Wondering about the Transition from IC to Manager?
A transition is never easy. Here’s my experience in moving from Individual Contributor to People Manager for a software engineering team
As Individual Contributors (ICs) we are constantly contributing to our projects; developing the best technical solutions while working on our assigned tasks/projects. Our focus remains to own our team initiative technically, to work with our team and to deliver high-class software to our travellers!
When we think of a leadership role, a lot of things come into our mind — leading the team technically & ensuring a development of quality product, mentoring team members, generating ample opportunities for team members to grow, ensuring team collaboration and trust, taking accountability of the deliverables, setting right expectations, managing team and app performance, and a lot of other tasks & challenges.
While all of this may sound exciting (and challenging), we often wonder if we’ll be able to handle it together; especially when we don’t really have any prior experience in these. Well, maybe not — we may feel we are not ready for it YET! But being ready doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be a process that takes time. Transition is more effective and efficient when it takes place over time with a lot of practice.
Here are some of my learnings from when I moved from IC to a Manager role.
Before the transition
For anyone thinking to transition over, there comes a point where they want to try and move towards a leadership role. When they feel that they can help create, mentor and lead a team taking all the teammates together and contributing to everyone’s growth… when they want to try thinking strategically and also participate in defining “what to do” than just “how to do”.
This is when our managers can help us groom into that role, so when we transition it doesn’t come hard on us.
Few areas that can help us groom better while being an IC:
Own a project (or part of it) completely
When we own a project not just technically but also from clearing any requirements till the end of delivery, helps us be more confident and accountable. We should try to take more responsibility and accountability of projects, ensuring to develop a quality product. There are times when we’d directly reach out to our PMs or TPMs, or maybe folks from other teams to get our work done in time.
Participate in more discussions
Discussions aren’t only about updating the status of our work, but also being able to voice out our opinions and views. If possible, we should try and look for opportunities where we can speak up about our views, and get feedback. These discussions can sometimes also be negotiations or debates around a tech approach or any RFC for example. Even listening to others in such discussions, helps us understand and learn.
This helps improve communication skills, speaking confidently with conviction.
Be part of meetings where the objectives are set
Being part of meetings where OKRs or milestones are set, gives us more understanding of the project and deliverables. It’s insightful and gives us a perspective on how tasks should be defined.
Mentoring team members
We always have some new joiners or juniors in our team who are new to the system and tools or just figuring out various how-tos. We should take this opportunity to help them, understand the problems they are facing, think and let them know how they could do better, not just them, but help us grow as well. Sometimes, they help us learn a few things as well.
Receive & give feedback
While we may already be doing so in the quarterly connects, we should be open to giving and receiving feedback from anyone and everyone (no matter if someone’s senior or junior to you), at any given point in time. It’s not just about giving credit or appreciating others when they do something good, but also never hesitating is giving constructive feedback as well.
It’s amazing to see how others can also thank you for your constructive feedback that helped them grow as well.
From time to time, we should take out some time to self-introspect our actions and how they affected others. The effect could be positive or negative, but thinking if there’s something we may have done differently, or in a more efficient way can help improve. After all, we all learn from our mistakes!
After the transition
Although a bit of grooming before the transition does help, it’s no surprise that there will still be some new challenges and situations along the way.
For new managers like us, Expedia Group™ does provide some great training materials. We have a Leader Learning Program, which is one such training, spread across 3 parts:
- Leading at Expedia Group focussing on leadership foundations and team management.
- Leading for Success focussing on building trust, enabling performance, coaching mindset, and giving and receiving feedback.
- Leading for the Future focussing on strengthening trust, leading through change, effective communication, and continuous learning.
These pieces of training also include very useful examples and scenarios, describing what we should and should not encourage as people leaders. There are a few other tools that help us through and are readily available for the leaders.
Even though these training sessions are good, while applying them practically there may still be a few times when we may have certain questions in our mind — Will I be successful at this? I have never faced this situation before... How do I handle this? I’m building or taking care of a new team... how do I build trust and improve collaboration? How do I review talent? etc…
Helpful suggestions I got from my mentors around these:
- When in a situation, think about if there were a time when you felt you had a similar problem in your team before (when you were an IC). How did your manager handle it?
- Always remember how you felt about your manager’s reaction in any scenario. This helps us know how to, or how not to deal with a situation.
- Everyone will have a different approach to any situation — there’s no right or wrong approach as such. There isn’t one fixed way/solution to anything, and everything’s learning.
- Networking helps — there are people around you who will always be happy to discuss, mentor and help you! You can also continue to meet them and have regular feedback, this never hurts!
The journey continues
Of course, as said earlier it takes time. As we continue on this path, we continue to improve and grow and there will always be new challenges. What matters is how we deal with them! Being a People Leader is a bit different from being an IC. Along with being a tech lead, we also need to think about the big picture, help the team members grow, and ensure we are delivering high-class products timely!
Transitioning to a new role isn’t easy, but getting enough grooming throughout can help make the journey a bit smoother.
As we continue to grow and learn new things in our role, we should always take some time to appreciate others. Not just the team members who do a great job, but also others who help, motivate and stand by you.
Thank you Ajit Singh, Amit Mangal, Ankur Singh Panesar, Hari Singh, Kelly-Marie Taylor, Muthu Sathiamurthy, Nancy Gupta, Nikunj Manocha, Ranjan Chhibber, Vinitha Mathew for giving me ample opportunities to grow, and being so approachable and honest and with your feedback. You have always encouraged me to improve and do better each day!
Lastly, something that stands by:
“Everyone have their own style — find yours! It’s driven by your experience!”
(thanks Kshitij Chandiok for the advice above, it’s been really helpful).
And always remember:
behind every big step, there’s a lot of hard work — not just by you, but by many others who believe in you!