From developer to manager – what does it take to become an engineering manager?

March 24, 2021
min read
From developer to manager – what does it take to become an engineering manager?
Thomas Limbüchler
Thomas Limbüchler

At some point, you have to decide, probably like any tech specialist, whether you want to continue pursuing a professional career or switch to a leadership role. Choosing between the two career options is very challenging. However, there are telltale signs of whether you are skilled to be successful as a manager. To make this critical decision without suffering a significant career shock, we have summarized some requirements below that show whether a job in management is the right choice for you.

You don't like meetings

If you hate spending a large part of your day in back-to-back meetings, and if you don't enjoy answering lots of emails and phone calls, you are certainly not alone. You only have a problem if you don't like to talk to people, or if you don't listen to them longer than necessary, then you will certainly not be a good manager. As a project manager or other manager, you will probably spend more than 70 percent communicating. If communication isn't your thing, a managerial role is perhaps not for you either.

You "don’t like" people

You don't have to be good at reading people to get your first management job, but having a high "EQ" will help you with that. If you are not a strong "person," you must make serious efforts to improve your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). EQ is defined as the ability to recognize and understand what others are experiencing emotionally. EQ is also the ability to manage your own emotions in a way that relieves stress, creates empathy, facilitates communication, and defuses conflicts. Suppose you are not working consistently on developing your emotional intelligence or are hopelessly introverted and have trouble getting along with others. In that case, you may be better suited for a professional career or perhaps a lead developer role.

You worry about uncertainty

If you don't like unclarity or don't feel comfortable in the gray area, think twice before moving outside your comfort zone. As a tech manager, you encounter many problems for which there is no right or wrong answer. Matrix organizational structures, multi-channel customers, and competing interests create challenges that are not always easy to solve. While as a developer, you have been able to make decisions based on logic and best practices. If you want to become a tech manager, you have to consider multiple scenarios, observe a lot, and consult with others a lot before choosing the best solution.

You want to be liked

If you don't enjoy dealing with conflicts, enforcing rules, or making difficult decisions that may be unpopular, then you will not be effective as a manager. Unfortunately, management is not a popularity contest

You are too fond of technology and detail

Your technical background can help you better understand problems project teams face. Managers who like to dive into technical details often find it challenging to take on their other responsibilities and often lose track of things. As a manager, you need to devote your time to strategic activities, administrative tasks, recruiting, and relationship building. If you still enjoy learning about code and algorithms, you might not want to start a management career right away.

You think management is easy

Many developers move into management because they earn more there and think they would be better at the job than their current manager. However, being a successful manager is more complex than it looks from the bank. For example, decisions about projects, priorities, budgets, or personnel assignments are often influenced by upper management or the executive board. You also have to deal with office politics, personnel issues, pressure to perform, and limited authority, which affects the effectiveness of your work. So don't let yourself be pushed into a leadership role too quickly or fall in love with a great title or a higher salary too quickly. Think about the professional and personal effects beforehand!

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