When I joined my last company, I was the most junior engineer in a team of four.
Because we were small, you got a chance to build a product and completely own it. But two years in, I felt like I wasn’t really progressing. Everyone who had joined before me—or even six months after—seemed to be in more explicit leadership roles. Not me. As the team grew, I felt like I was still doing the same things and just taking tasks that were being given to me. Though people gave me positive feedback, I felt like I wasn’t being considered for bigger jobs in the future. I had this feeling that even if I did my work super, super well, I wasn’t going to be given more opportunities.
I had also taken maternity leave, and by the time I came back, the engineering team had grown from 10 to 15. It went from people who knew my work very well to a bunch of senior people who didn’t know me at all. It was a really rough transition.
I remember one performance review and feedback session with my manager, where at the end, I had to talk about what I wanted to get out of the next six months. I felt like people saw me as a mid-level engineer who got stuff done. But he said: “You know, in six months I think you could be leading a team of 10 engineers.”
I was so confused: That wasn’t how I saw myself at this point. But he saw I had a lot of untapped potential, and knowing he was on my side and wanted to help me achieve that was everything.
He recommended I start having one-on-ones with some of the more junior engineers, the ones I felt I had a good relationship with. I would have felt extremely awkward just doing this on my own, but because he asked me to do it, it felt like it was more OK. A few months after, we checked back in, and I named a few people I would be comfortable working with. He sent out an email announcing that I was moving into a leadership role.
“Because he really pushed me and saw me in that role—and he saw something in me—I really stepped up to actually do it.”
My transition into management was really smooth and I felt really supported. I think my manager did a good job of seeing something in me and laying out that vision for me—a lot of it was him saying, “Hey, we have this situation, I was thinking you could lead this team.” Because he knew about the organization and the possibilities, he played a huge role in keeping me in mind and how I wanted to grow. And because he really pushed me and saw me in that role—and he saw something in me—I really stepped up to actually do it.