dill & fennel

One Month as a Manager

At the beginning of November, with temperatures in the bay chilling, I began to manage a team of four. I’ve managed before in my career, but never an Engineering team. I began my new job with a good amount of fear but also hope. Between ample mentorship, and a lot of reading, I had a strong suspicion I would pick things up alright.

My team is four people currently, which feels like the right amount to be able to have regular 1:1s and plan out work. My friends who manage more than 6 people struggle regularly with weeks that mostly fill up with 1:1s and planning, with an annual marathon feedback session. I don’t know how long I can keep my team on the small side, but I don’t plan to hire unless we have a reason to do so. To hell with growth for growth sake, I think.

This month the biggest thing I’ve learned is how tricky it can be to sit back and listen, even when you want to pipe in with a solution. Luckily, my team is smarter and more thoughtful than I am often, so it’s not too hard.

I hope my schedule stays as open as I’ve attempted to keep it. I have not-so-fond memories of a previous job where it seemed like every manager went week to week only attending meetings, and the common refrain was “I didn’t get a chance to work on that, I’ve been in meetings since last week.” Saying “no” seems very, very valuable.

Resources that have helped so far

My boss and a few friends sent me books to read as well as websites to check out, including Resilient Management and an excellent series on Cate.blog. I’d previously read or purchased a number of management books on other friend’s recommendations, as well as taking classes throughout my career on the topic. Honestly, going to weekly therapy is also a boon.

I’m also rewatching old Merlin Mann videos on attention and inbox management, as they feel even more pertinent today as a manager than they did as an IC.

So much of how to talk about people as a manager is not dissimilar from being a good partner or friend. Both involve active, empathetic listening, and a decentering of one’s own experiences to coach and mentor other folks instead of just waiting for a chance to tell our own stories. I for sure have a long way to go in all regards as both an woman and a manager, but I feel supported.

Here’s to a whole new career as a leader!