Getting from Engineering lead to managing people is indeed a dramatic change in career path and requires a different set of skills than needed for technical lead role.
In an engineering role, you are responsible for design, technology, execution and delivery of your features. In a management role, you are responsible for people and your prime job is to empower and enable your team, set strategy for the team, unblock folks, communicate with stakeholders, enables sales, pre-sales, pocs, support technical services and customer facing teams and above all manage people’s careers.
Lead the way
As a lead, you are the star performer, the knight in shining armor, stepping up and helping the team put out fires by being the fireman but as a manager, your job is to get limelight on the deserving people in your team. You are in a coach role and that comes with a lot more responsibility. As they do well, you get credit for leading them well. As a manager this will shift your focus from coding to most time-consuming aspect of being a manager –the people management. You will owe it to everyone on your team to be a neutral, unbiased, trusted resource, not just your friends. For the rest of the organization, accountability will stop at you. Your job will be to defend your team’s back. Something no one told you- You will need to take the bullet for the team, make tough unpopular calls and an unfortunate fact of life- it is lonely as you move up the ladder.
Then, why do it? Here is why ..
Primarily, how well your direct reports perform is more often than not, a reflection of your own effectiveness as a leader. Your scope of influence increases dramatically from an individual contributor to the influence of your entire team put together. Sure, as a star performer of the team you were making significant contribution to the team’s win but as a coach, how the team plays, team’s camaraderie, unity, coordination, strategy and execution rests on your shoulders. Here is an excerpt I’d like to quote from an HBR article I recently read:
1983, Steve Jobs was trying to entice John Sculley to leave a wildly successful career at PepsiCo to become Apple’s new CEO. Jobs reportedly asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” In making his pitch, Jobs leveraged a potent psychological force: the deep-seated human desire to do meaningful work. As a manager you are being entrusted to enable, empower and lead other humans to do more meaningful work than you could in your previous individual contributor role .
With greater power comes greater responsibility.
You will be in situations to make tough decisions, controversial ones, even firing an employee reporting to you. Build trust by being honest and share professionally what you can. Moving to management position will affect your friendships with your colleagues. Like i said before, it is indeed lonely as you move up the ladder. It is very important to practice high emotional intelligence with your family and near and dear ones and not take them for granted. Practice self-awareness and being aware of your emotions, your feelings and how that is about to affect your handling a conflict or a view point you don’t agree with. Practice self-regulation, figuring what works to calm you down when angry and what helps motivate you when are feeling down and depressed. Practice empathy with your family and close friends. This will improve your social networking skills, communication skills and leadership skills.
As a manager, you will have access to a lot more vital information and you would want to stay professional and respect the boundaries. You’d want to establish mutual trust and respect between you and your team by being as honest as you can but you can no more go and complain about your issues to your team anymore. Being promoted to management is a huge milestone that directly acknowledges the faith of your senior management in your ability to be a leader. You will have moments of self-doubt and some self-doubt is a good thing. Self-doubt enables us to not only reflect but look for validation and be open to feedback. Last but not least, it not only keeps you learning and growing but also keeps you humble and humility is one precious virtue to keep in today’s times. Embrace the opportunity if it comes your way and also build trust with your senior management. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice, insights and scenario discussions with experienced leaders in your network and company.