On clustering contexts and raising visibility; week 3 as an engineering manager

On clustering contexts and raising visibility; week 3 as an engineering manager

March 17, 2021

Elevating visibility is a skill

Visibility is influenced by effectively messaging your vision

From an EM:

When explaining your team to recruiters or candidates, have a memorable one sentence pitch

What does your team do and why should people want to come work with and for you? Transitioning to management entails having an elevator pitch for your team the way you might have been coached to have an elevator pitch for yourself.

Visibility is influenced by effectively using your forums

From observing a sponsor in action:

Turn forums that you may have thought of as as read-only into read-write

Use forums such as your org's newsletters and internal social media platforms to elevate the visibility of your people and your team's work. Helping people to gain recognition is now part of your job - advocacy in practice.

Respect your different kinds of energies

Cluster contexts

Stacking 1:1s, while that may sound like a savvy idea in theory, can be draining in practice. This can be unfair to both yourself (for needlessly dipping into a low energy state) and the person on the receiving end of your low energy state. On the other hand, sporadicly scheduled meetings can inhibit the creation of focus blocks. How might you balance clustering with maintaining reasonable energy?

Pro tip from an EM:

Group meetings by context, spread those contexts out across the week

When I reflected on this by itemizing and categorizing my non-core commitments, I found that I was juggling ~six initiatives across ~five contexts.

Until you become the master of context switching, limit the number of contexts.

Brain dump β†’ let it go


, I talked about trying to Reduce artificially inflated sense of urgency by iterating on a personal task tracking systems.

In addition to PARA in Notion, I've been making extensive use of Slack reminders. Either snoozing messages or using /remind to jot down actions that may be important but don't require immediate attention. This can be faster and easier than tabbing over to Notion to create a task. I'll jump into Notion if an action is either farther out or has associated context that I'd like to capture.

Then I move on and don't think about the thing again until the reminder goes off, free up mental RAM for the things that require more immediate attention.

In a similar vein, one of the functions of this writing activity is allow me to synthesize my thoughts and then let them go, trusting that I can reference them later if needed.

Reflecting on the journey from IC to EM

Caught up with some friends from my Computer Science program. One is considered a transition to management and weighting how that might compare to staying on the individual contributor (IC) path towards Staff. Considering that 1. I spent at least one development cycle (6 months) thinking through that exact same thing, and 2. ruminating with thoughtful peers was instrumental in helping me come to my conclusions, I spent some time talking through some of my thought process. Here are some of the reflections:

On the individual contributor to manager journey: reflecting on my internal dialog