Growing Into a Leader
21 July, 2021
I have around eleven years of experience as an engineer. Early in my career, I really never saw myself as becoming more than a senior developer. People management was never anything that interested me.
For a long time, I didn’t have any mentors; I was largely on my own, aimlessly following this path. Luckily, this didn’t work out too badly for me. I got a great new job in a new country. Things have changed a lot. I’ve had amazing managers who have helped me find myself as a leader within the organization.
A great leader helps you shape your career and change your point of view. These people have helped show me what my strengths are. I never would have imagined that people management is actually where I shine as a professional. Now, I am able to do this for others.
A strength is only a strength so long as you are actively utilizing it as a tool. Until the people around me helped me uncover this hidden talent with other people, it was lying dormant inside of me. I transitioned into management without any training, which was quite the experience.
When you’re a developer, results are very tangible and can usually be achieved at your own pace and in your own time. If you work day and night, you will, eventually, achieve some positive result that you have full control over. When you’re a manager, however, the results won’t come in exactly the same way. Just because you work hard, doesn’t mean that you will always find your ideal outcome. You can influence results, but you will not always be the determining factor.
It’s tough, but you have to maintain the right attitude, even when things go wrong. I find that it’s always helpful to take a step back and to think about things from a different angle. This new company was a very high-velocity, results-oriented team. I learned to have retrospectives on myself. We do this with our teammates and various projects, but we forget to assess ourselves critically in this way.
What skills are you actively trying to build? Are you really growing? I realized a lot of these things only after I started to mentor others myself. Mentoring is a great tool for both the mentor and the mentee. It gives you an opportunity to discuss some of these challenges and improve your skills when it comes to dealing with them. It takes a lot of patience, but the effort will be worth your while.
I love this job because I love the kind of impact that I stand to make. Of course, developers are perfectly capable of making a huge impact within their organizations from a technical standpoint. This is a different style of impact, however. As a people manager, you influence the people around you in a really big way. It is a team effort. You cannot do it alone.
I’m a leader, but I still have mentors who advise me, even after all of this time. There is always an opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid to try management out for yourself. It’s difficult to see how much potential you have as a leader until the day that you finally get to lead a team yourself.
- Management comes with a learning curve all its own. It will be difficult at first and take some time to get used to. It may feel insurmountable at the beginning, but many people before you have taken the challenge head-on successfully. Transparency and humility are both musts.
- Your point of view is different as a manager. Managers must be able to think beyond their deliverables and immediate problems. The long-term well-being of the company, the strategy, and the people that you oversee begin to matter much more.
- When I first became a manager, I was shocked at how lacking my people skills were. I have had to devote a lot of time and energy into acquiring these soft skills for myself; my one-on-ones, for example, were the first part of my leadership approach that I overhauled. I did a lot of reading, which helped a lot. Give yourself milestones of competency to reach, six months or a year down the line.
- Even when I feel myself improving, I try not to let my opinion get ahead of myself. Even during my proudest moments, there is always room to grow. It is a continuous process of learning. You see the impact that you have on others, and you get to watch them improve, as well. The journey never ends.
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