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.