Software developers meet with Engineering manager

8 Steps to Becoming a Software Engineering Team Manager

This article shares some insight into the organizational culture within the ZipRecruiter Tech Team. If you’re interested in learning and growing in an environment like this, please visit our Careers page to see open roles.

I recently completed the transition from software engineer to team manager at ZipRecruiter, the fastest growing job marketplace in America.* It took me just under 3 years, including an unanticipated delay thanks to a certain virus you may have heard of. 

This shift was a dream-come-true for me, and the result of a well structured career path. A series of stepping stones, laid down by my manager, helped me prepare for the responsibilities of leading a team of six developers, with varying skills and ages, across multiple time zones. 

Now, after a year of management, I’m glad to share key insights and recommendations for anyone inspired to lead as a technical team manager.

1. Ask yourself if you really want to be a manager—‘find your why’ 

  • Being a manager isn’t for everyone. If you’re on the management track just because it’s the only way up the corporate ladder, you might be in for a disappointment. 
  • Do you have a passion for everything management entails, not just the promotion?

During my final year as a programmer in the IDF’s Meitav unit, I asked my superior officer to task me with the additional duties of company sergeant major (CSM), in charge of administration, shifts, and equipment. When I first came to the unit, the acting CSM simply didn’t care about the soldiers he was supposed to represent, and I wanted to prove that it could be done differently. 

I got the job and it was the best year of my service. The satisfaction I felt while providing support to the division’s soldiers, and the deep appreciation they expressed, was incomparable to anything I had experienced before.

I realized that helping improve the environment, processes, and communication people encounter while working, in addition to the work itself, was something I was very excited about. 

2. Understand your company’s formal career track and milestones

  • Get clarity on the milestones that lead to becoming a manager.
  • Companies that encourage all their employees to develop, provide both managerial and professional trajectories. 

Even before I joined ZipRecruiter, during the first interview with Ran, VP of Engineering and the hiring manager at the time, he asked me which career path I saw myself advancing on—professional or management. Without a moment’s hesitation, I answered: “management.”

The management track at ZipRecruiter is as follows: you start off managing a small team in trial mode, without formally receiving the title and promotion. During this period, which generally lasts three months, you assume full responsibility for ongoing management of the team. It is an opportunity to experience the role, before deciding if you are ready to take it on full-time. In essence, you are both being tested and testing the position yourself. 

Upon successful completion of the trial stage, one can officially be promoted to engineering team manager. And if you decide the position isn’t right for you, shifting back to being an individual contributor (IC) on the professional track is easy.

3. Align expectations with your manager early on and make a plan 

  • Coordinating expectations is the foundation for a “course of action” that will ultimately enable you to smoothly transition to becoming a manager. 
  • It is extremely important that you assume an active role in the expectation setting and planning process. Don’t wait for the opportunity to arise; challenge your managers and ask them what you should do to advance towards—and achieve—your goal.

During my first few months as a software engineer, Ran and I made a point of discussing my goal of becoming a manager at length. What skills I had to develop, the resources I needed to succeed, what this required of each of us, and how we could ensure we stayed on track. 

At ZipRecruiter, like most software companies, the manager of a technical team must have the technical knowledge to guide team members and pitch in when it’s crunch time. Taking the time to develop those skills, alongside management skills, is imperative. 

The plan we devised outlined how I would develop the spectrum of skills that a leading developer at ZipRecruiter, who is also a manager, must possess. Ran promised to challenge me at every available opportunity, and his constant feedback on my performance kept me motivated to succeed.

4. Gradually develop the management skills you need to advance

  • Together with your manager, find as many growth opportunities as possible. Training and mentoring new employees, leading complex projects, collaborating and pitching to Product, will all help you develop along your desired trajectory. 
  • Don’t underestimate the learning process. Gradually(!) take on more responsibility while making sure you have all the support you need to succeed. 

After only 3 months at ZipRecruiter, Ran asked me to mentor a new team member and bring him up to speed. Several months later I represented our team on an important transverse project. I took on both these opportunities without a moment’s hesitation, knowing that they would enrich my experience and serve as stepping stones to “the real thing.”

Then, a big opportunity came my way. An unknown issue in our integration with Google Jobs was causing us to lose inbound traffic from Google. Ran didn’t sugar coat it: “solving this will be huge,” he told me, fueling my motivation to tackle the task.

He wanted me to lead the project, and assigned two talented teammates to work under my direction as tech lead, while Ran mentored me in the background. With all this responsibility placed on my shoulders I felt challenged and emboldened. I was eager to steer this project to success. 

First, we investigated the problem. It turned out that we were sending Google multiple instances of the same job description, with only minor differences, and every update to the position sent out multiple change tasks. Google’s system didn’t like it and was reducing our priority. We backed this up with data, and spent a month planning the solution. I then wrote the Design Document and presented it to Product—another opportunity, another stepping stone. We now send out only one instance per job, and consolidate changes into one task. After implementing the update, traffic spiked by 3x within just a few days. Talk about impact.

The success filled me with pride and joy. Not just because of the final result, but mostly because of the path we took to get there. I led a very talented team, and together, we were able to develop, pitch, and implement a complete business and technical solution.

5. Start small, if you can

  • It’s a lot easier to transition to management with a smaller team of 2-3 developers. 
  • A smaller team will give you space and time to learn. You’ll be able to get to know each developer and what motivates them, receive guidance from your mentor, hone management skills, and keep up with your technical advancement. 

Eighteen months after joining ZipRecruiter, Ran was creating a new team to handle all of the Job Seeker Acquisition group’s micro-services, and offered me the management position. 

I embarked on this new journey with two team members—one in Israel and one in America—and a few open positions to fill. The goal was to build a team of 5-6 developers. 

I immediately felt as though I’d jumped up the corporate ladder. One-on-one meetings, quarterly planning sessions, bi-annual evaluations, and more, filled up my schedule. 

Two main challenges stood before me, both of which pertained to my team members’ personal development. The first regarded my American team member. He had been with the company for five years and spent most of his time maintaining and improving two critical micro-services that he had developed himself. He loved the work, but didn’t like being a one-man show. It was clear that he wanted to be part of a team. The fact that he was eager to overcome the 10 hour time difference and never missed a video call, just goes to show how committed he was. 

My second challenge was to help my Israeli employee develop and take on larger projects, so that he could advance on a professional level.

6. Accept change as part of the path to management

  • Changes and challenges are inevitable, many of which you have no control over. In fact, managing change and uncertainty is precisely what you are preparing for. 
  • Adopt a flexible mindset, adapt to the reality at hand, and keep the goal in sight. 
  • When things veer off course (and they will) don’t give up; coordinate with your mentor, adjust, and keep moving. 

In my case, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a change in plans. We temporarily paused recruiting, and the next stepping stone to a managerial role, a bigger team, was nowhere in sight. 

I wasn’t discouraged, and continued to manage the micro-service team while focusing on the targets I had set. I began a significant project with the team member in America, and he was enjoying the new challenge, as well as the opportunity to work as part of a team. My Israeli employee continued to lead larger-scale projects and develop his skills en route to becoming a senior software engineer. I enjoyed guiding him and communicating exactly what was required, just like Ran had done for me. 

Precisely when I was getting the hang of things, a re-org in the company forced me to move to a new team altogether. It wasn’t initially easy for me to accept, but after setting expectations with Ran, I understood that it was a good opportunity to practice being flexible as companies grow. 

7. Be a leader, even before you are promoted to management

  • Establish yourself as a leader, so that your eventual shift to a management role is smooth. Lead whenever you can, because that’s just who you are. 
  • This requires delicate handling of your colleagues, emotional intelligence, and the support of your own manager.

The team I joined was much larger and more mature, but it belonged to the same group I was already in, so I was familiar with its objectives. Ran and I defined what my main goals would be: quickly assimilate into the team’s processes, initiate and get involved with as many projects as possible, mentor a new employee, and slowly become the team’s natural leader. 

Within six months I was promoted to official Team Manager. No one was surprised and the transition occurred seamlessly and without drama. Six developers were now under my management.

8. Don’t be a superhero, learn to delegate

  • New managers should be aware of “superhero syndrome”; a situation whereby one repeatedly tries to do it all, instead of sharing the load and delegating. 
  • Spend time getting to know each team member, mentoring and teaching them. This will create the knowledge base and trust you’ll need to “let go.” It’s the best investment you can make.

My new reality was extremely challenging; a nice-sized team with two new hires, and tons of responsibility related to data systems that support the company’s web services. I was scrambling. Then, just a few weeks after taking the reins, I stumbled upon an article about “superhero syndrome,” and it dawned on me that I was suffering from exactly that! 

It wasn’t easy to overcome, especially with new hires on board, but what helped me the most was first acknowledging the problem. Once I internalized that my main objective was to promote the entire team’s success, I quickly shifted my focus. I helped my team members further develop their skills, which enabled me to delegate tasks to them and tackle broader, more strategic, tasks myself.

The transition to management is not always simple; in fact, it can be quite challenging. But once you’ve decided it’s right for you, the effort is worth it. Finding a company with a structured career path, and a manager that is delighted to groom and support you, is essential. Then, by maintaining a flexible mindset, advancing adamantly, and learning every step of the way, success is all but guaranteed. 

Good luck!

This article shares some insight into the organizational culture within the ZipRecruiter Tech Team. If you’re interested in learning and growing in an environment like this, please visit our Careers page to see open roles.

* Source: Similarweb Market Intelligence Platform. Fastest growing online employment marketplace defined by number of total visitors. Results shown are from Feb 2021 – April 2021 compared to May 2021 – July 2021 for individual domains of,,,, and and not for parent companies, subsidiary sites, partner sites or subchannels.

Written by

Omri Yossefy is an Engineering Manager at ZipRecruiter, with 10 years of experience in Full-Stack and Data Engineering roles. Besides office table tennis, Omri loves the challenge of scale at ZipRecruiter, which pushes him and his team to enrich their knowledge and break boundaries every day.

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