When Promotion Comes Too Quickly
16 April, 2021
A company that I was with for or nine or ten months only was rapidly growing and needed more managers. One day, the Head of Engineering approached me, telling me that they believe I would make a great manager. I was surprised since I didn’t expect the promotion to happen so quickly.
In no time, I was managing people more senior to me. The company was small, most people knew each other, and managing people more senior to me, made some of them upset. Some argued I was underqualified and lacked experience, and even threatened to quit.
At first, I was somewhat anxious, which prevented me from doing things I should do as a manager. I felt that whatever I would do -- introduce a new process or hire someone -- I would be under harsh scrutiny.
My manager, who was a Head of Engineering at that time, told me that they were aware of what was happening and gave me the best advice -- to ignore the complaints and gossip, the same way they would do. They comforted me by saying that what mattered was what they, as my manager and my team, thought of me and not some random person on a different team.
That was a game-changing conversation because it empowered me to go off, do things and make mistakes. As a first-time manager, I would mess things up, but that would show that I was doing something and it was the only way for me to learn.
At the same time, I was trying to build credibility with my team as fast as possible. I was familiar with the technical domain, and I managed to identify easy wins and work on them first. Also, I was quite responsive to their, sometimes trivial, requests. For example, when someone from my team complained that their desk was too close to the window, I immediately went to a facility person and had their desk moved. Fixing these minor problems made me instantly gain their trust. I would keep track of all things people would ask me to do and do them diligently without ever dropping the ball. I started small and was steadily building on that until my efforts were racking up and becoming more apparent. Three months after I was able to move a desk around, I was able to restructure the team.
- Learn not to focus -- or even better, ignore -- distractions. What my manager thinks of me is important, what a manager of a lateral team thinks is important, but what a random engineer that never interacts with our team thinks of me is not important. Their complaints are distractions I learned to ignore. Learning to tease apart what opinions and perceptions matter and which not is a vital skill. As a new manager, I was wrong to believe that everyone’s opinion matters equally and that I should stress out over it.
- Don’t view making mistakes as failure. A manager who is not making mistakes is the one who is failing. If you are not failing, you are not pushing yourself and your team enough.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Lewis Prescott, QA Lead at Cera Care, explains his journey from a degree in psychology to learning test automation and computer programming.
QA Lead at CeraCare
Congratulations, you have just been promoted to an engineering management role. Once you are done celebrating the promotion you have worked hard to earn you might start to ask yourself, now what do I do?
AJ St. Aubin
Director Software Engineering at The RepTrak Company
Individual Contributors are familiar with a technical development framework that helps them with building products. Managers, especially new managers can leverage a parallel framework to help them build their teams while drawing analogies from an already familiar framework.
Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti
Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart
Deekshita Amaravadi, Engineering Manager at Justworks, talks about the intricacies of making the decision to switch from an IC role to a management one.
Engineering Manager at Justworks
Roland Fiala, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Productsup, highlights the importance of soft skills and shares how he motivates his engineers to further their careers by focusing on personal growth.
Senior Vice President of Engineering at Usergems