One of the biggest shifts for me when I moved from a software engineer role into management was how to think like a manager. Things I never considered as an engineer were suddenly a top priority for me. For those experiencing a similar transition, I have identified two important considerations to help shape your mindset from a follower to a leader and identify how you, as a manager, can add value to your company.
1) Cultivate your team, not just your projects and technology
A big shift for me came in terms of people. I was less and less responsible for producing code itself; now I was responsible for helping people grow by developing strong team leads that think about their teams’ development processes, work well in a cross-functional team, make tradeoffs, help team members achieve career goals, and so on. This was more nebulous, in part because when teams are doing well, little or no management intervention is needed, and so it was easy to feel superfluous. Recognizing the need to shift my thinking was a good step in the right direction for me to better understand the way I should be adding to company value.
2) Your goal is to add value to the company, not just complete tasks
As a software engineer, it was sometimes a challenge to make a direct connection between something I was working on and company revenues, but when I was writing code, I could see functionality come to fruition because of something I had built. One of my current emphases is to take this a step further and think about the value my team adds to the company.
I am not just asking whether my teams are efficient and working well together, I am also asking whether the things they are working on are the right things for them and for the company, and whether the organization structures and resources being invested are the right ones for what the company is trying to achieve. The time scale for measuring value gets longer, which can be challenging some days.
In an agile team, members can also gauge value in terms of how the team is functioning: do we have multiple people familiar with any given bit of code? Is our sprint velocity increasing? What’s happening with our bug count? How much technical debt are we taking on? These types of measurements and more also help me have a sense of the value I am adding.
These considerations have helped me transition into my role as a manager. Some days, I have to remember that there are lots of ways to measure value, and we’re all still figuring out which ways are best. But sometimes I feel like I make a breakthrough: a conversation with another manager leads to a smart decision, I help a team resolve a particular problem they’ve been struggling with, or I promote something that has clear benefit. Those days are great. But on other days, I have to remember that there are lots of ways to measure value, and we’re all still figuring out which ways are the right ones for now.
For those who have made similar transitions, what are some new approaches and attitudes you have developed to become a better manager?