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Landing a Management Position without Recent Experience

Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Hiring
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
New Manager

4 April, 2022

Kate Semizhon
Kate Semizhon

Engineering Manager at Cash App

Kate Semizhon, Engineering Manager at Square, shares her experience finding a role as an engineering manager without any recent experience.

The Importance of a Strategy when Transitioning Roles

In my career, I worked first as an engineer, then manager, and then transitioned back to being an individual contributor. After working as a solutions architect for four years, I realized that I wanted to get back into management, which proved to be a difficult task. Even though I previously held the engineering manager role, I was out of the position for four years, and there were no opportunities for promotion at the company I worked at.

I started job searching, looking for a company hiring engineering managers, but I never received any callbacks. With no recent experience, I needed a strategy to refresh my skills and prepare myself to nail the interviews.

Using Education to Land a Leadership Position

Leveraging Education:

To prepare myself, I began taking a bunch of classes on Coursera. I focused on courses because I felt they would bulk up my resume and teach me the needed information. I took a series of classes from University of Michigan that I would recommend to any engineering leader. The classes prepared me for many management situations that I’ve now experienced.

In addition to my classes, I read a few books that prepared me for technical interviews and would refresh my leadership knowledge. I recommend “Work Rules” by Laszlo Bock, the former CPO of Google. It’s a great read for managers because it shares many situations that leaders are placed in and explains the technical interview process.

I used the education to map out which companies I could apply for and land a role. My focus was on startups rather than big tech companies. I’ve mostly worked in big enterprise companies before but was fascinated with the world of startups.

Resume Building:

I was based in San Francisco at the time, meaning there was no lack of startups. To tailor my resume for my ideal role, I tried to highlight my previous experience as an engineering manager. Even though I did not have direct reports in my last position as a solutions architect, I performed many tasks that managers do, such as strategic planning, roadmap planning, and paired with product managers.

I tried to call attention to my management experience in my resume, even if that experience was outside a management position. Adding any additional practical knowledge of leadership improved my resume and skillset from an employer’s point of view.

My strategy eventually worked, and I landed a job at a startup, where I worked for two years before transitioning to a larger enterprise.

Continuing Education After Employment

  • It is ideal to have a strategy to land a job in a demanding field, such as engineering. I felt that my preparation through courses, books, and hands-on experience set me up for success after landing a job.
  • I recommend continuing your education even after landing your ideal role. Books and online courses have taught me how to handle many management situations and have added confidence to my leadership.

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