Becoming a successful engineer: the transition to management
In the final post of our series on becoming a successful engineer, Kevin Lester (Head of Engineering) and Manor Lev-Tov (VP of Data Science) discuss the transition from an individual contributor to an engineering manager.
“It was very difficult to transition to a leader”, Manor says. “While it is a promotion in the technical sense, it’s a new entry level position. It requires a lot of humility to start from scratch effectively.”
Management brings a plethora of learning curves
Most people get into computer sciences to be a creator. To be a successful engineering manager, however, you have to evolve your thinking in terms of what you’re creating
— Kevin Lester
Once you enter an engineering leadership role, your goals shift from creating a solution for a stakeholder to creating an environment where people are empowered to create their own solutions and succeed.
Manor reflects on using the imposter syndrome that befell him to get better as a leader in the engineering space. “I read as much as I could, spoke to colleagues and mentors who had been through it, and used tools like LinkedIn Learning and AlphaSights’ professional development resources to understand what a good leader looks like.”
“It’s very hard for new engineering managers to be satisfied, because they feel like they have much less to show for their work”, points out Kevin. Most engineers prefer to be individual contributors because the output is more tangible. In Kevin’s experience, however, letting go and delegating also brought with it an air of creation. “There is almost nothing more satisfying than helping someone else discover and build their passion”.
For Kevin — whose career has stretched from consulting at Deloitte, to building a product announced on stage by Jeff Bezos, to filing countless patents at Shutterstock (along with Manor) — the one constant has been the desire to unlock the creative side of computer science. In his leadership role at AlphaSights, he continues to search for ways to unlock creativity and scale it. “I’m proud to manage people who could build things in excess of what I could build alone.” Bringing together individuals with different perspectives and managing them on an individual basis allows for the final product to extend far beyond what any individual alone can build.
Engineers need to be strong at not just communicating with machines, but with humans as well.
– Kevin Lester
Adjusting to the shift
During their first 30 days, people typically want to spend their time head-down and digging deep into the product. For Kevin, it’s more important to spend those first 30 days forming personal bonds and creating relationships in the business.
Manor’s role has shifted from being more hands-on with AlphaSights’ data science, to focusing on helping his team scale and succeed as well as guiding them on how to watch out for pitfalls and shortcut failures.
Manor distills the move into management as “going from writing code and building things to creating processes and helping others grow in their career.” His role focuses on building and maintaining a good team culture through shared values. The desire to create such an environment was instilled in him from his first days at AlphaSights. “During my first week here, I got a sense of the notable atmosphere — everyone was alarmingly friendly and they were all invested in each other’s success”.
More often than not, navigating a team onto the right path isn’t always black and white. Kevin says, “There’s a perspective that being correct is the most important thing, but for me, the most important thing is the approach you take to achieve the right result [with each team member].” Assuming positive intent and approaching situations with empathy is central to deriving the most value out of a team. As such, a key part of any leader’s role is to mentor each member of the team with a personalized approach to put them in a position to grow as a contributor and as an individual.
Kevin and Manor have seen the engineering and data science team grow several fold during their time at AlphaSights. “We’ve brought on a bunch of amazing engineers and data scientists, and I’ve seen tremendous growth from those that have been here for a while”, says Manor. Kevin and Manor’s hope is that engineers, both tenured and incoming, will leverage their time at AlphaSights to grow into strong leaders themselves.
In our first two blogs, we looked at what it takes to become a great engineer and tips for navigating the application process. Interested in working alongside the likes of Kevin and Manor? Apply to be an AlphaSights engineer here.