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Surviving the Transition From IC to Management

Edmilson Peixoto

Senior Manager Engineering at Cisco Systems

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Problem

"Getting promoted from individual contributor (IC) to management is a great accomplishment. It is thrilling to be recognized for the work you have done and to be able to grow in your career. It is also a time of transition and like most transitions, there are important adaptations that need to happen. For example, I was promoted from a lead test engineer to management. As an IC I was really hands-on and enjoyed helping my peers so that we could quickly get things done. However, as soon as I moved into this new position I quickly realized that I was unable to use the same methods as when I was an IC. Thus, the biggest dilemma for me during this transition was how to get things done properly and how to cope with being slightly lost in this new management role."

Actions taken

  • "I realized that I couldn't be both a technical IC and an effective new manager. If I attempted to do both at the same time chances were I would merely be mediocre, at best, in either role. I knew that it would be too difficult to balance both and would cause unnecessary stress for myself and for my team. Consequently, I acknowledged the switch not only in the name of my title but also the immediate shift of my responsibilities."
  • "I learned to delegate. This is a part of the job that took some time for me to acquire. Moving from the position of a high performing IC to a new manager role meant that I was still in the mode of trying to do everything myself. I knew what had to be done and, therefore, wanted to jump in and take care of it. What I learned, instead, was to trust the team and what they do. To allow them to work through problems and build the project organically. As a manager, it is a matter of focusing on people instead of focusing on the project."
  • "Take inspiration from those who have done it before you. Look for a mentor, learn from previous leaders, or get advice from your current manager. What did they do and what were their experiences like? Educate yourself on the position by resourcing people, tools, and literature on the topic."

Lessons learned

  • "Learn or improve upon your soft skills right away. One particular skill I recommend is listening. As a leader, you should be listening more than you should be talking. This enables you to understand the issues and needs of your team, and what drives and motivates the individuals."
  • "Focus on people instead of projects. Be a servant leader who enables people through coaching and guidance instead of trying to do their jobs for them. People make the project succeed. It is your job to build a strong and motivated team so that the projects can seamlessly move forward."
  • "You can still be a great manager and not lose your technical knowledge. It shouldn't be a total shift from technical skills to people skills. Continue to learn technical material and surround yourself with technical people. Your team is a great resource for this because they should be technically stronger than you. Trust them to be your technical advisors and learn from them so that you can maintain your technical edge."

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Edmilson Peixoto

Senior Manager Engineering at Cisco Systems


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