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Changing of a Guard

Managing Up
Managing Expectations
Leadership
Legitimacy
Reorganization

24 September, 2020

Adam Bauman
Adam Bauman

Engineering Manager at Quizlet

Adam Bauman, Engineering Manager at Quizlet, shares how he had to find his way through when the company he was working at transitioned from one stage to another leaving many people redundant.

Problem

The company I was with for a long time underwent a significant transformation. As it transitioned from one stage to another, the needs of the company had changed too. The new leadership started to bring in new people who were filling in the ranks.

I felt that I was able to contribute notably, both during and after the transition, but the new management thought that the old management was not up to the task. They were somewhat open about the idea of me staying and I was more than eager to remain with the company.

Actions taken

For starters, I had to understand where I was and how the transition was affecting me. While I was certain about how I felt and what I wanted to do, I barely knew anything of what the new leadership was planning to do. I was hurt because everyone above me had already left and I was not given an opportunity to move up. Instead, the new leadership brought in people from outside.

First I spoke with old management that left, people who I knew well, and asked them for advice. I also discussed the situation with other people from my field who weren’t as close to it because people who were pushed out might be biased and their understanding of things might be blurred.

Soon after I was approached by new management that told me that they were assessing who was more appropriate for a new leadership role. They were deciding between two of us who moved from an old to new management. I was resolute to showcase them who should be the one to step up -- and I told them so.

At the time we also had a new president who decided to entirely change the engineering leadership. To inquire about my situation and to express my interest I used a football analogy -- There are players and there is the team. There is an old coaching staff and a new coaching staff. The new coaching staff will inherit the players -- remove some and get new ones. Then, I asked him if he considered me “their guy” or “your guy” and he assured me that I was “his guy” if I wanted to be.

All the changes the company underwent made me view the situation as it was a new job and I tried to reinvent myself along the way. The company was evolving, my role was changing and I had to put behind the things that I knew about and be open to the new way of doing things.

Lessons learned

  • If you want something you should let people know that you want it. I was initially quite hesitant to disclose what I wanted and was waiting for a promotion to happen by itself. When it didn’t happen I realized that it was not the right way to approach it. The right way to be proactive and show your interest.
  • Most engineering people are very transient and the average work span of an employee in technology is two to three years. I was with that company for more than eight years and I treated the transition that happened as a new job and opportunity to grow in my new role.

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