Transitioning from IC to Management

Sridhar Ramakrishnan

Senior Director of Engineering, Developer Experience and Productivity at Slack



"My journey from IC to Management. To be very honest, when I was in IC role I was micromanaged, felt like there is major gap between my understanding and my managers. Some of my managers did not able to help with my concerns."

Actions taken

"Instead of blaming managers, I want to experience the difficulty and see if there is anything I can do to improve. To put in engineers perspective I saw it as a problem which needs a solution. I didn't realize at that point it is multidimensional. I spent around 6 months reading about leadership, empathy, emotional intelligence, psychology in other fields to apply them in engineering. I was doing my reading on top of the IC role I was in. I started having conversation with my manager, other managers & leaders in the org asking about experience and challenges."

"One common theme that popped up during my learnings is that it is a different role. Great engineer cannot by default a great leader. It requires different skill set like listening deeply, understanding human psychology, coaching instead of giving solutions. I expressed my interest to my manager at that time that one day I want to be a manager to feel your pain. Few months later there was a open opportunity for manager in the org and I applied for that role. The organization is very open to both internal and external candidates and advise me to go through the entire interview process which is like 5 rounds of interview with people in director role to CTO. Somehow I convinced that I will be good manager compared to others who interviewed."

"The first 6 months was very hard, adjusting to new role and managing people who were my peers. Since I was part of the hiring committee and helped to hire most of the team other engineers transitioned faster to the change than myself. I went through multiple management training happened internal and external. I basically questioned everything from IC perspective and not top down this helped me to be more empathetic with the engineers who were reporting to me. I started enjoying the role as I started getting feedback from my direct reports that they are happy with my job. I felt my job was very fulfilling knowing the fact I could make major impacts to people and organization. I am very grateful for all my direct reports for being transparent and giving feedback all this time."

Lessons learned

"Management and IC are two different roles. As a manager, you prioritize people over everything else. People are long term & projects are short term. You take care of people and the project will get delivered on time. This means spending time with them to understand project problem, asking questions then giving solutions even if you know the solution because they are the expert here & manager role is to coach."

"There is no one way to manage or lead engineers & teams. It depends on the situation. I need to use different levers. It doesn't always works out so it is continuously learning process."

"Diverse teams are hard to manage but it is the secret for success. Every decision needs diverse input which means building a diverse team is the first step."

"Being authentic & transparent helps to easily connect with people and help in long run. This means you need to be vulnerable sometime to gain the trust with the team."

"Based on the size of the team you need to be prepared to let go writing code and move towards design & architecture decisions."

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Sridhar Ramakrishnan

Senior Director of Engineering, Developer Experience and Productivity at Slack

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor Roles

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