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Understanding the Jump Between IC and Management

Handling Promotion
Leadership
Delegate
Impact
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path
Prioritization

2 February, 2022

Shilpa Toraskar
Shilpa Toraskar

Director of Engineering at IPSY

Shilpa Toraskar, Director of Engineering at BFA Industries, shares her experience transitioning from an individual contributor to an engineering manager.

IC to Manager?

A lot of times, I get asked by many engineers “How do you know when to take a leap of faith to become a manager?”

First of all, everyone needs to understand that an IC engineer and people manager are completely two very different roles. Each role needs a different level of skills and expertise. I worked with a company for 15 years, growing my technical leadership skills and learning the ins and outs of the domain. During that time, I moved from a software engineer to become a technical lead. I also acquired a lot of soft skills that are a must to become a people manager.

A few things that helped me and made my decision easier:

  • Mentorship and coaching - This is one of the most important skills you should have if you want to become a manager. During my tech lead position, I spent time mentoring junior engineers, which taught me many leadership, coaching skills necessary. You also get a sense of whether mentoring and coaching is something you would enjoy for yourself. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction and purpose.
  • Learn to prioritize - You should learn to understand what your goals are, what’s the most important task you should do at any given moment. I kept a running list of things to do and tackle one at a time starting with the most urgent, critical tasks.
  • Delegation - You need to be able to delegate effectively, As you may take a large role, you will get pulled in multiple directions. As a tech lead, I learnt to delegate small tasks to other engineers and how to get the work done.
  • Technical leadership - You need to somewhat understand the technical depth of engineering systems. Not necessarily, you are architecting the system, but you should understand and have a say in the decision making process of your system. Being in an IC role contributing to technical work, helped me become a lead in my domain.
  • Make a large impact - You need to have a sense of ownership on the project delivery, You need to be able to influence it to wider spread. You need to learn to have some say in strategic direction.
  • Clear communication - You need to be able to communicate clearly to others about the project vision. As a tech lead, I was able to transcript to others what we are doing and why we are doing.
  • Build Trust - You should be able to build trust with your peers. You need to work with them collaboratively and cohesively.
  • Inspire others - You should be able to motivate others, make them understand your company vision, your organization's vision.
  • Growth Mindset - You are curious, generally inquisitive. I would say always be willing to learn. If you don’t know something, ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

If you think you possess these qualities to some extent, I would say you are ready to take that leap of faith. Give it a try. If you don’t enjoy it, you can always go back to becoming an IC. I personally know a lot of folks who made a jump from IC to manager and then back from manager to IC. Not everyone is cut out for a people manager.

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