Congratulations you're an Engineering Manager! Now What?
29 July, 2022
Congratulations, you have just been promoted to an engineering management role. Once you are done celebrating the promotion you have worked hard to earn you might start to ask yourself, now what do I do? For me this set in pretty quickly when I took on my first leadership role. You get the sense that people are looking to you now for decisions and direction, but you have no idea where to start. For many this part of management can be overwhelming, isolating, and directionless. Many companies lack management training programs and your boss is probably so busy they do not realize that you need a hand.
So what can you do to help yourself be successful in this new role?
Start with acceptance
To start, accept that you are new again. You are an entry level manager most likely and just like when you were a new engineer you need to learn. You have the benefit of technical experience to help hold you over technically. Now you need to learn how to lead, build teams, manage people, and act as a multiplier for your team. Accepting that you are starting at zero will help you grow to meet the challenges ahead of you.
Assess you abilities
Take a moment to look inward and try to be honest with yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Someone saw something in you and thought you would be a good leader and manager. What are the strengths that they saw in you? What are your weaknesses? Make lists, journal, or use whatever method works for you to help find focus.
Learn, learn, learn!
Once you are able to accept that you are new and have a lot to learn you can start making a plan for how to grow to meet your new challenges. Take your preferred method of learning and look for material that works best for you. We all have different ways of learning and absorbing material. For me it is reading, watching recorded talks on leadership, and online courses. There are so many ways to learn that someone has most likely produced quality content that will help you grow.
Start with an Overview
I always like to recommend that new managers take a look at general material on leadership and management to start. The two books that are currently at the top of my list are Managing Humans and The Manager's Path. I recommend these two books because they have an easy to read format, will be valuable to use as references throughout your time as a manager, and can be read in bursts over your first 6-12 months. Both of these books will help you build a foundational understanding of how to manage with a strong technical leadership focus.
Dig Into deeper topics
Once you have read up on general engineering management look for courses or other learning material that can help you improve on the areas you feel the most challenged. I personally took courses on business communications and how to build high functioning teams. The important thing here is that you keep learning and building your toolset. As an engineer you were expected to learn new tools, languages, and architectures on a regular basis. Now as a manager you will need to apply a similar mindset to learning how to communicate, build a strong team, and build a strategy that will have your team delivering exceptional value.
Don’t forget your peers
The last step I want to highlight here is just as important as the others. Get to know your peers and find those you can rely on and learn from. Being a manager can be incredibly lonely. It will also require you to coordinate projects with others and the more comfortable you are collaborating with your peers the easier your job will be. Try to learn their strengths and then work together to make a stronger team. Working with your peers will give you a team and a place to go when you have questions or just need feedback and tips on how to approach your current management challenge.
At the end of the day your personal success will hinge on your ability to learn quickly, adapt, communicate, and collaborate with other leaders.
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