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Swinging the pendulum back to engineering

Over the past two years, I’ve been engineering manager at Shopify. I managed the Mobile Tooling and React Native Foundations teams over here. I’m grateful that Shopify allowed me to experience what being a manager is like.

I learned that people are unpredictable and that sometimes there are behaviors you can’t explain. I changed my mindset from creating impact myself to create impact through people. This required figuring out who to put together on which problems to create the most creative solutions. I teamed senior and junior people up to level up people through mentoring. I defined a vision for the team and learned that in large corporations priorities change so much that you can’t stop iterating on them. I set up secondments for people in my team to have a first-hand experience with the products we build tools for, and keep our trust battery with them high. I put up promotion cases for people in my team and had to exit a person from my team because he was not meeting the expectations of the role. It’s not a pleasant experience, but I stretched your emotional intelligence by going through it. I leveraged my community and open-source connections to bring talent to Shopify that I’d like to work with. I’ve done tiny code contributions trying not to step in the way of the people in the team but most of the time I did. I evangelized my passion for building great developer experiences that are easy to use. I fought complexity and indirection introduced by configurability. I recognized my team’s work internally and externally and shared with the community how awesome it’s that Shopify invests in their own tooling. I had weekly 1&1s with the people in my team, provided feedback, and valued their impact through company-wide calibration sessions. I set up an on-call policy to provide support to the rest of the organization. And in all this journey I was extremely supported by the organization and its tools and resources.

I learned a lot by being a manager but I miss coding so much. I miss getting my hands dirty by building new tools and improving the existing ones. I tried to squeeze coding time into my manager’s responsibilities but ended up frustrated because doing deep coding was impossible due to the frequent context-switching my responsibilities required. For that reason, I’ll soon swing the pendulum of my career back to be an individual contributor again. In hindsight, I think it was a great idea to go through the management experience because I’ve learned so many useful things that will make me a better engineer.

The change will happen in a few months when the new manager is up to speed and ready to take the team. I’ll remain in the React Native Foundations team and work with the folks on the team to shape the experience of building React Native apps at the company. Exciting times ahead!