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The Engineer to Manager Transition, by Former Twitter Director of Engineering David Loftesness

Learn how to transition from engineer to engineering manager (the first 90 days) from the guy who transitioned from all-star engineer to manager of 5+ high growth teams at Twitter.

Presented at the Hive engineering leadership summit at the Tumo Center in Yerevan Armenia. Learn more about hiring top tech talent: https://teamable.com

The Engineer to Manager Transition, by Former Twitter Director of Engineering David Loftesness

  1. 1. The Engineer-to- Manager Transition How to Survive your First 90 Days David Loftesness / @dloft
  2. 2. Goals of this talk • Provide context on the technical management role. • Help you decide whether to pursue it. • Help you succeed if you do.
  3. 3. About me • Working in tech for 24 years at 6 companies. • 2 hyper-growth IPOs: Twitter, Geoworks • 2 failed startups talent acquisitions: Blue Mug -> Amazon, Xmarks -> SurveyMonkey • Helped ~15 engineers transition to management roles • Currently on 12 month sabbatical • Contact me! david@loftesness.com / @dloft
  4. 4. Context • Startups tend to avoid management. • At first, founders make all the management decisions. • If the company is successful, hiring takes off. • Before long, management is urgently needed. • Manager to engineer: “Hey, I’m drowning. Can you manage this team for me?”
  5. 5. Let’s make some managers! Most tech companies have a bias towards in-house conversions. • Good! Current individual contributors (ICs) have lots of context on the product, tech, workflow, etc. • Bad! Most current ICs have no idea how to manage. The founders probably won’t be effective coaches. And you’ re already in “management debt”.
  6. 6. Totally unscientific poll • How many of you are managers or former managers? • How many of you received training on management before becoming a manager?
  7. 7. Poll results • Informal survey of engineering managers from various companies. • “Before becoming a manager, did you participate in any formal management training?” • No: 14 • Yes: 1
  8. 8. “Just in Time” management? • Staffing a very important role with mostly untrained beginners…Crazy! Why do we do this again? • Management skills tend to be undervalued relative to technical skills, experience at the company, etc • “Managing is just making schedules, meetings, and performance reviews, right? Doesn’t seem so hard…” • Not going to change this (yet). In the meantime…
  9. 9. Day 0: The Decision • Your manager asks you “The Question”… • Do you know… are you right for the job? Is the job right for you? • What happens if I say Yes?
  10. 10. This is an entirely new job • You won’t be able to just “bolt on” some management work. • You now have people whose happiness at work rests largely on your shoulders. • You are now responsible for the results but can’t do all the work yourself.
  11. 11. Say goodbye to coding • For now, at least. Coding, architecture, technical decision-making: these are not your primary job anymore! • It’s okay to have a transition period, but the longer you hold on, the longer it will take to become a competent manager. • You need to show your team you trust their judgement, and before you know it you will NEED to.
  12. 12. Say hello to your team • Instead of your coding & design work, you will be: • understanding the people on your team and helping them do their best work • setting clear expectations for each individual • communicating with the team, peers, managers • trusting others with important technical decisions
  13. 13. Day 0: The Decision • Are you ready to say Yes? • Great! What next?
  14. 14. Surviving 90 days in 30-day chunks • Days 1-30: own your education • Days 30-60: find a rhythm • Days 60-90: assess yourself
  15. 15. Days 1-30: own your education • Make “learning about management” part of your daily routine. • Actively learn about your team. • Find a mentor (or 2 or 3)
  16. 16. Days 30-60: find a rhythm• Most common new-manager traps 1. the endless cycle of email and meetings. 2. avoiding management work by coding • Build yourself an “Event Loop”. • Daily / Weekly / Monthly checklists • Important: block off time on your calendar to review these.
  17. 17. EM Event Loop examples Daily Weekly Monthly People Recruiting pipeline: how can I close this great candidate? Who needs feedback from last week? Does everyone on the team know what is expected of them? Projects Are my critical projects on track? Do I need to update anyone on project status? Any projects on the back burner that we should start? Process What needs to be said at standup today? Do I need to do any backlog grooming? Are we managing projects the right way? Me Am I ready for today’s meetings? Can any be cancelled? What are my goals for this week? How did I do against goals for last week? What do I need to be more successful in my job?
  18. 18. Days 60-90: assess yourself • Here’s a quick test: in 1 minute per person, can you name what is unique about each team member and your plan to capitalizing on it? (h/t: Marcus Buckingham, "The One Thing You Need To Know”) • Can you start to see what changes need to be made? Or are you just treading water? (h/t: Glen Sanford, “On Code Review”) • Is the team actually delivering results? In the end, this is what matters most!
  19. 19. Day 90: should I fire myself? • This is your day for a go/no-go decision. • If “no-go”, don’t think of it as “stepping down”, but rather focusing on your strengths, your passions. • If “go”, congrats, you still have a ton to learn about managing! • Here are some suggestions…
  20. 20. Going from "surviving" to "succeeding" • Focus on enhancing strengths, not fixing weaknesses. • Find your truth-teller, your "court jester”. • Build a lasting learning environment with your peers: reading group, lunch discussions, etc.
  21. 21. Additional Reading • DeMarco and Lister - “Peopleware”, “Slack” • Buckingham and Coffman - “First, Break All The Rules” • Rands In Repose - http://randsinrepose.com/blog/ • Joe Xavier - https://www.quora.com/What-are-the- primary-traits-of-a-great-people-manager/answer/Joe- Xavier
  22. 22. Thank you! David Loftesness david@loftesness.com / @dloft
  23. 23. Survey results

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