Software engineering manager Matt Compton has worn several career hats since finishing his Masters degree at Georgia Tech–including a stint at the Atlanta based company, Big Nerd Ranch.
Even though his current role is in management, Matt shares that people should not see moving into management positions as the only option for career growth. He believes management is a different career track, with a completely different skill set. And just like engineering or app development, you should only do it if you enjoy it.
Growing up in a small (at the time!) town in Georgia, Matt describes his perspective before going to college in Atlanta as limited and US centric. After meeting his wife, who grew up in Switzerland, his views of the world have broadened–for the better, even though talking politics at dinner took some adjusting.
In his downtime, Matt’s currently enjoying kickboxing and online gaming. However, with the recent birth of his son, his free time might be a bit more limited in the future!
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In this blog, we’ll discuss what being a manager really entails with insights from Matt and how to determine if it’s the right career path for you.
Background of a software engineering manager
When we spoke to Matt, he was in hot pursuit of a master’s degree at Georgia Tech. That isn’t to say he hasn’t gotten a footing in his career – Software engineer turned manager, Matt discovered a real passion for leading a team and managing people. More on that later.
Since Matt was young, he’s always enjoyed playing video games and learning about computers – so much so, he landed a job in the video game development industry. He quickly found out that developing video games is challenging. It wasn’t for him.
He discovered a passion for developing Android apps when for fun, he started designing apps for himself and his friends to play.
Armed with the discovery of a career field he actually enjoys, he decided to pursue a career in the Android realm instead.
Matt advises anyone who’s interested in software engineering to be ready to “Roll with the punches.”
You’ve got to love learning, and be ready to adapt since Android policies, APIs, and permissions are constantly evolving.
Throughout his career, Matt has transitioned from developing apps to overseeing those who do. He has managed both Android and iOS teams and has worked in managerial roles at several different companies.
A career in management
Being a manager is more than leading teams, although that’s a huge part of it. It involves diplomacy and project management, among other things.
Management roles come in various forms.
For example, project managers are responsible for planning, executing, and closing projects.
They ensure that objectives are met on time and within budget. This role demands strong organizational and leadership skills.
Photo by Yan Krukau
Then there’s people management – People managers lead teams and help people grow. This type of role requires excellent interpersonal skills.
Operations managers oversee the daily operations of a business with a focus on optimizing processes.
With so many management roles to choose from, it’s important to find your personal niche.
Pros and cons of being a manager
As with any career, there are pros and cons to being in a management position. We’ll discuss these below.
Pros of a Management Career
When you’re a manager, you are in a unique position to lead and inspire others as well as make decisions that shape the organization’s future.
Depending on how you look at it, management provides a career path of constant learning and self-improvement. You’ll become well-equipped to solve problems, make important decisions, and communicate effectively.
The higher pay scale doesn’t hurt either – Managers often get paid more along with opportunities for bonuses and incentives.
If you’re eager to make an impact, it’s worth noting that managers have the power to influence the direction of projects, teams, and even the entire company.
Cons of a management career
With great power comes great responsibility. As a manager, you are accountable for your team’s performance and the consequences of their decisions.
You might also work longer hours than some of your colleagues. Additionally, you will be expected to juggle multiple responsibilities while managing various personalities – this can be a challenge for some.
Be prepared to face feedback and criticism – Your decisions can have a significant impact on the organization. You will have to be ready to answer the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ about why certain decisions were made.
Who is management best suited for?
Matt aptly mentioned that management roles are best suited for those who are genuinely interested in leading, guiding, and enabling others to succeed.
If you’re considering becoming a manager, consider whether or not you’re an effective communicator, ready to adapt and solve problems, able to make tough decisions, and in a position to lead your team.
Matt emphasized that entering a management role should be motivated by the right reasons – It’s not just about the title or the paycheck.
He suggests that aspiring managers need to be genuinely interested in learning how to manage people and their emotions effectively. Understanding and embracing your unique management style is key, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Matt stressed the significance of trust and open communication within a team. Building an environment of “psychological safety,” where team members can take risks and learn from their mistakes without fear of repercussions, is essential for success.
You may even want to consider what size company you’d prefer working for. Matt says that different management environments suit different people – and he’s not wrong.
Mid-size companies can offer structure and established practices which makes them an excellent choice for those who value stability and a sense of purpose.
However, management roles can vary significantly depending on the company or industry, so finding the right fit is key.
A career in management is filled with opportunities for growth and impact. Whether you’re leading projects, people, products, or operations, the world of management is a dynamic and rewarding one for those who are up for the challenge.
Work-life balance as a manager
When most people think about being a manager, increased responsibility, long hours, and high stress levels often come to mind. It’s not unwarranted – The demands of overseeing teams, making tough decisions, and achieving business goals can take a toll on one’s work-life balance.
Photo by cottonbro studio
In the long run, achieving a healthy equilibrium between work and personal life is crucial for continued success, both professionally and personally.
Balancing the demands of a managerial role with personal life can be challenging for several reasons.
You may find yourself working longer hours to meet deadlines or address issues.
It is on you to make tough decisions on a regular basis – For some, this can be mentally draining.
Then there is the pressure to perform and achieve organizational goals. For those who find it hard to switch off work, this can add a level of stress to their life.
Finally, managing a team may require being available to support team members, which can encroach into personal time.
Strategies for a Balanced Life as a Manager
So how do you stay sane and exceed as a manager at the same time?
Set Clear Boundaries
Define clear boundaries between work and personal life. Communicate your availability to your team, and ensure that they understand when it’s appropriate to reach out outside of working hours.
If you’re not delegating, start. Empower your team to take on responsibilities and make appropriate decisions. Your personal life will thank you.
Efficient time management is crucial. Plan your day, prioritize tasks, and set realistic goals to ensure that you have time for both work and play.
Learn to Say No
While it’s important to be a team player and support your colleagues, it’s also essential to recognize your limits. Politely decline additional tasks or responsibilities when necessary to avoid overcommitting.
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking short breaks during the workday. Even a few minutes to relax and recharge can boost productivity and reduce stress.
Use Technology Wisely
Technology can help you stay connected, but it can also blur the lines between work and personal life. Set specific times for checking work-related messages and emails.
Make Time for Yourself
We can’t emphasize this enough. Dedicate time to activities that relax and rejuvenate you. Whether it’s exercise, a hobby, or spending quality time with loved ones, prioritize self-care.
When it comes to striking that balance between work and life, Matt’s advice is to find what works for you.
The idea of work-life balance is a highly individualized concept and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different strategies and routines until you find the right balance that suits your lifestyle.
Be intentional about making time for hobbies and recreation.
Matt himself enjoys activities like kickboxing, video games, and outdoor walks with his wife which allow him to unwind and refocus.
Work-life balance is attainable, but you’ve got to be intentional about it. Set boundaries, manage your time effectively, and prioritize self-care.
A management career can be both exhilarating and demanding, but it’s not for everyone. In fact, you may find yourself happier just doing what you’re already good at – Like Matt, who wouldn’t necessarily mind if all he did was write code all day.
As a manager, finding the right work-life balance is the key. What works for one manager might not work for another. The path to finding the perfect balance involves setting clear boundaries, effectively managing your time, and learning to say no when needed. It also means making time for oneself and engaging in activities that provide rejuvenation and relaxation.
A healthy work-life balance is a fundamental requirement for effective management. When you take care of your well-being, you are better equipped to make sound decisions, lead with a clear mind, and ultimately excel in your role.
Seek out strategies that allow you to lead and inspire your team while preserving time for personal passions, family, and relaxation. You can do this!