Back to resources

Transition from Individual Contributor to People Manager

Goal Setting
Personal Growth
Career Path
New Manager

7 March, 2022

Sangeeta Wakhale
Sangeeta Wakhale

Senior Manager Engineering at athenahealth

Sangeeta Wakhale, Senior Manager Engineering at athenahealth, highlights her journey of climbing the corporate ladder and successfully transitioning from an IC role to a manager.

Conquering the Challenges of Moving to a Manager Role From an IC

I joined the company as an individual contributor (IC), after a short span of time I was asked if I could transition to a management role. However, there were several reasons why I was skeptical about accepting the management role:

  • I was scared, I would lose my technical domain knowledge. At that moment technical expertise was my strength and doing something else was like going away from my strength.
  • Being an introvert, I felt that I was not ‘the people’s person’ that my teammates were looking forward to in their manager. It made me feel reluctant on how I would communicate with my direct reports or deal with their emotions in need.

After one and half years, I was asked one more time to try out the management role. With the option to try out the role for six months, and if I did not like it at all, I could go back to my IC role, I accepted the offer.

Since it was a small team that I had to manage, there were some technical aspects left for me to keep my domain knowledge up to date.

A Desire to Move Up

Given the ample options that I had, I could not wholly back out of the situation. However, accepting the responsibilities of a manager was not sufficient; I had to work on myself. To begin with, I started taking some courses via LinkedIn. There are enormous courses on LinkedIn for individuals who want to make a move from IC to manager and also on leadership which helped me a lot.

Moving forward, I read multiple books on leadership, which made me pretty confident to deal with my direct reports in a constructive way. What I found to be incredibly helpful was “Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry”, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “First Things First” by Stephen Covey. The insights from the books indeed helped me build myself to be the manager I am today. Reading books and taking courses helped me in my professional sphere and helped me build a network outside of my organization.

In an effort to become a better leader, I also joined Toastmasters International, which enhanced my presentation skills, leadership abilities, and soft skills. I found myself fostering initiatives and in a “pro-active” thinking position within the organization.

Within the grind of it all, I also took an online leadership course from Harvard Business School. Again, it was not only a course but a lot of valuable insights into what leadership is all about. To dig deeper into the concept of leadership, I learned how it’s not only about getting work done but so much more about enabling others to do the work.

More importantly, through the courses, I learned one of the most critical aspects of leadership: how to provide constructive feedback and its importance. Getting exposure to how feedback works both ways was an essential part of my learnings.

Wrapping up

  • Try out something outside of your comfort zone, and you will reap the benefits of it. It creates space for creativity and helps you respond to situations when unexpected things happen.
  • If you love reading, make books your best mentors. Normally, authors come from various backgrounds with different experiences, which helps the readers learn from those experiences.
  • Always give some time for your personal development and it will come in handy with your new skills for some new project or for some new opportunity.
  • Observe and grow. Take a look at people around you — whether it’s your direct report or your manager — and get an idea about their qualities, personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses. It will enable you to understand them better when working with them.

Discover Plato

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

Related stories

A Day in the Life of a Product Lead in FinTech – A Series

31 January

Discover the daily struggles, challenges, and moments of delight encountered when delivering banking products around the world. I will share my story candidly and honestly, without filter as much as I am allowed, and offer insights into my approach while providing retrospectives of the results.

Embracing Failures
Cultural Differences
Career Path
Loussaief Fayssal

Loussaief Fayssal


Ten quotes from Adam Grant relevant while dealing with layoff

27 January

Layoffs are tough. Dealing with situation we go through different emotions. First is disbelief, followed by anger, leading to frustration and finally accepting the news. Following quotes seemed relevant to review and again a perspective as we pass through hard times

Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

I was passed for Promotion. What now ?

26 January

Passing for promotion happens to everyone in their career lifespan. If someone does not had to go through the situation, consider them they are unique and blessed. Managing disappointment and handling situations in professional setting when things don’t pan out, is an important life skill.

Changing A Company
Handling Promotion
Feelings Aside
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

People Oriented vs Task Oriented

20 January

As a Lead or Manager, one could naturally incline more towards being either people oriented or task oriented. Which is better? Do you know which side you lean more towards?

Kamal Raj Guptha R

Kamal Raj Guptha R

Engineering Manager at Jeavio

15 Tips to improve profile discovery on LI

20 January

Recently, I have read the book ‘Linked’ from Omar Garriott and Jeremy Schifeling on audible. The audio book is 7 hours long. If you dont’ have time or need a brief summary, read on

Changing Company
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan