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Journey from Frontend Engineer to Engineering Manager


Presented by Women Who Code CONNECT Recharge 2022 Speaker: Nataliya Pasichnyk (she/her), Engineering Manager @ Codility CONNECT Recharge 2022 Playlist:
At some point in your career, you wonder where you want to go next. You choose whether to focus on more technical subjects or take the management path. I joined the company as a Junior Frontend Engineer and within three years became an Engineering Manager. You will learn what steps have brought me closer to this and what can help you in choosing this path. I will share what challenges I faced in my first 90 days in my new role and what motivated me not to give up.
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I'm so excited to introduce our first talk for part two on the stage today journey from frontend engineer to Engineering Manager with Natalia Passagenic. Natalia is an Engineering Manager at Codeility. She has five years of experience working with front end technologies. She currently leads a team of engineers, supporting their development and helping the team to deliver great features. She tries to combine coding and team management, mostly working with React. But she is not limited to that at all and still acknowledged developing other technologies. Natalia is also a mentor in various programs which supports beginners in their path to It. After work, she spends most of her free time exercising, cooking or reading books. So welcome Natalia. Hello. I'm happy to be here and today I will share about my journey from something engineer to Engineering Manager. So I will begin with my short introduction. And I'm Ukrainian girl living for last eight years in Poland. I have four years experience as part of an engineer. Now I'm managing a team of four great engineers. Recently, I also joined Informative makers as ambassador. I think that training your knowledge is also a great way to develop your skills. So for last year, I often joined different programs as mentor support beginners to start their journey. I'm mom used to cats, like very annoying cats. I need to feed them at night and my main text tag is react type, script and python. So before we go into details of the topic, let's answer the question. Who is an Engineering Manager? There is no specific definition. They're all various from company to company. And in my opinion, the most important thing to remember in this role is that you're not responsible for people and not just for itself. As Engine Manager, you direct, plan, coordinate activities, you support your team in development, you mentor and motivate. Technical Specialty for quite a long time, I didn't even want to admit to myself that one day I would like to be a leader. Although even a school or university, I've been in charge of a team and a project you are doing. I always prefer doing it inside of someone. Admitting to myself that I would like to become a manager someday didn't mean that I would become one today, but it gave me a perspective on how to develop myself. So I will share some ideas. What helps me to get more ideas, what I can try being still an individual contributor in the team and considering engine management path. So the first one will be leading team activities. No matter what position you're in, you can always find an opportunity to lead something. Back in days when we were worked in the office, I always organized lunches, different building activities, remote coffees and other activities that can help to bring the team together. I also like to be a retro simulator and making sure that people work on action files. You can also try to support your manager to get some idea what manager role is. Try to get some opportunities to support him, maybe lead crossing projects, prepare some workshops. If you see your manager needs some help, offer it and don't be afraid. Maybe he's going for vacation. So say that you can support him and being in charge of the team, notice what can be improved and leaded. If you see that something can be improved in the team, do not expect someone else to do it, but try to take the initiative. When you're individual contributors, you may see more topics. As a new manager, because you're like working closely with the team, you're parting with another developer. You don't have to fix everything yourself. But the fact that you will bring a topic that will later be solved will help you to add more focus to the team just on yourself. And one thing I also would like explore your responsibilities as a manager. You will be taking care of the development of your team to get some ideas. What does it mean? You can try yourself as a mentor for a new person in the company or maybe some out of the work activities. For example, as I was training different as volunteer mentor even, I was always thinking that I don't know enough and I still need to learn and I still need to wait. But it can help. Maybe you can also join some guilt and find some topics there. So what's next? Yesterday you were just another developer and now you have new and no responsibilities. And unfortunately hiding is not an option. We need to start to learn what is expected from you and what are your priorities. You will get different new responsibilities no longer. You will have a lot of time to code and only occasionally maybe some activities. You will need to start planning your day differently and accept that the most important thing is your team. We usually find afraid of something new and in case of getting promotion and trying, it's also important like to give it a try. Figure out what is the most important for you to start and don't try to do everything at once. It was my mistake and I was feeling really tired. You'll be getting more questions and advertise, but step by step you will adjust to it and feel more comfortable with your narrow. Remember, everyone starts once and you can do it. I call when my first month I was like saying no, I'm not able to do it. I was ready to say I'm stupid, like give me back my opportunity, like going in village computer, but it's not an option. My start was different than I imagined. I was thrown in at the deep and quite quickly I was offered to become an engineer manager. When I at least expected it. He went to a team of site and my manager and PM if I had a moment and I was like let's go to a coffee. I found out that our engineering manager of our team was getting another offer still in our company and will be leading to other teams. And I was offered to take our team. I remember going to one of my colleagues and asking if he will support me because it was my mentor when I joined my company and I got support from my team and I tried. So when you are moving from individual contributor position, back engineer front end to an engineering manager position, it's quite easy to focus on what worked before. And it's important to check your focus to the team and act in their interest. So I have a question for you. Let's stop for a minute and saying what is a good manager for you? Please share in the chat your ideas. And now I will ask for you if you have access to share it on the screen. Okay. So I remember myself thinking about what is a good manager for me, it's someone who is listening and I can be open with. So, going forward, what can make it easier for you and what can support you? What can help? So you got an opportunity to become an agent manager. So let's discuss what can help you in your first fix in your role. The first one, I think what I missed, it was setting expectations earlier. It will save you a lot of time and openly share what do you expect from the team and how you can support them. And not discussing expectations would only result in a mismatch of them. Before setting expectations for the team, I encourage you to set expectations for yourself. Think about short term and long term ones. It will help you drive through hard time. Another important one is delegation. You can do a lot on your own, but to make your team successful, it's important to delegate. Help them block your team and connect them with the right people to stay up to your success. Celebrate the events with the team and discuss if something can be improved. Just remember that you can do everything yourself. And the sooner you start sharing responsibilities, the easier it will be for you and your team to succeed. Identify your Value with the transition to management, I got a wider exposure to the company. Another lead and manager will be asking for your opinion. Pretty often it will be representing the team and identifying your values will help you to make decisions. Sometimes it will be tough one, but I think the main one for me, it's like people first and making sure my engineers, my team is feeling good. And you need to take responsibility for decisions. Now you are in charge of the whole team. Different people, different managers. Leaders will be coming to you with different topics and everyone will want to put this as priority. It's important to remember that at the end of the day, you'll have to account for this and remember that sometimes it's worth refusing or focus on something else. I recall myself, my manager was coming to me with some topics. It was like yes, I need to say yes and like no way. And only after a few times saying that it was hard for me to manage this project or something, I learned, okay, I need to set priorities for my team and also taking the responsibilities because I'm saying yes. And in this case, I'll need to ask my team to work on it or maybe doing it on my oven. And it's not the best way to like it's not a pasta, so no one is perfect. Analyze it and accept it. You can make mistakes. It's very important not to give up after the first one occurs. I remember like I think after my two first weeks, I got quite negative feedback. And I recall that I was ready to go straight forward to my manager and ask if I can back to Frontier Engineering Truck because I was feeling comfortable in this position. I know how to develop my task, how to be successful. And here I'm getting negative feedback and it was hard for me to move forward. But as I get it earlier, it helps me to define okay, on what I can work and what can I support. So you learn how to solve technical tasks. You were doing well and now you're starting something new. At first it seems nothing like change. I would just get maybe one one with my team and continue writing code. Unfortunately, it's important to remember that it doesn't not work that way. And try to change the focus to the team. And just understand that to make successful team, you can do the same way of doing the tasks and also sometimes managing the team. So now, being responsible for the team, it's important to realize that you are not only responsible for yourself, but also for the team. And now if something goes wrong for someone in the team, it's also a part of your job to help this person. Don't try to take ownership only over success. Remember that over failures are also like your responsibilities and you can help success. And don't think that the problem will resolve on their oven and don't try to push it to someone else. And it's important to go in this direction that you're comfortable and you will manage. So let's think what can help you and what can be useful for you. So you're starting a new path to make it maybe easier this process. Try to find a mentor. Try to find someone who has been through similar challenges. Maybe our manager will be able to help or ever use time. It's better to learn from somebody else's problem than focusing only on making your mistakes and learning from them. One time when I got Negative feedback, I wasn't prepared properly for a meeting and really just didn't see what was expected for me in this meeting. It was the first time I was attending this meeting and when I asked a question and I got an answer, I was able to quickly correct myself. It taught me that it's worth asking more questions to get understanding of those and making sure like it's better to say ask twice and making sure you're clear with the topic and it will support you and also will reduce this awkwardness when somebody will be coming to you and you will not know what to say. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone in the company. Surely there's someone who can help you. I often discuss important issues with my team, my previous manager. Sometimes some things are easier for someone else, but doesn't mean that you can do it. Sometimes you write need to learn, you need to get some experience. You can do a lot on yourself, but you're a manager and it's hard to manage everything doing yourself rather than us. It's worth remembering that doing a job and delegating is just different size to achieve an outcome. And I recall being an individual contributor at Front and Interior. It was easy for me, like, okay, I'm taking tests and I'm taking ownership and knowing that when I will finish with it, when it will push and will be ready on production. And now when I'm coming with some tasks, I also need to ask my team what they feel when they see it possible to be doable what can be a problem. And it's important to give all the opportunity to success, to learn, to bring some value to the team and not trying to do everything for myself. Before I start my first job as Front engineer, I did a lot of different courses. But still when I joined the company, there were a lot of new things for me. Same happens when I become an engineering manager. I watched my team manager before and there was nothing complicated. It was like having a bit more meetings than me, less time for coding. But I was like thinking, maybe he's not good in time management and I will manage having the same amount of time for coding but still managing the team. But now when I started and there were a lot of new things, leading my first one on one was very scary. I wish I was better prepared, but if I can do it, I don't know generally, I don't know how many courses, how many mentoring sessions you need to have to feel that you are coming and you know, because each team is different. And recently I was talking with my friend who's now like engineering manager in a different team. He has a lot of experience of being like team leader, tech leader. And as he mentioned, each team is different. And mostly each time you are starting from the beginning as manager, one of your responsibilities will be to improve the work of your team. Work on strategy, it's important to notice what is missing. Sometimes it will be lack of specific skills in the team. Sometimes you will need to access what work is ahead of you and maybe hire an additional person, prepare the structure and making sure like as a manager you should try to anticipate what will be needed and ahead of time as you need to help your team success by building structures, connecting and filling the gaps. Maybe sometimes you need skill set from different teams. So maybe like going to the manager discuss, maybe some of the engineers from that team can help your team to grow. Maybe you will need some custom projects, but don't try only poxing that you will manage it but also work on the statute. What can help? Use a statistics. The first phase, until I got into the role, I think I managed to combine coding and being a manager. But then I had realized that if I want to be a good manager, I need to spend less time coding. It doesn't mean that I don't quote at all. Sometimes I have time for it. But now jutting by the day of medicine code is not the main criteria for me. And I remember myself sitting and thinking okay, so what is like to say that okay, I see something. During the day I had some meetings, I had an advance or something. But yesterday I was having one of my direct support and we are like instead of preparing him to promotion and seeing how happy he is with the opportunity he's getting, it's something making me myself happy. And I see that it's really great and you can help someone to develop. And I think the question I asked myself what do you expect most from your manager? And what I was missing. But some of my peers, they were not listening to me. I come with OK, I have some problem and like okay, try to resolve it on your oven, but not even like listening to me with the details, but like if you'll not manage, come, I will help you. And I ended up with Queen OK. If my manager is not even listening to me, mostly I don't need someone to tell me what to do. I was expecting someone just to listen to myself. And it's something what I am trying to do with my team is listening to them. If they're coming with some problems for me, I give them a space to discuss, ask some questions and mostly all the time they will be able to resolve this problem on their own, but they will feel that it's better for you. So what was scary for me, the first one on one as a manager can be tough and scary. I will share a few things that help me. But I remember before I was having one on one with my manager. It was like great, I just need to join the meeting or go to the office. And in this case, okay, I need to do something on my own. So it's not a fast update. It's something I had in my career before. When joining Vance. It was only time when I was getting information. What we are planning, what are like tasks. I need to focus. What is important that it's time for you to discuss about the person. Like to learn more about your direct report. Ask the question how you can support them. Maybe they have some problems and you can help them. It's also very important to prepare an agenda. Like I recall one of my managers and it was taking me longer to go to the office, to the room in the office than our one month. Because it was how are you generally? I'm good. I'm asking about him. Do you have any problems? No. End of the one on one. It's not a bad idea. Be prepared. Ask some questions. Have a list of questions before and making sure you have consistency with your one on one meetings. Don't skip them, don't reschedule them pretty often. If you need, yes, you can, but generally better. Like if you have it B weekly, try to have it in the same time. And making sure you are preparing. Ask a lot of questions. It's something open, question like and listen. Actively listen. It's important also to discuss career goals and plan. I recall myself always answering to question what is my plan? I was always selecting the technical one and on one of them it was I think two months before I jumped into engineering manager's role. I was thinking maybe sometime in future I will be open for management and roles because I really like to take care of teams. I like team activities. So it was great for me. And I was thinking maybe in two years it will be good. And it was different. And one of the important things also make notes, be prepared. So it will help you to track the progress. And also it will mean for your direct support the thing they are talking with you. It also matters for you. Remember, your relationship with each individual team member will vary. It's important to match with your direct report. What works with 1 may not work with another. And don't try to focus to force them to do something they don't like. And try to work on the way will be the best way to discuss with each of them. If you are passionate, you'll be great. In my opinion. If we are lack of experience, but we really want to develop ourselves. If we like this role, it's a good start on the way. Yes, you can be good a manager just because you feel passionate about it. But it will help you not to give up quickly and have the desire to develop yourself. Take on new challenges and strive for success. I have a few managers on my way, some I've had better, likewise, some I have worse. Likewise the experience has helped me to figure out what kind of leader I would like to be and what is important for me. And whatever I listen to myself or trying to be the leader that someone else has impulse on me. One of your important tasks will be to solve problems and support your team on survey. To succeed it is important not to pass the buck to someone else, but to do everything you can to unlock your team and take the next steps forward. Sometimes there will be more problems to expect, but remember, the team believes in you and you can on their support. So maybe before we'll be moving forward, maybe I can help answer some questions. Yes, we have some great questions. The first one is while I go back to find the other ones. But a lot of people wanted to know if you miss coding. Do you miss coding? I think it's a hard question. Yes, sometimes yes, sometimes no. But I think it's a big plus of being manager. Sometimes you can select the task you really like and work on it. And before as individual contributor you have task in there, you need to take some priorities and as a manager sometimes you can cheat on it and select which one you like. But yes, sometimes I miss and sometimes I would like to spend more time on coding. But seeing my team developing and seeing them on their way to success, I think it's more rewarding than even the code. I love that. Yeah, it seems like you really found it fulfilling, which is key to being a good manager. So Kelly wanted to know if you've ever seen someone, can you be an engineering manager of things or is it usually people? I think it depends on like companies. But I think for example, being a tech lead, more focused on technical stuff will be more on things than on people. And as a team manager we mostly will be focusing on people. We have a lot of great questions. This is one that comes up a lot from Caitlin Wu. How do you organize your time to make it work? It's an art to manage time in these roles. Do you have any tips for that? Especially when you need to structure deliverables? I think the tips for me will be focused blocks in the calendar. It's important to focus sometimes because you can have a lot of meetings and I'm trying to start my week with putting some focus blocks, maybe not coding blocks. Before it was like coding blocks and like knowing that I will not accept new meetings during this time. Sometimes if my manager is coming to music but something really important, I can scrape it. But generally I'm trying to focus to having that focus block great. Here's a great one from I'm just going to look at from Amira. You touched a little bit about this. But for agenda topics, when you're doing a one on one, what are some common agenda topics that you recommend? Yes, I have even list. So in the end you can reach to me. I will send a whole list. But generally I was attending training more. We can say about one effective one month and asking even how the team feels like your individual person is feeling about their plans, what they like from previous week, what they see that team is stuck or something. And like making sure you're listening. Because pretty often, like when person is even talking about them, general stuff, you can see the important topics for them. I think we can get back to the presentation and we'll have more questions then. Great. Okay. So just because you're now a manager doesn't mean you're alone. Your manager is also interested in your development that you succeed because it's also his success. In my case, I became manager of the team in which I have worked with some people even before. Like from my beginning with civility, I joined a company as junior from an engineer and I had a great mentor. It will be mentor, I will be always thankful. And now he's engineer who is in my team. And now I'm supporting him in his development. And it's really great to see that you can see the role. You can be a manager, you can work together. And now I know that I can rely on him. Remember that there are people in company who will help you and building this relationship between your team is really nice. First manager. And during your first month, it's important to focus on getting to know the team, figuring out how things will work together. Ask as many questions as possible and don't be afraid of not knowing. And don't try to hide and just avoid focusing ourselves. Now you're not individual contributor who is like to success. Like to focus on tasks like try to learn more about your direct report in your team. It's a new role for you. There are more responsibilities and you may not know something. Remember that when you start programming, how many questions you have, how often things didn't work at you and you were frustrated. It's also the same in management. Even like having a great manager in one company, it's not always will be the same in different team, in different company. So accept that sometimes you don't know something. And then I became a manager on my first day of vacation. I couldn't find a better time for vacation, but it was planned even earlier and I couldn't postpone it. After returning, I want to get up quickly but didn't decide in what order. And I felt tired very quickly. Coming back from vacation in today's, I was like okay, I need vacation on my own experience. I know it's. How important is to determine what I have to do in the first moment and what can wait. Adding time flows to work on some specific topic help me a lot. One of the very important things in the team for me has been always open communication. And that's something that when I became a manager, I wanted to continue to have my team. When I planned what the team will be going to work on. We try to do an assignment where every member of the team has an opportunity to share their opinion. Knowing who is responsible for what helps us avoid various problems and like making sure you clearly define your expectation role as possibility is something I think really working great in our team. After transition from the engineer to engineering manager, I really wanted to prove to everyone that I can do it and I take a lot of topics just on my oven. I realized quickly that it's not the best strategy. I have a great team in my team and if you manage them well, you can do much more. I stopped wanting to be a hero and focus on helping the team to set a good goal and direction, not trying to put myself always. And I really like to be like either in shadow when you're like only helping the team to develop and like not taking because the team success is also your success. But giving the kudos for my team for doing great work is also very safe. It's important for the team to know what success looks like so they can decide to achieve it. Share your ideas about implants. How would you like to tell your problem? What steps you are taking to help the team to deliver future? What our long term goals for the team? It will be also important for you. When you become a manager, you usually try to follow up the base from the previous manager of the team active, it's important to try something new. Don't try to change. Try to think about the fact in the different ways because I see the same result. And sometimes it's worth checking if a different approach will not be better for you and your team. As individual contributor, I love to go deep into technical problems and solve it. Now it's different. Quite often I come with a prepared problem to the team and team is like thinking about the details and it's okay. Like you're having the fighter field of vision but less debt and allow your team to guide the topic. Becoming a manager requires accepting responsibility for enabling others to succeed. Taking that lightly or even unknownly is setting yourself and those who report to you for failure. Always try to help your team to grow and learn new things. Create and create a team, not a collection of individuals. Maybe crossfunctional projects, role rotate and training the owner of the topic can help you to support your team in their development. After my first few months I sat down and asked myself if this was a role I liked if I want to continue what I like and what I wanted to improve my definitely I would like to continue and set out the things I would like to improve. Now I'm feeling more comfortable and confidential in the role. I'm happy to support my team and as I mentioned before, learn about your management style and like every single day when I become a manager I knew I had a lot of things to learn the way that helped me to set myself for a challenge for 100 days but during this time I will devote at least 30 minutes every day to study. Sometimes it was exactly 30 minutes, sometimes it was like longer but the way I really like tracking your successes it was easier as individual contributors finish the task, deliver the feature and now you'll need to track your success a bit differently. So remember now success is not written code as something else and it's also great remember to collect it in some way to help you to mobile. In order to achieve success I had to leave my comfort zone became a manager for a while working I worked in the company for over two years. I managed to going from junior to senior felt comfortable about doing my tasks and now and you're all your responsibilities, your manager and higher expectations unfortunately I don't feel very comfortable but it gave me a strong push to grow. You need to become a facilitator and try to address a problem and in this way like saying the team OK, we have a problem, how we can solve it and think you have great engineers in the team and they can support you. So it's not one way street you can change your future. So important to know that now I switch to it's not promotion going as ingenu manager it's not a promotion, it's a career change. So it's mostly for example different horizontal tracks. So if you would like to get back to being an engineer, it's still impossible so why not? Yes, I think you can do everything yourself but will it be easy other than us? Take advantage of the fact that you have a great team that is willing to support you in various topics. Don't be afraid to ask for help and it will make easier for you and also allows others to enable for failure and your challenges. Sometimes if you're a failure can make you do as little as possible just to avoid the change of failure. Remember everyone started out you have done amazing things in your life and now you will go don't afraid to take a step forward and go an extra mile and in the end enjoy the process. Like team management, it's complex but it's also very incredible feeling when you see your team development. I have now started to prepare people for my team for promotion and see how they develop and how important my support is for them, motivates me to continue and not to give up. So thank you for listening to me. You can find me on LinkedIn or an email. If you have any further questions or interesting materials I found useful, let me know. And now I think we have time for questions. Thank you, Natalia. And thank you for being available for people. I always tell people, feel free to take a screenshot right now of her email so you don't lose it. But we have a few questions, and we have about five minutes. So very quickly, I'd like to get this question from Sarah. Just a little bit of a clarification. So when you said you were studying, you do these time blocks for studying. What exactly are you studying? I was taking some courses about management. I was reading some books about management, like even going through some articles or checking some hard topics I was discussing with my team. It was still somehow improving, and pretty often I was spending more than 30 minutes for reading books about management, like your way of how you can support your team. Great. Okay, here's a question from Chandel, and a bunch of people have asked this. Tiffany, some other people have asked basically, what's been the most difficult issue you have faced as a manager? I think a lot of people are nervous about managing people. So what are some challenges? The hardest one was that in the beginning of my journey, I think it was like two weeks as manager, you need to say goodbye to one of our teammates. So it was hard because this person also joined, and I was supposed to be his mentor, but it was better for team and also for the purpose. So it was really hard making this decision. I think that's what people are nervous about when they think about becoming a manager. I think it's important to know that you have a manager mostly about you, and from their experience, they probably already have this kind of situation. So ask for help. Definitely. You mentioned in your talk about that you can change your mind, you can be a manager, and then you can go back to individual contributor. So a few people ask this big kind of question do you take time? Do you feel like you need to keep up and keep studying technically, or do you focus on management skills? Generally? I'm trying to focus on management skills. Sometimes I like doing site projects. Like, we were doing projects to help refugees from Ukraine, to learn Polish or English. Sometimes I'm doing good reviews or taking some small tasks just not to block my team. It will take some bigger one and will not be able to finish. But generally, I'm trying to focus on management skills. Great. So for our last question of the Day. A Few People Asked This if You Have Any Books Or Resources That You Recommend For Learning Management Skills. Yes, I Think Which One? I Recommend Months Now To Be On The Calculus. It's Really Nice To Spoke About Learning, About How You Can Manage. And Also I Have One Just Work. And It's Really Also Nice About Different Experience And Different Problems, but Also Extreme Leadership, I Think. I'm Not Sure About The Name, but It's Also A Lot Of Good Books. And Just Try Not To Lose Your Mind In All The Books. And Sometimes It's Better To Try. Yeah, I Think That's Great Advice. So We've Come To The End Now. Thank You, Everybody, For Your Questions. I'm Sorry We Couldn't Get To All Of Them. Everyone Had Great Advice About What Makes A Good Manager, what They're Looking For, but Definitely Keep Connected. And Thank You So Much, Natalia, and Thank You For Sharing Your Journey With US Today. Thank you. Yeah. We're Going To Take A 1 Minute Break, and We Will Be Back With Our Next Speaker. Thank You, Everybody. Thank you. Bye.