What I learned as a manager
As you might know, Shopify allowed me to try the people management track and become an engineering manager. I've been doing that for the past two years. Along the process I learned a lot and made so many mistakes and I don't regret having given it a shot. In hindsight, I think the experience will help me be a better engineer.
This post is a list in no particular order of the things that I learned and experienced:
- People are unpredictable.
- Management work is hard to measure. You can't count it and it's hard to reflect on it.
- Achieving a balanced team state is an impossible task because of external factors that you don't control: reorganizations, people leaving, priority shifts.
- A team larger than 5 people is not a good idea. Your management starts to suffer and your team notices it.
- Exiting someone from the company is tough.
- Being recognized for your work is unusual, but when it happens and it comes from your reports, it's very rewarding.
- Sometimes you don't have answers for all the questions, and that's fine. You need to be comfortable being in that situation.
- Seeing people leaving is sad. It's hard to to wonder if you could have done things better.
- It's great seeing people progressing in their career and growing the impact of their contributions.
- A road map you come up with today won't be valid in a few weeks from today. The world is dynamic, so is the company and its priorities.
- Reorganizations are sometimes hard to digest. When they happen people move around, other people leave, and you have new objectives you have to accommodate to.
- Context switching is an important skill to have. You mustn't let it make you a zombie at the end of the day.
- The role of business partner is crucial to find answers to your questions and provide guidance when necessary.
- Getting feedback from other managers when doing impact reviews is very useful.
And at this point you might wonder what led me to go back to individual contributor. I enjoy building. I enjoy opening my laptop, putting my headphones on, and creating things with code. I do that with Tuist and I used to that before taking the manager role. I also like mentoring people through working together in problems. That's how I met Marek, who recently joined the organization.
Shopify is a great place to grow as a manager. You have great tools and excellent managers you can learn from. There's even a framework to ensure management is consistent across the organization. However, and as I mentioned earlier, my path is on the technical track, and I'd like to continue solving problems with code.