to Manage Humans

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. to Manage Humans
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Software Engineer to People Manager

If you stumbled on this blog post you may either be an individual contributor (IC) aspiring to be a manager, or a good manager looking for ways to promote an IC to be a manager. This is a step-by-step guide to become a successful people manager. I'm presenting the steps in the form of a doc, which is typically used for a step-by-step guide to install a project. The journey of an IC to an Engineering Manager is just like a project. Hopefully this document will help you in your journey or project from IC to people manager.

Getting Started

Most software engineers at one point of their career hit the crossroad of which path to pick — technical ladder or management ladder. Software engineers may face this crossroad more than once in their lives. This is to help those engineers who are looking to grow their management skills.


Reading a book about management isn’t going to make you a good manager any more than a book about guitar will make you a good guitarist, but it can get you thinking about the most important concepts. — Drew Houston

The book “Managing Humans” by Michael Lopp explains various important aspects to managing your team. Lopp talks about how as a manager you become a connector between your team and the rest of the organization. He explains many different aspects of manager jobs like offsites, 1:1 meetings, meetings and so on.


Another author, Rob Wormley, articulates a 12 step process for leadership:

  1. Jot down your goals - Starting a day with writing down your goals is a great way to stay focused. Make sure you have your goals in the priority order. Keep the most important goals for morning, so you can get to it with a fresh mind and before there is any kind of disruption. You can use a notes app or tools like Trello.
  2. What are your weaknesses and how can you improve - Knowing your weakness and working on it will help you improve. Work with your manager to check constant progress on improvement.
  3. Ask for feedback from your team about your leadership skills - Giving and taking feedback is a good topic to discuss in your 1:1 with your team. This will give you regular 360 degree feedback.
  4. Get organized in everything — one on ones, meetings, and status reports. This is a key characteristic of a leader, for example: having a regular 1:1 meeting, group meetings, taking notes and sharing it afterward are a few tips that I follow.
  5. Get trained, there are tons of leadership courses and books for your rescue - Leaders never stop to learn. With so many changes in todays tech world, it's very important for us to keep in touch with the latest technology.
  6. Read management books - I did my masters in Information Science with specialization in Project Management. I learned about concepts of managing projects and how valuable stakeholders' confidence is for a project to be successful. While that will definitely help in a management role, it will also help if you read books on people management like "Managing Humans" by Michael Lopp, "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams" by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister.
  7. Learn to listen - One of the key skills of being a leader is to listen effectively. Listen like you care. Every employee is going through stress and pressure at work and in their life in general, and by showing empathy towards them, you are learning about distractions that impact employees performance and in turn your team's.
  8. Practice praising and rewarding - Praising and recognizing a persons skills or super powers will motivate them. This positive influence will act like a fuel for them to perform at their best capacity. Praising someone in public is also very important. At BigCommerce, I really like the shoutouts to people we want to recognize, which we do during Friday lunch time. is also a great tool for instant rewarding.
  9. Find a mentor or coach - BigCommerce has started a mentorship program, where people have signed up to be mentors and mentees. I want to put emphasis on the fact that your title should not matter for you to be a mentor. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing them is the first step of learning. As a leader you ought to know what you can teach and what you are lacking in to learn from others.
  10. Communicate effectively - There are different modes of communication - vocal, written, and most important of all, non-verbal communication. It is very important that you are an effective communicator in all the modes.  
  11. Be transparent - The less trust and respect in your organization, the more transparency you need.  The more transparency you have, the more people will trust and respect you. I have noticed that having a consistent 1:1 at the same time and not rescheduling it often helps build that trust.
  12. Create a feedback system - I recommend reading the book "Radical Candor - Care Personally and Challenge Directly" by Kim Scott. This book talks about how it's very important to give constructive feedback to people, so that it will help them grow in their career. Managers who have low, almost non-existent involvement in their team’s work are called absentee managers. Those with extremely close involvement are micromanagers. And in between those are the thought partners, the ones who empower, enable and encourage their teams to do the best work of their lives.

Running the tests

Listening and taking feedback from your team members is a good, on-the-job test. Increase your “test coverage” by seeking feedback from peer managers, from other teams and companies.


Having 90% test coverage and a good supporting manager is key to deploying an IC to manager.


“Managing Humans” | Third Edition | Michael Lopp

What Makes a Good Manager? | Brianna Hansen

The 12-Step Process For Improving Your People Management Skills | Rob Wormley | Kim Scott

Originally published on Medium.