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Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers

Lead Time Chats: Season 2, Episode 2 Takeaways

June 23, 2021

Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, talks to Tess Rinearson, VP of Engineering at Interchain, about about advice for early career engineering managers.

Tess became an engineering manager at the age of 24 and noted that she's been solicited for advice for even younger engineering managers - some as young as 21.

Tess and Jean discuss:

  • The recent trend of earlier career engineers moving into management (sometimes as young as 21 or 22 years old)
  • Working with mentors and coaches as ways to surround yourself with context, experience, and wisdom
  • How to manage and support engineers far more senior than yourself
  • The manager-engineer pendulum, and the challenge of leveling up both skill sets simultaneously

Takeaways from Tess

Pandemic burnout is leading to earlier career engineering managers

“It may have something to do with like the pandemic. I think a lot of managers are burning out right now and switching back to the IC track and all this other stuff. I've just heard from a lot of friends and the younger siblings of some of my friends who are getting into engineering management roles earlier and earlier, like when they're 21, 22, very early career management track.  So people are like, I know you were pretty young when you became a manager.  Do you have advice? What was that like?”

Ask your company to invest in you with coaching and training

“I also definitely encourage people to ask their companies for resources around either training or coaching. I worked with you, Jean, when I first became a manager, and that was so helpful for me. I really recommend  that people do that, especially when they're young, like you just kind of get to borrow all this wisdom, right? Because the challenge of of being new to anything is that you don't have that wisdom.

You don't sort of have that pattern matching and that intuition built up yet. And if you can talk to someone regularly who has been through a lot of stuff and seen all of that, it's almost like they can like lend you some wisdom to get through situations, until you start to sort of, you know, build up your own library of experiences and things you can can draw on.”

Get clear on what you can provide to very senior engineers

“The first thing that I really recognized with some of the very, very senior people who I was managing was that, I wasn't really going to teach them anything, but I could help provide a different perspective and help provide context on things, help provide the 10,000 foot view so they could focus on the things that mattered more to them.  I could unblock them from things. I could give them feedback on things like communication style or, or working style, or just provide insight maybe into things that these people weren't seeing  on their own themselves, and that's not necessarily something you need a lot of technical seniority for. That's really just about sort of being there to support them.”

As a manager, figure out how you can work effectively with different folks on the team

“You're going to have a different relationship with every person on your team. You will be more of a mentor to the more junior folks perhaps or even to your peers.  You may be more of a supporter or an unblocker for the more senior folks.  And just going in and understanding that a little bit of a different style is going to work differently depending on each person you're working with and who they are and where they're at in their career.”

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About Lead Time Chats

Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

Lead Time Chats is brought to you by Range. Range helps hybrid teams check-in asynchronously about what matters most. Know what's happening through status updates that pull from tools like Github and JIRA without scheduling yet another meeting.

Checking-in with Range creates more focus time for heads-down work, all while feeling a deeper sense of connection and belonging with your team. To learn more about Range, you can check it out here.

Season 2 Episodes

» Episode 1: Camille Fournier on making boring plans

» Episode 2: Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers

Season 1 Episodes

» Episode 1: Will Larson on the path of the senior engineer

» Episode 2: Duretti Hirpa on mentoring junior and mid-level engineers

» Episode 3: Cate Huston on working with an external coach

» Episode 4: Juan Pablo Buriticá on common eng manager mistakes

» Episode 5: Gergely Orosz on the decision to go into management

» Episode 6: Lara Hogan on leading effectively in a pandemic

» Episode 7: Kaya Thomas on common early career engineer challenges

» Episode 8: Uma Chingunde on starting a VPE role in a pandemic

» Episode 9: Katie Wilde on supporting your team's mental health

» Episode 10: Akhil Gupta on navigating uncertainty in new roles

» Episode 11: Harper Reed on giving everyone a voice in team meetings

» Episode 12: Marc Hedlund on sponsorship

S2 E2: Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers
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