Hello! What's your background and what do you do?
Hello! My name's Monica and these days I'm working full-time on my own projects. But before this, I was the frontend engineering lead at a fintech company called SumUp.
As for my background, I'm a primarily self taught software developer. I started learning to code around age 10! Fortunately I grew up with computers and technical books, so it was a great environment for becoming proficient with technology from a young age.
Eventually I did a CS minor in University, though I never thought I'd actually work professionally as a developer. I studied Latin, Ancient Greek, and Classics as my main academic focus. My first tech job was as a Student Webmaster when I was 19.
How was your transition from software development to management like?
My transition into management certainly wasn't planned or prepared.
One day my boss told me he thought I should manage my two other co-workers, and I just accepted. From there, I had to learn as I went. I started reading books about management and getting advice from fellow managers in the company.
For instance, two of the books that had an impact on me at that time were High Output Management and the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. Both are great options if you're a new manager and you feel like you've got no time to get anything done!
When I took on the role, I was the most experienced dev on the Web Team. But that's not at all to say I was super senior whatsoever. I had a couple years under my belt, but that included years in research. Not exactly the same environment as a high-growth startup.
The reason the position was an option for me was largely because I was in a small but growing startup. Leadership decided to give me a chance to prove myself, and I'm grateful they did.
What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?
At the end of my time as a manager, I was really doing management full-time: I had 10 direct reports, a calendar full of meetings, and I spent a ton of time hiring.
Hiring was easily one of the most time-consuming parts of being a manager. What people may not know is that you don't just run your own hiring process, but you're often involved in other peoples' processes, too. In a fast growing company, a lot of hiring goes on!
In terms of what motivated me, it was really the chance to accelerate the careers of people who were in an earlier stage than me.
I knew that with the right knowledge, both in terms of working in teams and software development principles, they'd become advance faster than I did as someone who mostly taught myself. It was hugely rewarding to be part of that for my direct reports.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?
The biggest challenge in management was accomplishing cross-cutting changes in a growing organization.
As an organization becomes more complex, has more stakeholders, and more people involved, trying to implement big and impactful changes becomes slower. You really have to have the patience and determination to see changes through.
For example, it took over 2 years for us to migrate our Angular app to React. It also took me 6 months of collaboration to kill off some "legacy" processes, like manual email updates, that were made defunct by my confidence in our deployment process.
Migrations and processes are two sides of the same coin: a migration isn't a one-time decision. Every day you work on it, it's a choice. And without advocacy, it can get interrupted or halted in favor of other priorities. Similarly for processes: you have to consciously review them, or you risk continuing them without thinking or reflecting.
As a manager, it was my job to make sure we could ship the best product as quickly and safely as possible, even by working on implementing systemic change that was really slow and tedious at times!
What has been the biggest surprise so far? Something you didn't expect?
My biggest surprise as a manager in tech was just how much additional communication was required. You can't tell people your plans once, or explain your reasoning once. It is a constant effort to remind people of your agreements, strategy, and plans.
People have a much shorter memory that you'd think. The key is repetition and getting buy-in from other people, so they feel like they're part of the process.
What's the best advice you've received about being a manager?
That the goal of a good manager isn't just the success of an individual, but the success of the entire team. That might include people you don't manage directly, but work with or are affected by your direct reports. Having that big picture in mind is really important.
What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?
You have to go into management for the right reasons. I've seen a lot of devs imagining that going into management means you get to call all the shots, have it your way, and tell people what to do.
But who likes having a manager like that? No one!
In reality, management requires a lot of compromise. You have to have the big picture in mind. And that often requires sacrificing things you feel are important, for things that are more important in the grand scheme of things.
For anyone new to the role, I'd advise them to find other managers in the company to connect with. They are part of the same company culture as you. Because of that, they will be able to give you more relevant or nuanced advice than a book based on experience at other companies. Books are still great but you can't beat contextual feedback from people who know the culture.
Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?
You can find me most often on Twitter, @monicalent.
Thanks for having me!