Move Up from Development Engineer to Team Manager
Do you want to become a manager? Making the switch requires a new perspective, an understanding of the market, and new skills. If you’re a development engineer who wants to move up to a management position, here are five steps you can take to make the transition easier.
Making the switch from a technical to a management role involves more than just adapting to new, different responsibilities. Technical and managerial career paths are quite different; making the switch requires a change in perspective, an understanding of the broader market rather than the narrower focus of your technical discipline and, obviously, the adoption of new skill sets. If you’re a development engineer who wants to move up to a management position, here are five steps you can take to make the transition easier.
Step 1 – Ask yourself: Do I really want to become a manager?
Are you ready to take responsibility for the entire team’s results and not just yours? The new role requires that you motivate and coach other engineers – who may have been colleagues before. How’s that for awkward?
Learning to delegate is also key – even if you’re itching to do it yourself because you think you can do it better and faster. Last but not least, ask yourself: Will I still enjoy doing my job if I were to switch to management? Many top engineers who decide to remain individual contributing engineers still achieve career advancement and success.
Step 2 – Understand what your organization expects from a manager.
Find out what skills your organization expects of, and what responsibilities it assigns to, a team manager. As the person charged with overseeing the effective functioning of your work group, responsibilities typically include coaching team members; developing team strengths and improving on weaknesses; resolving conflict; acquiring broader technical skills.
Beyond just people management, you need to build skills like the ability to architect a system, plan a project, and acquire and manage resources to complete projects. You’ll be the one determining team goals and assessing progress. Make sure you understand the degree of importance your organization puts on each function and focus on the right ones for your team.
Step 3 – Identify and fill your skills gaps
You’ve mastered a unique and varied skills set as a development engineer – and this will still serve you well. To effectively manage teams, you have to develop a whole new lineup of capabilities, including communication skills, emotional intelligence, organizational proficiency, and problem-solving, collaboration, and decision-making skills.
Start as soon as possible to fill in the gaps by taking stock of your current skills, setting goals for improvement, asking for team feedback, and pursuing professional development opportunities. Remember, as a team manager, you need to be a jack of all trades rather than the specialist you were as an engineer.
Step 4 – Demonstrate your potential as a manager
You’ll achieve your goal of being a manager only when your organization believes you have the interest, skills, and potential to become one. Seeing is believing. Make them see it: listen and learn, take responsibility, communicate clearly, set a good example, and display teamwork. Furthermore, request that your managers allow you opportunities to embark on serious management training. Also, demonstrate your ability to interact and collaborate well with fellow team managers and champion your team’s work to higher management. These efforts will convince the bosses that you’re ready for the transition.
Step 5 – Get a mentor
Everyone, no matter how capable, needs a role model – someone who displays a critical interest in your career and is willing to provide guidance, coaching, and advice. He/she may or may not be from your company or even from your industry.
The important thing is that he is someone you admire professionally, and who has been there and done that, because one thing is clear: getting a mentor can provide you, as a first-time manager, with opportunities to hone your management skills, improve productivity, gain confidence, and get feedback from a valuable sounding board.
If you’re ready to move up from development engineer to manager, follow these five steps to make the transition easy, quickly, and seamlessly.