Sohan's Blog

Things I'm Learning

Onboarding as a New Engineering Manager

“I promise to take care of you” - believe it or not, I spent hours to come up with this message to make a first impression as a newly hired manager at Microsoft. Everyone in my team had more context than me. I was a complete newbie, yet their manager. While I had been a manager for several years, I had never started a new job as a manager. I felt super vulnerable. In my previous job, I made an impression as a technical leader before transitioning into an engineering manager. But as a new hire and a manager at Microsoft, it was a brand new experience for me. I was worried. I really wanted to start on a positive note from the get go. I had three weeks in-between jobs and I went back to my favorite leadership books, podcasts and talks for ideas. I took many long walks thinking about a heartfelt message to provide psychological safety to my new team. After many iterations, I eventually came up with that sentence, carefully choosing each word.

Based on the feedback I received, I can tell my obsession on making a great first impression has been very effective. I focused on building trust as my number one priority. I proactively reached out and connected to my team members, my peers, and leaders above me. Following radical candor suggestions, I shared a bit of my life story to start the conversation. Then, I actively listened to them, asked for suggestions, and made sure I took notes and always followed up if there was an action item for me.

In this post, I am sharing an actual artifact from my first call with my peer and a fellow engineering manager Peter Hess. Peter has over 3 decades of industry experience, and he has been at Microsoft for over 15 years, worked in many key Microsoft products in several countries. During my first one:one with Peter, I shared my screen and asked him to talk about what he does as an engineering manager at Microsoft. It helped me to get a great visual of his job, but more importantly, it helped me understand the expectations of my job as a new hire. Click on “See the board” button below to see the output of this hour-long conversation between me and Peter. Even if you are not at Microsoft, I think this mind map shows a pretty well-rounded view of the engineering manager’s job.

Of course, to succeed in a new job as a manager, you need to do more than just creating a first impression. The meta point is, prepare and take leadership in your own onboarding journey. It’s worth it.