I HAVE BEEN thinking a lot about the different
transitions I have made as I have been promoted
to different levels of management, from individual
contributor to manager to organization leader in
charge of hundreds of people.
With each step up, the job changes—but not all of
the changes are obvious. You must shift your mindset
and focus on building new skills that are often very
different from the skills that made you successful in
your previous role.
There are lots of great resources for first-time
managers, and many books designed for CEOs or
top-level executives—but there are fewer resources
specifically for the people in the middle.
Some ideas translate well from the CEO/executive
content (such as establishing a team culture), but very
little of the available content translates to running
technical software teams at scale.
This in-between space is where I have
spent almost all of my career—
somewhere between individual contributor
(abbreviated as IC here) and CEO. Many
people (even if they are not yet managers) might be interested in practical advice for managing these transitions, so
I have compiled everything I possibly
could on the topic for this article.
to Entry-Level Manager
Every time you move up as a leader you
go through a set of changes. One of the
biggest transitions occurs when you first
move from an IC role into a management position.
Your impact becomes difficult to
measure. As an IC you are hands-on
and doing things yourself. You have a
direct line between your daily tasks and
the results: You write code for a feature
for your team’s product, and you can
see the feature right before your eyes
once you are finished. Every time your
team reaches a milestone, you know exactly what you contributed to that success (and you can even quantify these
contributions if you choose to).
When you move into management,
you step away from that direct line. It is
no longer your job to do the work yourself; instead, your role is to mentor,
motivate, and guide your team to do the
work, while you maintain the connection to the big-picture vision/strategy
and make it easier for your team to get
This can be one of the most difficult
parts of the job for new managers to
get used to. They just want to jump in
and solve problems themselves, but (as
anyone who has had a manager do this
knows), this actually tends to do more
harm than good. Those who try to do
the work themselves can end up micro-managing or becoming a bottleneck
on the project.
Your new job is to solve problems
by removing roadblocks (including
yourself), streamlining processes, and
helping others be productive. You don’t
solve the problem yourself now; you create an environment where other people
Article development led by
Transitioning up the ladder.
BY KATE MATSUDAIRA