Leading by example: Growing into management by helping others grow

When Google offered Shawn Hurley a job, he had to make a decision: did he want to continue being a tech lead or did he want to make the move to engineering manager?

Shawn hadn’t applied for a management role, but Google saw he had the potential to help the team grow. And he knew that at Google, he’d face engaging technical challenges, even if he decided to focus on people as an engineering manager. He was also impressed with how the company had stayed in touch after a previous interview. That first time, he wasn’t offered a job—but they’d checked in with him every six months or so since.

“It was clear to me that Google invests in people more than roles,” he says. “It wasn’t like I’d be stuck; I could always switch to a tech-focused role. But I wanted to see where this would go.”

So Shawn joined as an engineering manager for Cloud Compute, overseeing virtual machine networking. His team is responsible for making sure customers can communicate effectively with services both within and outside of the Google network.

Different Strengths, Different Roles

At Google, the roles Shawn considered are designed to zero in on distinct but related strengths. Tech leads help plan and delegate the technical work of their teams, but aren’t responsible for the career development tasks that come with having direct reports. Engineering managers handle the traditional management, such as promotions and reviews. Tech lead managers have a smaller number of reports and usually spend at least half their time directly contributing to technical projects.

Shawn chose the manager role in part because of his background. “My undergraduate degree was in education, and I think there’s a lot of overlap between management and teaching,” he says. “In both jobs, you need to understand people’s learning styles, and how they solve problems.” He later earned a Master's of Software Engineering, which focused in part on tracking and delivering predictable results. The combination of people and project-related skills proved a good mix.

But, Shawn says, managing at Google is different than anywhere else he’s worked.

“There’s a higher technical bar for managers here,” he says. “They need to be able to read code and understand technical trade-offs to a far greater degree.”

Shawn's manager, Frank Swiderski, agrees. “A really strong technical aptitude is critical in Shawn’s role,” Frank says. “He’s often the one asking smart questions and pushing the team to find answers,” he says.

Figuring out what my people need and how to help them grow really is a full-time job.

Shawn’s new role did take some getting used to, in part because he had to learn to let go of writing code to focus on building his team.

“It might seem obvious, but one of my biggest takeaways from training was that it’s okay that I don’t write code every day,” he says. “Figuring out what my people need and how to help them grow really is a full-time job.”

In addition to working one-on-one with Frank, Shawn went through Google’s three-day training for new managers, which helped him acclimate to the new role. He also gets ongoing training through the company’s Grow program, which offers resources on management styles and techniques, career growth, and more.

Then, Shawn took his training a step further, putting together a guide to help other Nooglers (that's new Googlers) adjust. “I kept track of what I was learning, where I was finding it, and what I would have liked to have—for the next people who find themselves at the end of that firehose.”

Taking on New Challenges

After years of as an individual contributor, Shawn says the switch to management has been “in some ways, is like starting over.” he says.

It’s the people-focused parts of the job that Shawn says keep him up at night—especially the responsibility of helping his reports apply for promotions. At Google, team members self-nominate for promotion by preparing a packet that describes their impact, leadership, and the technical difficulty of their work. Part of Shawn’s job is to help his reports make their cases—and to make sure they get the assignments they need to progress.

Shawn and Frank work together to make sure resources are allocated properly and team members get the opportunities they deserve. For example, when Shawn first joined Google, he managed the networking team. But he and Frank realized there was a lot of overlap in the work being done by that team and the storage team, so they combined them. “That means we don’t have people working under two different managers, but it also gives Shawn more flexibility to shift resources,” Frank says.

We have a 'No Heroes’ policy; you should never have to stay up all night fixing something, because we go through the right processes and testing to prevent emergencies in the first place.

Shawn defines success in his new role by the success of the people he manages. “If my reports are happy and productive, then I’m doing my job,” he says.

He sets the example for his team by staying organized and planning ahead as the scope of their work grows, knowing what’s possible in the moment but always looking six months down the road.

Shawn also tries to set a good example when it comes to work-life balance—in part by taking advantage of everything his adopted hometown of Seattle has to offer. “I’ve loved this city from the very first time I set foot here,” he says. “It’s open and accepting; there are awesome mountains; the ocean is great. I can bike to work every day.”

And company support is key: “Google is the first place I’ve been that is really serious about work-life balance,” he says. “We have a ‘No Heroes’ policy; you should never have to stay up all night fixing something, because we go through the right processes and testing to prevent emergencies in the first place.” Getting the balance right means leaving the work at work. “This is a team of naturally high achievers, but we need to enjoy our life outside the office too. Empowering people to do that is part of my job.”

Shawn Hurley

Engineering Manager

Leading by example: Growing into management by helping others grow

When Google offered Shawn Hurley a job, he had to make a decision: did he want to continue being a tech lead or did he want to make the move to engineering manager?

Shawn hadn’t applied for a management role, but Google saw he had the potential to help the team grow. And he knew that at Google, he’d face engaging technical challenges, even if he decided to focus on people as an engineering manager. He was also impressed with how the company had stayed in touch after a previous interview. That first time, he wasn’t offered a job—but they’d checked in with him every six months or so since.

“It was clear to me that Google invests in people more than roles,” he says. “It wasn’t like I’d be stuck; I could always switch to a tech-focused role. But I wanted to see where this would go.”

So Shawn joined as an engineering manager for Cloud Compute, overseeing virtual machine networking. His team is responsible for making sure customers can communicate effectively with services both within and outside of the Google network.

Different Strengths, Different Roles

At Google, the roles Shawn considered are designed to zero in on distinct but related strengths. Tech leads help plan and delegate the technical work of their teams, but aren’t responsible for the career development tasks that come with having direct reports. Engineering managers handle the traditional management, such as promotions and reviews. Tech lead managers have a smaller number of reports and usually spend at least half their time directly contributing to technical projects.

Shawn chose the manager role in part because of his background. “My undergraduate degree was in education, and I think there’s a lot of overlap between management and teaching,” he says. “In both jobs, you need to understand people’s learning styles, and how they solve problems.” He later earned a Master's of Software Engineering, which focused in part on tracking and delivering predictable results. The combination of people and project-related skills proved a good mix.

But, Shawn says, managing at Google is different than anywhere else he’s worked.

“There’s a higher technical bar for managers here,” he says. “They need to be able to read code and understand technical trade-offs to a far greater degree.”

Shawn's manager, Frank Swiderski, agrees. “A really strong technical aptitude is critical in Shawn’s role,” Frank says. “He’s often the one asking smart questions and pushing the team to find answers,” he says.

Figuring out what my people need and how to help them grow really is a full-time job.

Shawn’s new role did take some getting used to, in part because he had to learn to let go of writing code to focus on building his team.

“It might seem obvious, but one of my biggest takeaways from training was that it’s okay that I don’t write code every day,” he says. “Figuring out what my people need and how to help them grow really is a full-time job.”

In addition to working one-on-one with Frank, Shawn went through Google’s three-day training for new managers, which helped him acclimate to the new role. He also gets ongoing training through the company’s Grow program, which offers resources on management styles and techniques, career growth, and more.

Then, Shawn took his training a step further, putting together a guide to help other Nooglers (that's new Googlers) adjust. “I kept track of what I was learning, where I was finding it, and what I would have liked to have—for the next people who find themselves at the end of that firehose.”

Taking on New Challenges

After years of as an individual contributor, Shawn says the switch to management has been “in some ways, is like starting over.” he says.

It’s the people-focused parts of the job that Shawn says keep him up at night—especially the responsibility of helping his reports apply for promotions. At Google, team members self-nominate for promotion by preparing a packet that describes their impact, leadership, and the technical difficulty of their work. Part of Shawn’s job is to help his reports make their cases—and to make sure they get the assignments they need to progress.

Shawn and Frank work together to make sure resources are allocated properly and team members get the opportunities they deserve. For example, when Shawn first joined Google, he managed the networking team. But he and Frank realized there was a lot of overlap in the work being done by that team and the storage team, so they combined them. “That means we don’t have people working under two different managers, but it also gives Shawn more flexibility to shift resources,” Frank says.

We have a 'No Heroes’ policy; you should never have to stay up all night fixing something, because we go through the right processes and testing to prevent emergencies in the first place.

Shawn defines success in his new role by the success of the people he manages. “If my reports are happy and productive, then I’m doing my job,” he says.

He sets the example for his team by staying organized and planning ahead as the scope of their work grows, knowing what’s possible in the moment but always looking six months down the road.

Shawn also tries to set a good example when it comes to work-life balance—in part by taking advantage of everything his adopted hometown of Seattle has to offer. “I’ve loved this city from the very first time I set foot here,” he says. “It’s open and accepting; there are awesome mountains; the ocean is great. I can bike to work every day.”

And company support is key: “Google is the first place I’ve been that is really serious about work-life balance,” he says. “We have a ‘No Heroes’ policy; you should never have to stay up all night fixing something, because we go through the right processes and testing to prevent emergencies in the first place.” Getting the balance right means leaving the work at work. “This is a team of naturally high achievers, but we need to enjoy our life outside the office too. Empowering people to do that is part of my job.”