Updated March 17, 2022

"Should I Become a Manager"? Insights from 7 Tech Experts in Japan


Eric Turner

Founder of Japan Dev

Pretty much all software engineers eventually ask themselves:

"Should I try management?"

But answering this question can be tough.

Would becoming a manager mean you won't be a "real" engineer anymore? Will it cause your coding skills deteriorate? Can you switch back if you don't like it? How do you go about learning how to be a manager?

And just as importantly, what's it actually like once you make the switch? How different is it really? And how do you make sure you're successful?

Well, I wanted to answer some of these questions. So I reached out to 7 engineering leaders at some of Japan's premier tech companies and asked them for their advice.

What follows is a rundown of their best insights: what's management like? How is it different from engineering? And how should you decide if it's for you or not?

I've also thrown in a few of my own comments (based on my experience as a manager) as well. So If you've ever wondered about becoming a manager, this one's for you.


Here's a list of companies that shared their management tips:

By the way, all these companies hire engineering managers or similar leadership positions here in Japan -- and most don't require Japanese skills.

So if you're looking to take your career to the next level here in Japan, their advice will be invaluable. And if you decide to try it, the above companies are a great place to start looking for a position.

Alright, let's take a look at their advice, starting with SmartNews!


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Jeffrey Goldman

Engineering Manager, Growth Backend at SmartNews

Become a sponge for information within your organization, especially related to who knows/is doing/can help with what. This can be the key information one of your team members needs to succeed.

I read this in a book somewhere, but learn to measure your accomplishments and successes in a completely different way than when you were an individual contributor. There will be days where you do nothing but attend meetings, pass information along to your team or review PRs, but more often than not that's exactly where your expertise and leadership are needed.

Always default to over sharing and over communicating information. Always default to under managing and teaching/asking questions over micro managing and doing.

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Cortland Klein

Engineering Manager, Content Platform at SmartNews

Engineering Managers are like sports coaches. They may not have been star athletes before, but they know the sport and know what it takes to win.

They also know how to motivate and inspire their team players, how to set up strategies ahead of time and adapt in real-time, and know if, when and how to make difficult decisions when needed.

Jefrrey makes a great point here about measuring your success differently. Managing more is often not the best way to make a positive impact on your team, and this takes some getting used to.

I can also relate to the need to know how to motivate and inspire your team. Even as an engineer this can be helpful, but it really is a key part of your job when you're a manager.

SmartNews is actively hiring engineering leaders take a look at their positions on Japan Dev to apply now.

Their Engineering Manager, Data Platform position could be a good option.

Next let's hear from Takahiro at Wealthpark!


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Takahiro Fujii

VP of Engineering at Wealthpark

Understand the source of your desire to become a manager, and build on your strengths.

I am sure that becoming a manager is not the goal, but you think that you can achieve more by becoming a manager. Thinking about what you can do to achieve greater results as a team or organization is often the result of becoming a manager.

Managers are often thought of as generalists, but there is always a need for an area of expertise. It is precisely because we have strengths that we are entrusted with tasks and jobs that we can lead. With that as the core, you will gradually lead the organization. Focusing on a specific area of strength will be a plus for you in becoming a manager.

When I decided to become an engineering manager, it was largely because of what Takahiro points out here: the ability to increase my individual impact.

Getting into management can be a great way to increase your leverage, because it enables you to make decisions earlier in the development process.

For example, a given engineer might be tasked with deciding how to implement a feature. But as a manager, you might be deciding which features to implement in the first place.

By the way, Takahiro's company Wealthpark is looking to hire engineer leaders! Take a look at Wealthpark's page on Japan Dev to see all their positions now.

Check out their Engineering Manager position if you're interested.

Next up we have insights from Sergio over at Moneytree!


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Sergio Arcos Sebastián

Director of Engineering & Security at Moneytree

I have seen many excellent engineers become weak managers. Becoming a manager shouldn’t be solely motivated by increased salary or power. If you really care about people, enjoy improving operations, and commit to represent your company, then consider investing the same amount of time spent in your engineering career to a new management career.

Be ready to change your mindset and your priorities, but keep some good engineering practices like agile methodologies.

I think Sergio speaks for us all here:

"I have seen many excellent engineers become weak managers."

Yep. Most of us have seen this (or at least heard stories).

It's clear that there are two different sets of requirements: one for being a great engineer, and one for being a great manager. And Sergio nails what that difference is here.

Want to work with Sergio? Hit up Moneytree's page on Japan Dev to apply now.

Next up, some advice from Michael of Rapyuta Robotics.

Rapyuta Robotics

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Michael Orr

Engineering Manager at Rapyuta Robotics

Understand that your priorities change and your horizon becomes larger. Due to the nature of being a manager, your role becomes that of a force-multiplier to enable the team to move more effectively.

To achieve this I suggest always being readily available to provide guidance to the team’s members. You will not have as much time as you did before to work on rigorous technical tasks but instead are exposed to a class of problems that will be new and challenging for you to overcome.

So you'll have to take time away from technical tasks and really focus on how to help your team. Makes sense!

Rapyuta Robotics is actively hiring for management positions so check out Rapyuta Robotics's profile on Japan Dev to see their open positions.

They don't have any engineering management positions at the moment, but they are searching for product managers:

Next up, we have Kevin from Shippio!


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Kevin Bulme

Head of Engineering at Shippio

I always had the image of a manager as a person who represented the team's best interest.

In becoming a manager, I think my biggest surprise was the realisation that it is a two way street: bottom-up and top-down. Indeed, managers are there for the team, and their duty is to ensure that everyone is feeling and performing their best in the team. But a manager is also an important node between the upper management and the engineers. This approach of the role tends to make the manager a way of top-down communication (and in most organisations, the first choice when it comes to top-down communication) but also responsible for the team results, in the eyes of upper management.

Therefore, don’t become a manager unless you are ready to be responsible for others' work and to take action if this work does not align with what upper management envisions for the team.

I would say, what makes management so interesting and also particularly challenging is the duality of the role. Compromising one of the two directions means you would either fail upper management or your team.

This is a great insight, and very true in my experience. As a manager, you're the point person for your team from upper management's perspective, and you really are responsible for the team as a whole.

Next let's hear from Ahmed over at Zehitomo!


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Ahmed Bakir

Engineering Manager at Zehitomo

Start off with a casual conversation with your boss or a mentor at your company on what the career path is for your position and department, as well as the kinds of steps you can take to advance. Not all positions or departments have a path that allows you to transition from engineer to manager. Knowing this will help you understand how to navigate your career. Most supervisors want to help you, but at the end of the day, everyone is limited by the grading criteria and promotion rules of their organization.

Take every chance you can in your job to demonstrate your dedication to helping others and ownership of problems. When you transition from being an individual contributor to a supervisor, you are expected to shift your focus from delivering your own tasks to making sure others can finish their tasks. This is the point where your evaluation will be based on the work others are doing. Take on projects as a lead engineer or main point of contact to prove to yourself and others that this is work you like doing, and that you are capable of dealing with everything the world throws at you (especially the annoying stuff.)

Don’t sacrifice your contributions as an engineer. The key to any transition at a company is demonstrating that you have exceeded expectations for your current grade. When there are no concerns about your core performance, and you have demonstrated the skills you need for that next level, then the promotion will come naturally.

Some great advice here on the mechanics of actually switching from being an engineer to being a manager. Ahmed also echoed some earlier advice: when you're a manager, it's not about you. Your primary focus should be on the output of your team as a whole.

He also mentions promotions, and I agree with him on this. A lot of people think you get promoted first and then take on new responsibiltiy, but I've found that it's usually the opposite. You exceed expectations in your current role or even start doing the new role, and then you receive the promotion to that role.


Alright let's see if I can summarize some of the advice we heard.

First off, focusing on your team rather than your own individual impact was a common thread in quite a few of the responses.

So you might want to ask yourself: can you let go of your desire to contribute as an engineer? Because even if you do continue to write code, it won't be your primary goal anymore. You can write the most beautiful code the world has ever seen and still fail as a manager.

On the other hand, if you feel like you're ready to switch gears, then management could be a great option for you. Especially if you feel like you're hitting a wall as an engineer.

As Takahiro and Sergio pointed out, you should also ask yourself, why do you want to become a manager?

And you should answer honestly. Is it just because that seems like the easiest way to get more money? Then maybe you should consider other alternatives (like getting promoted to a higher technical position or switching to a higher-paying company).

Do you feel that you could provide more impact to your team if you became a manager? Then maybe you should go for it. Just make sure you're ready to face new challenges and learn the new skills required.

Lastly, I'll share a few personal thoughts on how to actually decide - should you make the jump to management or not?

So should you become a manager?

I can't tell you if management is the right track for you.

But I can why I personally decided to make the jump to engineering manager.

Part of it was definitely that I wanted to increase my impact. And part of it was that I knew it would force me to focus on different skills than engineering had.

So I knew that even if I hated it, I'd learn a lot from the experience.

I also just felt like, of the two options, I'd regret not trying it more. And I knew I could always go back to being a developer if it didn't work out. Probably at the same company in fact (though that's usually not guaranteed). Whereas I wasn't sure if an opportunity for a management position would come my way again.

So I decided to give it a try.

And while I don't know if I'd work as a manager again or not, I don't regret my decision. It was an amazing learning experience, and here's the thing that surprised me about it: it made me a better developer.

It forced me to improve my communication skills. It showed me how hard of a job management actually is, which helped me develop empathy for my own superiors. It gave me deeper insights into how the business actually works, and showed me the importance of teams outside of engineering.

So that was my experience. Management isn't for everyone, but if you're on the fence about whether to try it or not, I say give it a shot.

Because honestly, what's the worst that could happen?

And if you do decide to shoot for a management position, definitley consider the companies in this post. We chose them because they really are top companies, and they're all searching for engineering managers right now.

And once again, a thanks to all of our contributors:

If you liked this please share it via the links above. Or you can tweet at me if you have thoughts.

Thanks for reading!