Grow Others to Grow Yourself: Lessons Learned Going from Tech Lead to Engineering Manager to Director

Grow Others to Grow Yourself: Lessons Learned Going from Tech Lead to Engineering Manager to Director

Presented at the Women in Tech (Virtual) Summit 2020 https://womenintechsummit.net/

It might seem obvious that to grow in your career you need to help others grow as well, but I’ve had to learn some surprising lessons when moving from an engineering lead position up to an engineering director position. In order to increase my scope and ability to lead larger engineering organizations, I had to grow leaders on my teams, but what that meant changed at each level:

* To succeed as a manager, I had to learn to give up coding and being the expert at everything. This made space for other tech leads to emerge on my team.
* To succeed as a senior manager, I had to learn how to delegate both responsibility and authority for the team’s output to team leaders to free myself up to lead multiple teams. I had to make space for those leaders to fail sometimes and that was hard! I had to learn what safeguards to put in place to support my teams, stay in the loop since I was still accountable, and provide them direction, while giving them the autonomy to act without being a bottleneck for them. This meant I could start to contribute to longer-term engineering and product strategy and cross-team process improvements
* Now, as an engineering director I am leading managers and I had to start giving up direct management of engineers for the first time, which was as hard for me as giving up coding! I’m at the start of my journey here, but I already have some lessons to share about how your focus needs to change and how what worked for leading team leads doesn’t cut it for leading managers.

At each level I’ve unlocked the ability to have a positive impact on more and more engineers and lead successful delivery in larger product areas for my companies. This growth would not have been possible without growing other leaders along the way and, as one of my mentors put it, focusing on what only I could do. For those of you considering or already on a similar career path of engineering leadership, I hope to share the lessons that I’ve learned to help you on your journey.

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Audrey Troutt

July 23, 2020
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Transcript

  1. GROW OTHERS TO GROW YOURSELF LESSONS LEARNED GOING FROM TECH

    LEAD TO MANAGER TO DIRECTOR Audrey Troutt Director, Mobile Engineering Comcast Digital Home @auditty audreytroutt
  2. 2 AUDREY TROUTT DIRECTOR, MOBILE ENGINEERING @ COMCAST DIGITAL HOME

    My past experience includes: • Engineer, scrum master, business analyst, teacher, technical writer, project manager, product owner, engineering manager, and engineering director • Web, mobile, backend, ops engineering. Building apps, services, open source libraries • Consulting, business products, consumer products • Small startups and big companies • Academia, non-profit, and industry Photo by Audrey Troutt
  3. 3 AGENDA • Model for career growth in engineering leadership

    – Definitions: Engineer, Tech Lead, Manager, Director – Mapping roles to teams – Scope of responsibility and expertise – Inflection points: Player to Coach, and Actor to Director – How I think about career steps: what you let go of and what you should focus on • Growing from Engineer -> Tech Lead • Growing from Tech Lead -> Manager • Growing from Manager -> Director • Summary: grow others to grow yourself and, when in doubt, focus on what only you can do In my experience, these lessons are easier to see in hindsight, but I’m hoping to clue you in ahead of time, as my mentors have done for me over the years WHY ARE YOU HERE?
  4. MODEL FOR GROWTH

  5. 5 DEFINITIONS* Engineers BUILDING • write code Tech Leads /

    Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING • write code • design systems • lead the team’s process, maybe Managers “PEOPLE-ING" • lead a team of engineers and tech leads Directors “PROCESS-IZING” • lead managers who lead teams * This is one of many possible ways of defining these terms
  6. 6 WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY? Engineer BUILDING •

    Writing code • Code review • Automating/testing/va lidating • Deploying • Triaging bugs/customer support • Participate in team process Tech Lead / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING • Writing code, code review • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops • Defining best practices for code • Defining engineering strategy for tech • Lead team/dev process, maybe • Interviewing • Mentoring Manager “PEOPLE-ING" • Lead team/dev process and foster culture • Mentoring/coaching engineers and leads • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops AND STAFF • Recruiting, interviewing, hiring • Managing triage/customer support Director “PROCESS-IZING” • Driving engineering initiatives and broad, cross-platform, full- stack strategy • Mentoring/coaching managers and leads • Defining engineering strategy for business • Creating organizational culture • Leading organizational change • Budgeting for your department
  7. 7 WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY? Engineer BUILDING •

    Writing code • Code review • Automating/testing/va lidating • Deploying • Triaging bugs/customer support • Participate in team process Tech Lead / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING • Writing code, code review • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops • Defining best practices for code • Defining engineering strategy for tech • Lead team/dev process, maybe • Interviewing • Mentoring Manager “PEOPLE-ING" • Lead team/dev process and foster culture • Mentoring/coaching engineers and leads • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops AND STAFF • Recruiting, interviewing, hiring • Managing triage/customer support Director “PROCESS-IZING” • Driving engineering initiatives and broad, cross-platform, full- stack strategy • Mentoring/coaching managers and leads • Defining engineering strategy for business • Creating organizational culture • Leading organizational change • Budgeting for your department
  8. 8 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infra. Manager

    * This, as with all the examples I’m about to share, is one of many possible configurations! MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS*
  9. 9 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End

    Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  10. 1 0 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure

    Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  11. 1 1 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure

    Team Manager Team Manager Team Manager Team Manager MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  12. 1 2 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure

    Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  13. 1 3 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure

    Director Team Manager Team Manager Team Manager Team Manager MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  14. 1 4 MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS Front-End Client Back-End Services

    Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure
  15. 1 5 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure

    Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  16. 1 6 Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure

    Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure Front-End Client Back-End Services Data Layer Ops Infrastructure MAPPING ROLES TO TEAMS
  17. 1 7 SCOPE OF RESPONSIBILITY AND EXPERTISE Engineers BUILDING •

    One project • One team • One platform Tech Leads / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING • One or more projects • One team, consult across multiple teams • Expert in one platform, familiar with others Managers “PEOPLE-ING" • People • One or more projects • One team (or two) • Multiple platforms Directors “PROCESS-IZING” • Strategy • Many initiatives • Many teams • Whole product/business
  18. 1 8 In my model, career growth involves alternating between

    increasing your breadth and depth of both your responsibility and expertise SCOPE OF RESPONSIBILITY AND EXPERTISE
  19. 1 9 SCOPE OF RESPONSIBILITY AND EXPERTISE

  20. 2 0 INFLECTION POINTS: HOW YOUR ROLE CHANGES Engineers BUILDING

    Tech Leads / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING Managers “PEOPLE-ING" Directors “PROCESS-IZING” PLAYER COACH ACTOR DIRECTOR FOLLOWER LEADER
  21. 2 1 • It’s hard to be a novice again

    (and again) • It’s hard to let go of things that you are good at • BUT you can’t grow into your new role until you grow others to take your place in your old one Growth doesn’t just mean getting a bigger title. It’s about learning. WHAT’S IT LIKE TO TAKE EACH STEP?
  22. GROWING FROM ENGINEER TO TECH LEAD

  23. 2 3 TECH LEAD PHOTO BY CHRISTINA @ WOCINTECHCHAT.COM ON

    UNSPLASH
  24. 2 4 WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY? Engineer BUILDING

    • Writing code • Code review • Automating/testing/va lidating • Deploying • Triaging bugs/customer support • Participate in team process Tech Lead / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING • Writing code, code review • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops • Defining best practices for code • Defining engineering strategy for tech • Lead team/dev process, maybe • Interviewing • Mentoring Manager “PEOPLE-ING" Director “PROCESS-IZING”
  25. 2 5 IT’S A TRAP DON’T BE THE BOTTLENECK Photo

    by Jamie Street on Unsplash
  26. 2 6 Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash You

    are a star player, and you help others to become better players too – that’s how your team wins!
  27. 2 7 Grow others to: • Plan and implement features

    • Triage production issues You can grow to: • Stop fighting fires and start planning for the future of your code bases • Define and drive higher standards, better patterns, and innovative new solutions • Learn about and influence more projects and systems • Work on larger technical problems Only You have the experience and the context to see the big picture and shape the future of your technology and practices LESSONS LEARNED: ENGINEER TO TECH LEAD
  28. GROWING FROM TECH LEAD TO MANAGER (IF YOU WANT TO!)

  29. 2 9 ENGINEERING MANAGER PHOTO BY CHRISTINA @ WOCINTECHCHAT.COM ON

    UNSPLASH
  30. 3 0 WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY? Engineer BUILDING

    Manager “PEOPLE-ING" • Lead team/dev process and foster culture • Mentoring/coaching engineers and leads • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops AND STAFF • Recruiting, interviewing, hiring • Managing triage/customer support Director “PROCESS-IZING” Tech Lead / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING • Writing code, code review • Driving engineering projects, including budgeting for tech/ops • Defining best practices for code • Defining engineering strategy for tech • Lead team/dev process, maybe • Interviewing • Mentoring
  31. 3 1 IT’S A TRAP DON’T BE THE BOTTLENECK (AGAIN)

    Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
  32. 3 2 Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash You

    are over here now This is not you anymore, manager
  33. 3 3 Grow others to: • Run day to day

    execution and triage • Lead individual projects • Be the star players (!) You can grow to: • Expand expertise and ability of team • Evolve team process and culture • Learn about and influence more and larger projects and systems Only you have the experience and the context to see the big picture and shape the future of your technology and processes and team LESSONS LEARNED: TECH LEAD TO MANAGER
  34. GROWING FROM MANAGER TO DIRECTOR

  35. 3 5 ENGINEERING DIRECTOR PHOTO BY CHRISTINA @ WOCINTECHCHAT.COM ON

    UNSPLASH
  36. 3 6 WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY? Engineer BUILDING

    Tech Lead / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING Manager “PEOPLE-ING" Director “PROCESS-IZING” • Driving engineering initiatives and broad, cross-platform, full- stack strategy • Mentoring/coaching managers and leads • Defining engineering strategy for business • Creating organizational culture • Leading organizational change • Budgeting for your department
  37. 3 7 WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY? Engineer BUILDING

    Tech Lead / Sr Engineer ARCHITECTING Manager “PEOPLE-ING" Director “PROCESS-IZING” • Driving engineering initiatives and broad, cross-platform, full- stack strategy • Mentoring/coaching managers and leads • Defining engineering strategy for business • Creating organizational culture • Leading organizational change • Budgeting for your department
  38. 3 8 IT’S A TRAP YOUR JOB ISN’T TACTICAL PROBLEM-SOLVING

    ANYMORE Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
  39. 3 9 Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash That’s

    you explaining your plan!
  40. 4 0 Grow others to: • Drive projects and process

    • Grow your technical staff You can grow to: • Create repeatable team patterns and processes • Define larger business and technical strategy • Set the roadmap for the future • Hone your diplomatic skills and influence leaders around you Only you have the experience and the context to see the big picture and shape the future of your business, operations, and culture LESSONS LEARN(ING): MANAGER TO DIRECTOR
  41. IN SUMMARY

  42. 4 2 • There are things you are going to

    have to let go of, and that will be hard! • You will go from Player to Coach and then from Actor to Director • Letting go of previous winning strategies makes time and opportunities for growth • Expand your breadth and depth of responsibility and expertise When in doubt, focus on what only you can do IN SUMMARY
  43. 4 3 SHOUT OUT TO MY MENTORS WHO HELPED ME

    GROW JOANNE, AMIR, TRACEY, MILES, DAN, SCOTT, HEATHER, PHILLIP, TODD, JHO …AND MANY MORE!
  44. 4 4 THESE BOOKS ALL HAD A BIG INFLUENCE ON

    ME RESOURCES q Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising q Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor your Wetware by Andy Hunt q The Phoenix Project and The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim q Resilient Management by Lara Hogan q Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David Marquet q Personal Kanban: Mapping Work, Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry q Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life by Barry Oshry q Leading Lean Software Development: Results are not the Point by Mary and Tom Poppendieck q Measure What Matters: OKRs, the Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth by John Doerr q The Manager’s Path: A Gide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier
  45. Audrey Troutt Director, Mobile Engineering Comcast Digital Home @auditty audreytroutt