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Transitioning an IC to Manager

21 May, 2019

Heather Natour

Heather Natour

Head of Engineering, Seller & B2B at Opendoor

Heather Natour, Engineering Director at Opendoor, discusses her approach to transitioning an IC to a manager.

Problem

As I grew my team, I transitioned ICs to managers. The breadth of skills a new manager needs to develop at once can sometimes be overwhelming. I needed to make that transition seamless for the team, as well as make it feel successful and rewarding for the new manager.

Actions taken

  • I approached growing engineers to engineering managers by trying to give the IC who is interested in management a lot more responsibility around project and program management first, even before managing people. When the IC was ready to begin managing people, they were able to focus more on the people and all of the challenges that come with that, while still keeping projects moving forward.
  • Because I still directly managed some engineers, my new manager and I not only split people management roles, but also ownership of engineering work streams. We therefore set up separate time from our 1-1 (which was focused on my new manager's growth) to talk about how to move projects forward, how they relate to each other in dependencies, and what communication and coordination needs to happen outside of our team. I gave the manager ownership of those projects, as well as the people, so that they can run with it independently.
  • Stepping away from coding and the day to day implementation is difficult for engineering managers. I always ask my managers to consider what else they can do to get ahead of their team. If they find themselves with time to implement something, I suggest considering something that enables the engineers to be productive or grow, such as planning a roadmap for continued momentum as engineers are ready to move to the next thing, or engaging the engineers on longer-term architectural initiatives that set us up to improve our quality and resiliency.

Lessons learned

  • The transition from IC to manager changes the relationship to peers. By having the IC take more of a project management role first while being an IC, when they transition to manager the switch seems like less of a change to the team. I have also mitigated the changes in the transition from being a peer to somebody's manager by reminding the team that management is not hierarchical. People management is a different role and I see it as an inverse hierarchy in that you are there to support everyone from below. This helps continue to build and grow trust between the IC and their new manager, who just the day before, may very well have been a peer.

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