Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

Exercise: Self Reflection and the Path to Leadership

Jem Young

Jem Young

Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

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The "Exercise: Self Reflection and the Path to Leadership" Lesson is part of the full, Engineering Management Fundamentals 101 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Jem walks through an exercise to help the audience understand their motivations for becoming an engineering manager. The audience is asked to reflect on their career goals, what challenges they anticipate, and what aspects of the role they are most and least excited about. Jem also emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and having a support network during the transition to management.


Transcript from the "Exercise: Self Reflection and the Path to Leadership" Lesson

>> So we're gonna dive into this exercise for a bit. We won't take the full time cuz it'll probably take a full 30 minutes. But I wanna work through some of the questions. And by the end of this exercise, I want you to have a better understanding of what are your motivations?

What do you think will be challenges? And consider this just a personal reflection. It'll help you down the road, whether or not you decide to move to management or not. Just good to stop and reflect. So I'm gonna dive right in here. So purpose extras just ask you open-ended questions, and you have to answer them yourself.

Obviously, I can't help you here. But questions that I honestly probably should have asked myself before I made the jump, I just did it and I didn't really think critically about the path to management. Because we've talked about management is a really big change. If you're a bad manager, and we've all agreed we've all had bad managers, they leave an impact on you and maybe not in a good way.

And a good manager, sometimes you don't even notice. You may have had actually a managers, you've been lucky. They probably haven't even realized that cuz what they do is so subtle, but at the end of the day you have a lot of responsibilities as a manager. So it's really important to understand yourself and why you wanna be in this particular position.

There's some here's some starter questions just for yourself. Just, you don't have to answer it. But just to think about critically. About what are your career motivations? What do you see yourself doing in 5 to 10 years? Things I hadn't really thought of. Back when I was a software engineer, it was just code, more code, code, more code, that's all that matters.

But you end up where you point yourself, and it's good to have a direction of where you want to take your career and your life. And does being a manager align with your career goals? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but we talked about it's not a promotion, it's a role change.

You don't have to do it. There's many paths and many roles in technology and in software engineering. And what kind of work do you enjoy doing if you're a software engineer? That work may change or maybe the project leadership, the people leadership side, it's actually work you enjoy doing a little bit more.

Just some questions ask yourself. So the first question to ask you to answer. You could write your answers down here. Why do you want to become an engineering manager? This, when you get an interview and you make this transition to a role, is the first question, or one of the questions that will come up.

And people ask it different ways. You'll probably get it different rounds, but people wanna know, why do you wanna become an engineering manager? We talked earlier about those motivations and the good motivations and bad. Some of you need to work out for yourself, but a question you should ask yourself if you do wanna make a transition, why?

Why do you wanna become an engineering manager? Then, when you're an engineering manager, what do you think the biggest challenge will be? You're probably gonna be wrong here [LAUGH] being honest. The thing you think is hard might be actually easy, and the thing you think is easy. You probably haven't considered will be one of the most difficult parts.

And then ask yourself what aspects are you most excited about? Remember that joy of delivering, that joy of shipping, the joy of closing bugs and checking things off, won't be there as close. So in everything you've learned so far, what aspects are you actually excited about? What are you most excited about?

What are you least excited about? I'll tell you the thing I'm least excited about. Party planning, social activities, I'm an introvert. I know it doesn't seem it, but I recharge my battery by being by myself at home, reading a book, playing a video game. As a software engineer, I got a lot of that time cuz I'm not in meetings most of the time, I'm heads-down coding.

But the social aspect's important, so I have to put myself out there, it's a stretch for me. And planning parties and planning social events, happy hours, things like that. Even to this day, I'm not thrilled about doing, I do it because it's good for the team. And I always enjoyed it in the day but probably not something I was super excited about coming to management.

And then during the transition would, knowing everything you know now about the truth of software engineering, what challenges do you anticipate? We talked a lot about letting go code but is there more to it than that? Is it you don't know how to write emails? You gotta do that.

You gotta be able to write? Is it public speaking? You gotta run meetings now. We'll talk about the meanings you're gonna run. But you have to do that, and there's a lot of different challenges. Some people, it depends on your strengths and your things you're not so good at.

But what challenges do you anticipate transitioning from an engineering manager to an engineering manager? And more importantly, during this transition, who can you turn to for support? Like I said, my first year was, it was rough because I didn't think of turning to my friends who knew, who were engineering managers, or even being honest with my manager about the state of things.

So when you transition, it's really important to have a support network cuz they will help you. They can't do the work for you. No one knows. No one knows better than you. But there's people you can people that can empathize with you who have done this journey before.

So it's good to think of them now cuz you'll need it later down the road. So, take some time during the next break or the next day or two and write down these answer these questions and if you do become an engineering manager come back a year later and look at these answers.

See how your perspective has changed, maybe it hasn't. See what you're right about, see what you're wrong about. But either way, if you have all these answers, maybe by the end of it, it turns out you're like, you know what, Jim, I don't wanna be a software engineering manager.

I've answered all these questions honestly, and what brings me joy is not the things that I would get from being a manager. Good, good, I hope that's the case. I don't think it's good to become a people leader or a manager if you're not committed to doing it.

So it's totally fine. By the end of this exercise, you should have a good idea about, is management right for me?

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