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“Q: I’ve just been promoted to an engineering manager position. What are the things I should expect, and what can I do to make this transition a success?”

For this question, I feel Senior Engineering Manager at Spotify Diego Ballona, is the perfect person to provide an answer. Diego has both gone through this transition himself, and now is coaching engineers to become great engineering managers.

Diego writes a blog on topics including engineering leadership in articles like Managing engineering teams outside your technical expertise, Calibrations for software engineering interviews and Advice on doing well on system design interviews. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Over to Diego:

When I transitioned to my first formal management role, I remember feeling that I was doing well as an engineer with minimal effort. Work just flowed naturally. I gave folks code pointers sometimes without looking at the codebase. When posed with challenges, I knew how to act and get to the solution. 

In this new role as a manager though, I barely knew where to start, most of the time. 

In all candour, feeling lost is somewhat reflective of the truth. Those who transition from individual contributor (IC) to engineering manager (EM) probably relate to this. The journey from junior engineer to senior engineer feels like a continuum, where your perspective of the work changes with each stage of progression. However, the IC to EM transition means learning an entirely different job. The change starts long before you get the title and takes much longer to complete, afterward.

In this article we cover:

  1. Transitioning from IC to EM. What the transition consists of, and how to be prepared for the opportunity when it arises.

  2. Your first year in your new role. A primer on the EM role, how to navigate the role change and where to focus your energy.

  3. Growing as an engineering manager. How to keep growing and learning once you’ve established yourself in the EM role.

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