I’m two months into my first role as an software engineering manager. I was expecting it to be hard, but it’s been more of a challenge than I anticipated. This post is chance for me to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned so far.
After many years experience you’re a beginner again. Being a beginner usually isn’t a problem. I’ve recently started learning the piano and don’t feel any stress or pressure to be good. This is different. It’s not like being a junior engineer. A manager has expectations and responsibilities. I’m being paid to do this job so I put pressure on myself to be competent.
Reading is essential, but not too much. Before taking taking a management job I read a lot. These resources were incredibly helpful. After starting my latest role I’ve read less. Partly because I don’t have the head space, and partly because it feeds my tendency to overthink. It’s a balance. Reading ten ways to run 1 to 1s doesn’t help. Right now I feel it’s more important to do what feels right, gain experience and then review in a few months.
Being a new engineering manager is lonely. Previously, my immediate support group was other engineers. As a manager my relationship with engineers has changed. They are no longer my support group. My manager provides support, but it’s not enough. As a new manager I find I need a lot of support. Reaching out to other managers has been very helpful. Specifically other managers within my company, or managers from other companies, usually ex colleagues. I always get a boost from just having a chat. But it also gives me a chance to compare notes. How do you run your 1 to 1s? How would you deal with this situation? What do you do that makes you feel useful?
People problems are more difficult to leave at work. With a tech problem, it’s easy shut the laptop at the end of the day and not think about it until tomorrow. E.g. Struggling to fix a bug. Team or people problems are different. E.g. A bad 1 to 1 or low team morale. It’s difficult to avoid overthinking or letting it get you down outside of work. I don’t have the emotional resilience yet. Hopefully that will come with time.
It’s not easy to know exactly what you should be doing. As I engineer I understand what my job is. As a manager it’s a bit more fuzzy. What are your priorities? What does a typical day look like? If there isn’t a meeting in your calendar what should you be doing? Is what I’m doing useful? I’m still working on this.
Cut yourself some slack. This is arguably the most important point. You are a beginner, you don’t know everything, it’s a steep learning curve, you will make mistakes. Give it time and don’t be too hard on yourself.