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Tips and Tricks for Moving From IC to Management

Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Leadership
Strategy
Performance

3 February, 2022

Ashok Subramanian
Ashok Subramanian

Director of Engineering at Hubilo

Ashok Subramanian, Associate Engineering Director at Rakuten, shares how he moved from IC to management empathetically, rapporting with a cross-functional team.

Navigating Through the Changes From IC to Management

I’ve spent about 12+ years as an individual technical contributor (IC). As I moved into a management role, I gradually found myself looking at one side of the prism — the areas that I was good at. Mentoring a few other senior architects and ICs was something I was good at merely because that was my area of expertise. However, when I moved to lead a cross-functional team, everyone was capable of their own way. Transitioning from IC to management is a huge jump, and not only was it about learning to manage others, but also about establishing effective management habits, staying on top of the workload, and so on. In that case, I had to transition myself to being a good listener, understand others’ perspectives, and come up with solutions. As much as I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way, I also found ways to combat the challenges.

Become a Facilitator

First of all, I had to do my homework. In order to understand their perspective and where they were coming from vs. what was happening in the industry to have an engaging discussion. Throughout the cross-functional mentoring and collaboration, I had unlearned many of the concepts while learning newer ones — whether it was UX design, product management, or enhancing customer experience, I had to go back to school and give it another shot.

While still managing and coordinating their journeys, I had to stay humble, ask for clarifications when needed, and validate myself with my teammates. In cases where they were a subject matter expert, they were also a mentor. They saw the value in me, where I put my input to get synergistic results, rather than just getting status updates. What added as an advantage to this process was that I brought an outside perspective and unbiased view that helped them come up with a broader realization.

The overall archway of the process was that I spent adequate time with individuals, considering they also needed to share their perspectives. What worked wonderfully was the one-on-one discussions to dig deeper into the problems while getting straightforward solutions for each of them. After having productive conversations with my teammates, I would often go back to my drawing board and then add my point of view to it. Having the engagement with the individuals and the effort of the one-on-one meetings showed healthy commitment between my team members and me.

Once I connected the dots across the different teams, I leveraged my one-on-one discussions and the team meetings to provide a broader perspective to everyone. What was important for everyone to understand was where the product manager was coming from, why the designers were scheming a certain way, and how the customer support team’s opinions could add value to the group.

My biggest learning from experience was that successful teams could come together and have a coactive influence the business value. In that way, while we were building the subject matter experts, we also had a cross-functional team ready to learn from each other. It brought in a magnificent learning culture within the team itself.

Lessons learned

  • Be humble, and wear the hat of learning.
  • Be honest and validate yourself. The space of the EQ is significant in management. *No perspective is lousy; it’s just about understanding where they are coming from and how their viewpoint would add value to the overall goal.

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