The “Aha” Moments of Becoming an Engineering Manager

Making the leap to being a manager is one of the most challenging transitions an individual contributor (IC) can choose to make in their career. And, let me tell you, my initial transition from IC to manager was not especially graceful — I would lovingly describe the two years it took me to figure things out as a time of “epic failure.”

A couple of months back, I shared this story on the main stage at ELEVATE, a San Francisco-based event for engineering leaders. In front of an audience of peers and senior engineers – some friendly faces, but mostly all strangers – I shared how dropping the ball as a new manager was, in fact, an invaluable lesson. The “aha” moment I experienced has stuck with me throughout my career as a manager, as a leader of leaders, and, today, as the SVP of Platform at Eventbrite.

Three key tips I share with engineers or technical folks thinking about (or struggling with) transitioning from IC to manager are:

  • Know how you work best and make adjustments (ex: I personally don’t multitask well).
  • Understand the skills that made you good at one level won’t necessarily translate into the next.
  • Learn how to embrace a growth mindset.

You can hear me expand on these points as my presentation was graciously captured on video and you can see it here:

Radical Transparency: Biggest Learnings From Transitioning to Management

About 10 minutes in, I flip to being the interviewer, navigating a fantastic discussion packed with insights between four esteemed panelists — Yi Huang, Sue Nallapeta, David Murray, and Hala Al-Adwan — who hold engineering leadership roles at Facebook, Zoosk,, and Signal Science, respectively.

Ultimately, the lessons I learned as a result of my “epic failure” ended up shaping me into the engineering manager I am today and impacted the trajectory of my career. I hope others also benefit from my shared tale of woe when navigating their own transitions into the next level.

Have you experienced an “aha” moment in the face of a career challenge? Tell us about it in the comments.

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