Making Open Work
May 8–9, 2017: Training & Tutorials
May 10–11, 2017: Conference
Austin, TX

IC to VP: An experience report on becoming a manager

Seth Falcon (Chef)
1:45pm2:25pm Thursday, May 11, 2017
Location: Meeting Room 10 A/B
Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 2 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Engineers who are interested in engineering management and engineering managers who are interested in becoming directors

What you'll learn

  • Learn how to think about (engineering) leadership, how to demonstrate leadership as an IC, and how to grow leaders as a manager


Seth Falcon explores his journey from an individual contributor (IC) working across the code base to leading a scaling project, growing a team to launch a new product, and ending up VP of engineering. Along the way, Seth shares lessons learned that can help ICs and managers be more effective—including details of becoming a manager and a manager of managers.

Topics include:

  • What leadership looks like as an IC
  • How to help move a team from point A to point B
  • What it’s like to become VP of engineering at a growing software company
  • How to build your leadership bench
  • Where to center your leadership when things get confusing
Photo of Seth Falcon

Seth Falcon


Seth Falcon is vice president of engineering at Chef, where he is responsible for delivering the engineering organization that builds Chef’s open source and commercial products. Seth joined Chef as an individual contributor eager to apply his Erlang expertise to high-volume web services. He led the effort to rewrite the Chef Server using Erlang and migrate Hosted Chef onto the new platform and grew an engineering team around a new product initiative, which led to a dual product/engineering role as general manager for Chef delivery. Seth is a product-focused engineering leader who builds teams that consistently deliver valuable, high-quality software at velocity and has helped teams increase their effectiveness as an individual contributor, an engineering manager, and a manager of managers. He believes the essential elements for a high-performing team are trust, commitment to learning and experimentation, mechanisms for measuring outcomes, and clear communication.