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Navigating the transition from individual contributor to manager

Yi Huang

Director of Engineering at Facebook

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Problem

Transitioning from working as an individual contributor to working as a manager was not easy for me. As a manager, I stopped doing the things that made me feel good. That's right, I stopped writing code. Well, not entirely. I was still writing some code, but less and less. The instant gratification that had made me feel good as an individual contributor started to fade away. I dropped down into an emotional valley and was running out of energy. I started to question "Why am I doing all of this? Is this the right choice for me?"

Actions taken

Initially, I was afraid to ask for help. I rationalized that if I talked about it, it would mean that I was not ready for the transition. My ego made me think that everything would be fine eventually. Not surprisingly, it wasn't very long until I realized that I needed to do something. I turned to my manager, my manager's manager, and other managers, who I thought would be helpful. The result was great. It turned out that I was not alone at all! Everyone had experienced exactly the same problem. I learned many useful perspectives from them. One perspective that was particularly useful to me was looking at myself as an "agent of change". This made me pay attention to the things that I could change on a certain day. For example, before going to a one-on-one, I thought about what changes I could make for that person. Before going to a meeting, I thought about what value I could add. Sometimes, I cut the meeting short - that was one change I could make. By looking at myself as an "agent of change", I found a source of energy that made me feel good again.

Lessons learned

When you have a problem, ask for help. Chances are that you are not alone. Your manager and your colleagues will have the wisdom to help you out. If you ever feel a lack of motivation in your management role, then start your day by thinking about what positive changes you can make during the day. Who knows? Someday, one of your changes could be giving someone your perspective about becoming a manager.


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Yi Huang

Director of Engineering at Facebook


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