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Transitioning Roles from IC to Manager

Internal Communication
Career Path
Personal growth

31 December, 2018

Radhesh Gupta, engineering manager at Survey Monkey, discusses the trials and tribulations of his transition from an IC to a manager. Pertinent to his success, the process illustrates his retention of hope despite several disheartening setbacks.

Problem

In the pursuit of broader responsibilities and multiplied impact, I wanted to transition my role from an IC to a manager. Being on a medium sized team, there was no short term visible path to making my way. While I was unofficially taking more responsibilities, my team was not growing as much and I did not foresee my manager moving to create a void for me to fill.

Actions taken

My preliminary gesture was to discuss this idea with my manager. His response was instantaneous and forward thinking. He was willing to help me get a move on it. Then, a new position appeared on another team within Survey Monkey. I made the decision to interview for the internal role on the billing team. The feedback I received was very positive, but they ended up choosing someone within the team. Six months later, a new role materialized on a recently developed team. I made some efforts to get that role, but, the same thing transpired. The position went to a peer of mine, very good at his job, but advantageously already a part of the team. From there, I decided to return back to the drawing board with my manager. He presented me with information about a different team, owning a very critical part of the business, with plans to grow, but, in need of a Tech Lead role. I talked to the future manager about my goals and she was totally onboard and helpful. From there, I entered the team as a tech lead, although my motivation remained focused on future movement into management. Since the day I began this role, I had taken ownership of the whole project and worked closely with the manager of my new team. Within six to nine months, the team grew to 14, and the leadership decided to split the team. I became manager of the back-end tea, managing five engineers. Since I was already taking up a lot of team leading tasks, it was a pretty smooth transition and the team responded very well.

Lessons learned

  • Discussing your plans for growth with a manager validates the path you want to take, both for you and the manager.
  • The sooner you start the process of discussing your aspirations with your manager, the better.
  • Never lose hope despite recurring failures.
  • Build relationships outside of your team. Because there is a high chance that opportunities will arise outside your teams and people you know. And you would want to know about them before they are taken.
  • Make yourself more visible in the company and build your own brand.
  • Brown-bags, speaking at conferences, hackathons, organizing meetups, kitchen-sink conversations, helping other teams - are just some ways to build relationships and brand.
  • Understand the responsibilities of the new role and step up to take as many of them as possible. The easiest way to get a new role, is to do most of it in your current role. Some examples where an IC can help:
  • proactively doing backlog triaging
  • taking up the scrum master role
  • helping with cross team collaborations/ dependencies
  • mentoring junior engineers

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