate enough to always have supportive managers, which affected me throughout my career. This made me realize that the way you lead other people has a significant impact on people’s lives. So it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.
Creating quality code is important, but as an IC you’re only responsible for yourself. Being a manager means doing one-on-ones, interacting with people daily, being their champion, and leaving a mark on their career. It’s a very different type of challenge.
I wanted to make sure that I could be the manager that I wish I had in the past.
Starting Small and Working Your Way Up
Being a Mentor
Instead of jumping right into a leadership position, I wanted to start small and test my skills in guiding other people. Mentorship was a good first step. I mentored a few engineers in their early career stages while I was a technical lead.
Those engineers looked up to me. Realizing this was a boost of confidence. Especially as a woman tech—dealing with unconscious bias and inequality yet still thriving—I finally realized that I had something to offer to others in terms of teaching.
Leading an Initiative
I noticed that there were a lot of inconsistencies across our teams regarding their tools, taxonomy, and overall architecture. I took it upon myself to unify the architecture, however, it wasn’t something that I could do on my own.
I asked people in the organization whether they experienced the same pain points that I suspected. It turned out that they did. So I had an idea of which tool we needed to implement and shared my vision with my mentees.
I got buy-in from a large number of people and was given the autonomy to create a team. I took action and started spearheading a proof of concept project. We later shared this at a meeting where the VP of Engineering was present, and they requested that we share knowledge with the rest of the organization.
I had actually attempted this initiative as a way to test myself: would I be able to influence people? Was I capable of storytelling my vision? In the end, it was a great outcome—for me and the company. I wouldn’t have been able to make this impact by working individually. And I got the confidence to decide that I could be a good manager.
Leadership in Engineering
- You are where you are because people have helped you along the way. Bring that tone of gratitude to work, and do your best to pay it forward. Give back to the community by tapping into your human side and being good to others.
- Being a great engineer doesn’t translate into being a great manager. The skillsets are entirely different. Technical proficiency is a tiny part of being an engineering leader. You need to be humble enough to hire smarter engineers, create an environment where everyone can thrive, and make your team feel like they can rely on you to captain the ship.
- If being a manager isn’t for you, you can still make an impact as an IC or a staff engineer. It’s going to be a different kind of impact but no less valuable.
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Engineering Leader at Justworks
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