Back to resources

Navigating Your Role Change: From IC to Engineering Manager

Managing Expectations
Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Career Path
New Manager

13 April, 2022

Anuj Vatsa
Anuj Vatsa

Engineering Manager at Carta

Anuj Vatsa, Engineering Manager at Carta, describes his journey of becoming an Engineering Manager and shares some tips for easing into this new role.

The Path from Individual Contributor to Manager

I joined Carta as an engineer. Within approximately a year, my manager changed roles to lead a big initiative. I applied for the position of Engineering Manager (EM) and was happy to be offered this leadership role.

It was an exciting period for the company. There was a lot of change going on:

  1. We were undergoing a continuous reorganization.
  2. The company's mission and vision changed; this also affected our team charter.
  3. We were establishing new hiring processes, during which I had to scale our team and hire new talent.

I felt like an amateur captain navigating a ship in the midst of a thunderstorm.

Navigating Your First Few Months in a Leadership Position

As an IC, your primary sources of knowledge are books, blogs, and code written by more senior engineers. This changes when you become a manager. External resources are still valuable, but the biggest lessons come from personal experience and mentorship from experienced leaders.

Here are a few pieces of advice that I find helpful for first-time managers:

  • Have a thorough understanding of your new job expectations within the context of your organization. (For example, some companies expect EMs to spend a portion of their time coding. Others don't.)
  • Acquire a couple of mentors or sponsors that you can rely on. This will help you visualize problems through the lens of more experienced leaders.
  • Come to terms that your output is no longer measured by your individual accomplishments. It's all about your team's output. I eased into this transition by gradually relinquishing my IC duties while ramping up my managerial responsibilities over a few months.
  • Steer your team in the right direction by asking strategic questions(ex: How would the design handle X, Y, Z scenarios). Personally, I'm like a fly on the wall during our architectural design meetings.
  • Learn to run effective meetings, 1-1s, and career conversations. There’s no cookie-cutter answer here but talk to the senior leaders at the company who do this well so you don’t have to start from a clean slate.
  • Start delegating sooner rather than later. Specify the tasks you're delegating completely, the ones you'll be supervising, and the ones you'll contribute to.
  • Give actionable feedback. There’s a mental model called the “Ladder of Inference” that describes how and why we make assumptions. I recommend listening to Adam Grant's WorkLife podcast to understand the thinking process behind it. This will help you lead productive conversations and give constructive feedback without conflict.
  • Trust, but verify. As a manager, trusting your team is important. Nonetheless, make sure to have inspection tools that help you verify something when needed. (A common scenario I run into is disagreements between engineers on their approach to implementing code.)

Insights for First-Time Managers

  • There’s no "right style" of management. Adapt your leadership approach based on the situation at hand.
  • In a rapidly scaling company, priorities and goals may change. Align your team around a shared strategy; establish milestones and a tactical execution plan. Be transparent with your leaders by facilitating effective communication. One example is setting up bi-weekly or monthly syncs with your leaders with sections on Inform, Discuss and Risks/Dependencies.
  • Poor performance from reports results from a mismatch between your expectations and the other party’s skillset. When this happens, have an open conversation about what you expect. If it doesn’t seem feasible, a transferral to another team can be an option worth exploring.
  • As an EM you’re in charge of a lot of decisions, especially if you work at a startup. Sometimes, you only have a minimal amount of information to go on. Your decisions may or may not be reversible— usually they fall somewhere in between. Be deliberate and conservative when evaluating the impact of these. Remember that there’s a cost associated with changing your mind, so weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader

Related stories

Streamlining Product Processes After a Reorganization

16 May

Snehal Shaha, Lead Technical Program Manager at Momentive (fka SurveyMonkey), details her short-term technical strategy to unify processes among teams following an acquisition.

Acquisition / Integration
Product Team
Building A Team
Internal Communication
Team Processes
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Snehal Shaha

Snehal Shaha

Senior EPM/TPM at Apple Inc.

Managing Culturally Diverse Remote Teams

11 May

Tom Hill, Engineering Manager at Globality, Inc., shares how he works with a culturally diverse team based within a thirteen-hour time gap.

Scaling Team
Handling Promotion
Cultural Differences
Tom Hill

Tom Hill

Engineering Manager at Torii

Growing Through Different Engineering Lead Roles

8 May

Weiyuan Liu describes his experience moving up from an individual contributor, tech lead, and engineering manager.

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path
Weiyuan Liu

Weiyuan Liu

Director of Engineering at Zillearn

Here to Make a Recognizable Difference: How to Develop Teams

5 May

Eric Merritt, VP of Engineering at, divulges on the many complexities of developing teams in management by solving problems according to their needs, and empowering teams.

Sharing The Vision
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Eric Merritt

Eric Merritt

VP of Engineering at

Balancing Technical Debt Innovation: How Roadmaps for Development Help Your Company Succeed

4 May

Brad Jayakody outlines the roadmap to maintaining a healthy balance between technical debt and team growth. However, just as balancing acts go it is important to have a strong foundation.

Tech Debt
Career Path
Brad Jayakody

Brad Jayakody

Director of Engineering at Motorway

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato ( 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.