Developer’s Guide to Becoming a Manager

This article summaries my learning as I got comfortable into a manager’s position from being a developer. About 5 years ago, I switched from one company to my current job, just because they promoted me and made me a manager. I refused, and my then manager gave me a long talk on how I’ll get stagnant and go out of relevance if I continue to stay inside my comfort zone. I listened to him patiently, and then I quit. Now, after 5 years, I realise that I really can’t escape that fact. Except for very few careers, you do have to become a ‘manager’ (at least of sorts). Not because it’s compulsory, but because it makes more sense. After gaining enough experience, it’s simply better economic sense to lead (or train or mentor or manage) other people than contribute as a loner.

Even the senior people who claimed they’ve persisted to a ‘technical role’, are just under an illusion in my opinion. They are managing others one way or another. They just aren’t calling it management. Even hard core solo researchers have ‘research assistants’ – which does make it a management job in one way.

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

So I did commit to learning to become a manager. Don’t mistake me – I really don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to climb the corporate ladder to become CEO one day. I just think us developers need to step out of the comfort zone and learn to lead a few people because it has tremendous value to be able to do that, and opens doors which we might not even have considered before. This article records some of the things I’ve learnt from experience so far.

Lead the Project

You’re no longer an ‘executor’ who has to complete the tasks assigned to them. Management doesn’t work that way. It’s not another job where you get a to-do list. You need to lead. You need to know your project’s roadmap – even if there is a separate Product Manager or Architect who’s responsible for it. If you don’t know this, approach whoever is responsible and get to know it. Make sure you’re in the know when decisions are taken in the project. That’s what you need to be thinking about – Where is the project going next? Will it get there on time? Does it need to switch tracks? Are the initial assumptions still valid?

Delegate First

When you see a task, don’t think ‘I can just do this myself – it’s just a little thing’. That’s probably the worst and most common mistake new managers make. It’s tempting to believe that in the time it takes to explain to another person, review their work and accept it, we can just do it ourselves. That maybe true, only you have a different job now. Your job is not to finish that task – not anymore. Your job is to get a specific person/team to finish that task. So that’s what you should be focusing on. Get out of your comfort zone and start thinking about how you can get the other person to do it for you.

Start Managing

You might have thought so long that managing is just maintaining the to-do list. But you’re in to find out how demanding it is to maintain a to-do list. As a new manager you probably have only one project/team to manage so you’ll be expected to know the status of every single item in your project. You need to know how many bugs are there. How many of them are critical? What roadmap items are coming up in the near future? How occupied are members in the team? How spirited are they? Is any task running the risk of getting delayed? Can that delay be avoided? If not, who should be notified of the risk?


A developer who know how to write programs, can’t really earn his own living by sitting alone and writing programs. A large company can’t get their requirements met by a single programmer. Now that’s where you come in – the new manager. You take the output of several programmers, and consolidate them into a unit which is useful to the company. Most of the job of a manager is just this – to consolidate individual efforts and pass it on to your customer (or your superior). Other activities of a manager – such as appraising team members, reporting project status etc., are supplementary to that main goal. Although it doesn’t come out that much, it’s the fact – you are there to tie pieces together towards an ulterior goal.

Get Feedback

This is something that we usually learn very late. This communication is important, and might be considered one of the most effective communication that can happen between a manager and their team. You should always be on the lookout for receiving feedback about how well you’re doing as a manager. You can succeed as a manager only if your team is committed to your leadership. But you might not be able to ask for this directly. It will put your team members in an awkward situation if you ask them to rate your performance. What your team thinks of you is as important as what your superiors/customers think of you.

Give Feedback

You should be expressive in appreciating your team member when they do a good job. And you should not hesitate to (politely and discreetly) suggest that they need to improve on something. While for many managers it’s easy to appreciate, they try to avoid criticising. They don’t want to hurt another person’s ego. It is indeed a good motive, but not enough to completely avoid giving negative feedback. Learn to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt their ego. Think how to put it such that they take it in a constructive way. Do not shy away from conflicts – deal with them in a friendly and respectful way. Use your influence, not your authority.

Learn Emotional Intelligence

Even before becoming a manager, you should have put effort in increasing your emotional quotient. I remember it was a buzzword and all the craze at one point in the past, but has been forgotten a bit now – unfairly so. Emotional quotient is considered more important than intelligence quotient. It’s common for technical people to start putting up spreadsheet, project management software and all those kind of things – and they start relying on those things. They assume that if they maintain everything up-to-date in their project management software, things will be running smoothly. This is far from the truth. After so many years in software development, I haven’t come across even one strong example where a ‘management tool’ helped success of a project. It’s about how well you connect with people. How well you can influence them. How well you can understand them.


The biggest change when you become a manager, is this – you need to stop thinking about code, technology and programs and instead, start thinking about your project, your team and your customers (or superiors). Less working with computers and more working with humans. That jump is what I’ve seen new managers struggle with. You need to build up your communication, persuasion and networking skills. Start by getting comfortable talking with your team, and always have your project’s roadmap in mind, and you’ll be on track to become an awesome manager.

Drawing Tablet Tips for Beginners

A few months back, I had decided to rekindle my video game making dream and have a proper crack at it. But obviously, I’m held up with two major items – one is my job which I can’t do without right now, and another one is the online master’s course on Data Science. But I haven’t put my game making journey completely on hold. I’ve been making slow (very slow) progress on non-programming areas – namely music and art.

I’ve started to learn how to draw. That’s my weakest link. I have some experience making music from learning to play my Violin. I know programming. But I am at level zero in art. I’m amazed at how much resources there are available for learning how to draw online. And of great quality. I’ve specifically started to learn using the Drawabox lessons. They appeared absolutely suitable for a know-nothing like me.

Naturally, I wanted to use my Wacom Intuos tablet to learn drawing. Boy how completely different it is from drawing on paper! I installed Krita – beautiful software by the way. Since I had already started doing some exercises on Drawabox, I tried repeating the same exercises on the drawing tablet. I just couldn’t. I was able to draw basic shapes quite well on paper, but on the tablet, I couldn’t even draw a single line without wobbling. And I’m used to rotating the paper while writing or drawing – which was not very convenient in using the tablet.

But I think I’ve got the hang of it now. No, I still can’t draw very well, let alone on a drawing tablet. But I’ve got some learning to put me on the right direction. What I’ve learned about drawing tablets so far –

Put it on the Side

We usually rotate the paper and write/draw at an angle because the arm is attached to the side, while the paper is in the centre in front of us. If the paper is also moved to the side, I realise that it’s no longer inconvenient to keep the paper fixed. Extending that, I just put the drawing tablet on the side – where I usually have the mouse. Instantly, my hand-eye co-ordination shot up and I felt so much more comfortable drawing without having to rotate the tablet. My lines were mostly aligned in the direction I want to.

Reduce the Lag

I noticed that there was an annoying lag while drawing with the tablet. Now unless I get myself a super high-end tablet, I probably can’t get rid of this problem. But I was able to reduce it a lot. I connected the tablet using USB rather than Bluetooth. It was a bit less convenient – but shouldn’t matter if you don’t have to constantly move the tablet as you’re drawing. I also quit other applications running in my computer. It’s a great improvement even if the lag reduces by a fraction.

Mind the Aspect Ratio

The drawing tablet and the monitor might have different aspect ratios. Mine did. It took me quite some time to notice this. I’m not very experience but I suppose this is a bad thing. It’s better not to get used to this kind of anomalies. To check, I put a perfectly round bottle cap on the tablet and drew a circle. It came out noticeably flat. But there was a setting in the tablet configuration (On Mac: Settings > Wacom Tablet > Mapping > Force Proportion), which made this right. After this setting, I repeated the bottle cap drawing and it came out perfectly circular.

Mind the Aspect Ratio


Practicing a few minutes everyday improved my ease of using the tablet. While this is obvious, I just want to say that two exercises helped more than others.

  1. Superimpose lines – This was the first drawabox exercise, and it was especially useful on the tablet. Just draw a smooth line and try to draw several lines over that same line. Try to get it deviating as little as possible. This helps improve sense of direction while drawing in one place (on the tablet) and observing it elsewhere (on the monitor).
  2. Tracing – Open some line drawing as a layer in your drawing software, reduce opacity of that layer. Now with the pen, trace the drawing. This is a fun exercise too. Just be mindful of whether you’re drawing from your wrist or elbow or shoulder.

But not too Much!

Don’t ‘grind’. This is an advice I get a lot ever since I started to learn drawing, and I’ve come to completely agree with it. If you’re trying something, reach a ‘decent’ level and then move on. Don’t try to keep practicing the same thing till you get it perfectly. That’s for when you know what you want to draw. When learning, be content that you practiced. And move on. You don’t have to draw a perfect straight line – you just have to draw a ‘confident’ straight line. It improves as you keep drawing. If you repeat the same exercise to death, then it just becomes demotivating and tiresome.

Learn the Software

Remember that you just need to become confident and comfortable using the tablet. Not things like drawing a perfect straight line, being able to draw in any direction etc. Learn the standard features of the software. For example, most drawing software have a stabilisation feature that adjusts any wobbles. They make ellipses neat once you’ve drawn them. Although as a learner, it’s good to learn the basic art instead of relying on these features, it’s still good to learn the features. Because you’ll know what techniques to concentrate on in the beginning, and what techniques will be irrelevant because of software assistance.

So there it is. My (very premature) tips on learning to draw using a tablet – for beginners. If you’re a total beginner like me, first you need to learn ‘how to see’ – recognise the shapes in what you want to draw. The pen, or paper, or your graphics tablet – are just tools after that. So the most important tip – think and understand what your instructor (or ur tutorial website) says. No matter how much you stumble, you will eventually (and quite soon), become comfortable using your tools.