Understanding the Jump Between IC and Management

Shilpa Toraskar

Sr. Director of Engineering at IPSY


IC to Manager?

A lot of times, I get asked by many engineers “How do you know when to take a leap of faith to become a manager?”

First of all, everyone needs to understand that an IC engineer and people manager are completely two very different roles. Each role needs a different level of skills and expertise. I worked with a company for 15 years, growing my technical leadership skills and learning the ins and outs of the domain. During that time, I moved from a software engineer to become a technical lead. I also acquired a lot of soft skills that are a must to become a people manager.

A few things that helped me and made my decision easier:

  • Mentorship and coaching - This is one of the most important skills you should have if you want to become a manager. During my tech lead position, I spent time mentoring junior engineers, which taught me many leadership, coaching skills necessary. You also get a sense of whether mentoring and coaching is something you would enjoy for yourself. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction and purpose.
  • Learn to prioritize - You should learn to understand what your goals are, what’s the most important task you should do at any given moment. I kept a running list of things to do and tackle one at a time starting with the most urgent, critical tasks.
  • Delegation - You need to be able to delegate effectively, As you may take a large role, you will get pulled in multiple directions. As a tech lead, I learnt to delegate small tasks to other engineers and how to get the work done.
  • Technical leadership - You need to somewhat understand the technical depth of engineering systems. Not necessarily, you are architecting the system, but you should understand and have a say in the decision making process of your system. Being in an IC role contributing to technical work, helped me become a lead in my domain.
  • Make a large impact - You need to have a sense of ownership on the project delivery, You need to be able to influence it to wider spread. You need to learn to have some say in strategic direction.
  • Clear communication - You need to be able to communicate clearly to others about the project vision. As a tech lead, I was able to transcript to others what we are doing and why we are doing.
  • Build Trust - You should be able to build trust with your peers. You need to work with them collaboratively and cohesively.
  • Inspire others - You should be able to motivate others, make them understand your company vision, your organization's vision.
  • Growth Mindset - You are curious, generally inquisitive. I would say always be willing to learn. If you don’t know something, ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

If you think you possess these qualities to some extent, I would say you are ready to take that leap of faith. Give it a try. If you don’t enjoy it, you can always go back to becoming an IC. I personally know a lot of folks who made a jump from IC to manager and then back from manager to IC. Not everyone is cut out for a people manager.

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Shilpa Toraskar

Sr. Director of Engineering at IPSY

Leadership & StrategyEngineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementTeam & Project Management

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