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When Being An Engineering Manager Gets Lonely

Product Team
Personal Growth
Leadership
Feedback
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

27 December, 2018

Cliff Chang
Cliff Chang

Engineering Director–Growth at Asana

Cliff Chang discusses how lonely it can be to be an engineering manager and the importance of having a peer to vent to.

Problem

When you're an IC, at the end of the day you start to think back on your day about the code that you wrote and making sure you did everything correctly. A lot of ICs tie their emotional pride in their work into how much code they wrote. But when you're a manager that goes down to basically zero. The worst part is that you don't become an engineering manager unless you're good at your job. But when you're an engineering manager it's really hard to tell if you're good at your job because the feedback is very slow and imprecise so it can be a really lonely job in a lot of ways. It's also tough because when you express negative emotions it can be more damaging to the team, so I felt bottled up inside because I felt as if I couldn't talk to anyone about the issues I was having.

Actions taken

It helps to change your frame of mind and looking back on the good things that happened in your day, this process took me about six months. Something else that was important was for me to find a peer whose job was not connected to mine. I found another engineering manager and we would get together once a week for half an hour and complain to each other and that was actually a huge relief because it helped us tell the difference between things that were really annoying but not actually a problem, versus things that we needed to do something about. It was a way to remind myself that I was a human being.

Lessons learned

It is important to have an outlet to let yourself experience your negative emotions. If I could go back and do it again, I would have found a peer to talk to sooner.

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