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@kellan kellan/advice for a new manager.md Secret
Last active Jul 12, 2018

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What would you like to do?

I've been an engineer for a decade, and recently joined a company as Director of Engineering. I am a talented engineer, but this is a total different role, and it has been challenging. I was wondering if you had any advice. Specifically how do I measure my success now? How do I know if I'm being as productive or effective as I could be? I'm self taught, and there is probably some imposter syndrome, but any advice for someone who wants to grow into the role?

My first recommendation would be to read Camille Fournier's "The Manager's Path". Camille and I have co-taught engineering leadership and I think she's done a great job of capturing what the evolution is like.

In the short & medium term you'll measure your success by how well your team is delivering against their goals:

  • this implies you have clearly defined goals that are aligned with your larger organizations success
  • you have a way of measuring those goals

In the long term you'll measure success by your team and organization's increased capacity to tackle hard problems. You can increase capacity through:

  • hiring, training and retention
  • improved infra
  • better communication and planning

As for imposter syndrome

  • good news/bad news: you're probably terrible at engineering management. We're all terrible at it. It's a hard, evolving, largely unstudied discipline.
  • there is a ton of emotional labor involved in management. If this drains you (as it does so many of us) you need to figure out what self care looks like. Often this involves rigorously scheduling blocks of long concentration and flow, and blocks of frequent meetings, 1:1s, etc

Also when in doubt ask for feedback. It's both a good way to get feedback and a good way to model being open for feedback.

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