Notes on the Manager’s Path – A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth & Change – Camille Fournier

Last updated on September 21st, 2023.

Link to buy: Amazon
(This is an affiliate link. I get a few cents if you order through this link.)

Published / Read: 2017 / April 2023 (thank you for bringing my attention to it, Melanie Almeida)

tl;dr: Practical advice for new managers. Camille covers each step on the management journey, From mentoring, managing individual contributors to managing managers.
Would I read it again? Yes, hands-down. Camille shares real-life examples. I could relate to the issues and it felt like talking to a mentor. Although I’m not in tech, the book resonated with me.

Below, I’m trying a new format of note-taking. Clustered as a table. Let me know what you think.

TopicInsight from BookThoughts Corina
Starting out as a manager (p. xi)No one will tell you what to do as a manager.True story. The book is a good way to start. I advocate for investing a bit of money in coaching sessions.
Team dynamics (p.1)“The secret of managing is keeping the people who hate you away from the ones who haven’t made up their minds.” Casey Stengel
1:1 as an individual contributor aka “how to be a good individual contributor” (p.3)
Share beforehand with your manager what you want to discuss in a 1:1 meeting.
“Keep notes in a shared document”
Agree. Sharing information beforehand allows optimal use of time.
Tell your manager how you would like to receive feedback. It has become standard to praise in public and criticise in private. If you don’t feel comfortable in receiving praise in public you should tell.Generally, you should tell your manager anything you don’t like what she’s doing. That’s the fastest way to correction. Don’t tell others, she will eventually never receive the message.
“Ask her for advice. It is a good way to show that you respect her. People like to feel helpful and managers are not immune to this sort of flattery.”Interesting perspective.
How to be a good individual contributor (p.9) Bring solutions not problems.
Build a network with peers (p.6)“I encourage you to create and build a strong network of peers. One thing that early career engineers often don’t appreciate is how their current peers will turn into their future jobs. This peer group includes everyone from your schoolmates to your teammates to the people you meet at conferences.”
Networking in general (p.18)“You may be an introvert or someone who does not find socializing easy, but conscious effort and practice in getting to know new people and helping them succeed will pay off”.
Mentoring an intern (p.14)“You’re in a position of huge power in your intern’s eyes.”I find reversing perspective always helps. How did I feel 20 years back when I was an apprentice?
Mentoring in general (p.17)“Your mentee may someday be on a team that you are interested in joining, or you may someday want to bring her into a team you are running in another area.”Doesn’t resonate with me. I like to focus on the present and be the best possible mentor now. Getting some sort of profit is not a priority.
(p.19)“It’s ok to say “No” to mentoring. Don’t do it unless it is rewarding for the mentee or you. “
Manager type: the alpha geek (p.20)“… she is redoing the work of her teammates without warning. Sometimes the alpha geek will take credit for all of the work that a team does rather than acknowledging the strength of her team members.”Helpful advice to identify alpha geek.
“I told you so” is a frequent term.
“Alpha geeks get very threatened when people complain about systems they built or criticize their past technical decisions.”
“If you have ever wondered why people don’t seem to come to you for help despite your clearly strong technical skills, ask yourself whether you are showing some signs of being an alpha geek.”
Meetings (p.31&p.105))
“The worst scheduling mistake is allowing yourself to get pulled randomly into meetings. It is very difficult to get into the groove of writing code if you’re interrupted every hour by a meeting”
“(…)productive meetings require that participants do some up-front work.”
“you can decide to simply not attend meetings when you’re not clearly needed”
100%, and the same goes for instantaneous Slack messages.
Going back to individual contributor role after management (p.44)It’s common for people to try out management at some point, realize they don’t enjoy it, and go back to the technical track. Beneficial to know. And doesn’t come with a pay cut necessarily.
What is a proces czar? (p.45)“Process czars struggle when they fail to realize that most people are not as good at following process as they are. “That’s me!
Starting as manager – questions to ask (p.50)– “Are there any manager behaviours that you know you hate?”
– “Do you have any clear career goals that I should know about so I can help you achieve them?”
Superb questions to ask. They also work from individual contributors to managers.
Get feedback from the new hire (p.50)“A new person comes in with fresh eyes and often sees things that are hard for the established team members to see.”Similar to exit interviews. No one is as honest as when they’re leaving.
Signs that you are a micromanager (p.59)“The worst micro-managers are those who constantly ask for the information they could easily get themselves.”
“The team will not be productive or happy spending half their time gathering information for you that you could easily find yourself.”
p.61“Your time is too valuable to waste, and your team deserves a manager who is willing to trust them to do things on their own”
Project status (p.59)“If you’re managing a single team or two directly, you should know all of the details of the project status as part of your regular team processes.”
Giving feedback (p.63)“Coaching-based continuous feedback means going beyond a simple “good job” to really engage with the details and form partnership (…)”It takes more time to give profound feedback, but the feedback is more actionable.
p.66If the feedback seems valuable for the person to hear, share it, but don’t just blindly report all grudges.
Performance review (p.67)“I usually give people a printed copy of the review as they’re leaving on the evening before the review is scheduled”Doesn’t resonate with me. I agree with communicating beforehand. 24h lead time is too little imho. Also, reports shouldn’t be consumed outside of work. It is a work thing.
Promotion in corporate companies (p.69 +70)“Getting the promotion is a complex process that’s done only once a year and run by the senior managers.”
“…identifying promotion-worthy projects and trying to give those projects to people who are close to promotion”
Staying technical (p.77, p. 82))“However, at this level, if you don’t stay in the code, you risk making yourself technically obsolete too early in your career.”
“Using your managerial power to override technical decisions is usually a bad idea”
It’s a challenge to remain technical and excel as a people leader.
Gossip (p.83, p.181)(A manager) “should help their team focus on what they need to get done without being distracted by the wider drama, politics, and changes happening in the company around them”.
“It’s deeply tempting to rant to those people you consider friends in your reporting team about the challenges of your position, but this is a bad idea.”
100%, only communicate facts. do not share assumptions.
Stakeholder (p85)“If you have some group that depends on the output of your work. Treat them as your customers. “
Pleasing other people (p.88)“Your goal as a manager, however, should not be to be nice, it should be to be kind. ” (…) “It’s kind to tell someone who isn’t ready for a promotion that she isn’t ready, and back that up with the work she needs to do to get there.”
Prioritizing your time (p.104)
Chats (p.104)“Chat can feel urgent, but chat is almost as bad as email for communicating truly urgent and important information.”
Delegation (p.107)“If you don’t feel a little bit overwhelmed, you’re likely missing something.”
“As tasks come at you, ask yourself: do I need to be the person who completes this work”
Saying no (p.111)“Yes, and” “Responding positively while still articulation the boundaries of reality will get you into the major league of senior leadership.”
“Not right now” “(..) is somewhat passive-aggressive way of saying no”
Reminds me of child education.
Cliques (p.119)“When you hire a manager who builds a clique, that clique is likely to dissolve a nd leave the company if the manager leaves the company”
Smart working (p.122)“Can I do this faster? “Do I need to be doing this at all? What value am I providing with this work?”
Become a manager (p.140)“Many people are very reluctant to hire in management from outside”Now I understand why there are fewer leading roles publicly advertised.
Nuding (p.160)“Reminding people of their commitments by asking questions instead of giving orders. “
Role modeling (p.161)“Setting the best example for the team even when you don’t feel like it.”Role modelling never stops. Be a role model for work-life balance too. Don’t send emails in off-hours, take vacation, etc.
Working in diverse groups (p.179)“A very common clash occurs between people who are extremely analytically driven and those who are more creatively or intuitively focused. Another is between the people who prefer to embrace agility and change (…) and those who push for more long-term planning, deadlines, and budgets.”
“Your peers who are not analytically driven are not stupid.”
Culture (p.198)“Culture is how things get done, without people having to think about it.” Frederick Laloux
“The early employees will form the culture, for good or for bad – or likely for a mixture of both.”
Hire for attitude and cultural fit, not for experience.

Corina Burri

Corina is a SEO Freelancer from Zürich. Since 2016 she's in SEO and has contributed to publications such as SEOFOMO, Tech SEO Tips, or iPullRank. When not grinding, she enjoys exploring Switzerland with her family.

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