Defeating the Challenges of Staying Technical While Being a Manager
20 December, 2018
At my previous company, I had the benefit of already knowing the code base as a manager. This familiarity can lend itself well to a first-time manager, as it eliminates the extra time it takes to get up to speed on tech, amongst other hurdles involved in learning new management skills. Understanding the tech of a new team you will be managing is ideal, but not always the case. So, how do you overcome the challenges of staying technical while being a manager?
- Learn on your own
- Read the documentation/code reviews if any, and be cautious to not ask questions already covered in the existing documentation.
- Take a class or read a book/article related to the technology that your team is working with.
- Ask questions and be vulnerable
- Have those conversations with your technical engineers. There is an unspoken six-month period at the beginning where you can ramp up on the new tech and pose questions to the things you do not understand. After that period, engineers tend to judge managers for not knowing the basic architecture.
- Show your understanding
- You should be able to, as a manager, draw up the technical architecture for a project on a whiteboard and be able to explain it in pretty good detail. You do not need to know every piece of the code, but you should be able to understand where the future growth paths are.
- Learn as much as you can about tech in your first six months.
- Reading documentation doesn't always cut it. Face to face conversations are key to understanding the basis of the architecture.
- Showing a bit of vulnerability as a manager makes you more relatable than just pretending to be a perfect know it all.
- Asking questions means you are interested and care about what you are working on, versus not asking any questions and adding pressure to your credibility.
- Treat everyone as an equal learning opportunity. Do not just ask your leads for insight. Extend the discussions to juniors as well, because you will be fascinated by what you could learn from them.
- Understanding the technical architecture for a project allows you to have an intelligent conversation with engineers and help them solve problems.
Mason Mclead, CTO at Software.com, delves into how to take care of tech debt while pushing out new features and products.
CTO at Software.com
David La France, VP of Engineering at Kenna Security, explains how managers can level up their skills and scale in their roles by learning to work less, but smarter.
David La France
VP Engineering at Synack
Ashish Agrawal, Senior Director of Engineering at Medallia, highlights key differences between managing managers and managing ICs emphasizing the importance of a mindset shift.
Sr. Director of Engineering at Medallia
Catherine Miller, VP of Engineering at Flatiron, recalls how she fixed the problem of shared ownership and recurring common problems by creating a new team that took over the ownership of the common systems.
VP of Engineering at Flatiron Health
Pujaa Rajan, Deep Learning Engineer at Node.io, explains how she got over her discomfort of networking and offers a three-step roadmap that any introverted engineer can follow with ease.
Deep learning Engineer at Node.io
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.