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Hey Tech Lady: Promotion Pointers & How To Move Up The Ladder

Hey Tech Lady,

I’m an experienced engineer and have been Tech Lead of my team for the last year and a half. I act as a mentor and my team relies on me more than their manager, and I really want to move up to an official manager role. Recently, a manager role was opened but a peer was promoted instead of me. How can I show my manager that I’m ready for a promotion? Should I ask directly or let my work speak for itself?

— Lauren, Sr Engineer, via email submission.


would be willing to bet that the majority of us have been passed over for a promotion, at least a time or two. It leaves you wondering what you did wrong when what you should be asking yourself is: do I need to prove my value?

I’m not saying it’s fair but it is a reality. Your leaders are human beings, and as human beings there are inherent flaws, one of which may be lack of full awareness of your day-to-day. You only have one manager, but your manager likely has multiple people to manage, so the in-depth details may not entirely surface. Of course you’re deserving, but pair that with a strong strategy for marketing yourself and you’ll find yourself moving up the ladder. In other words, promote yourself and the promotions will follow.


I’ve been in leadership for nearly ten years. This year, for the very first time, I was asked to be an official mentor. I couldn’t help but wonder, why doesn’t this question come up more often? While I can’t know for certain, my guess is there’s an assumption that leaders don’t have the time or already have mentees. You know what happens when we ass-u-me. Be direct and ask the leader that inspires you if you can shadow them. If for some reason they decline, you’ll at least earn some brownie points for taking the initiative to ask.


Your manager may not have all the details of your day-to-day, but they will notice when you dive into solving departmental problems. A process that’s tedious, a meeting that wastes time, siloed information, anything that needs improvement. Instead of escalating, work to identify the root cause and pitch your own solution.


If you don’t have the time to shadow someone or tackle department-wide issues, I’ve got you covered. With most tech organizations holding recurring knowledge sharing sessions such as Lunch & Learns or Certification Prep sessions, you have a golden opportunity. It’s an opportunity to showcase your subject matter expertise, confidence, and soft skills. If your company doesn’t hold knowledge sharing sessions, be a fixer and get them started yourself.


All of this effort won’t be as effective if leadership isn’t privy to the details, so tell them all about it. Use one-on-one meetings to summarize your accomplishments. Forward the kudos you receive to your manager to include in your next review. Add external projects and learnings to your goals and accomplishments. It may feel like bragging but when it comes to your career and getting what you deserve, brag away.


Career planning is notoriously tedious, I know, but it can also be an asset. Your review serves the dual purpose of creating a roadmap for you and providing your manager with additional insight into your value. Be thorough and don’t leave anything out. For your accomplishments, include project work, process improvements, external initiatives, training, you name it. It’s all fair game.

When it comes to the path forward, ask your manager to share the required responsibilities for the role you’d like to move to. Evaluate yourself against those responsibilities, assess the areas you need to work on, and have a tangible, measurable plan to improve.

Having everything thoroughly planned and documented only makes it easier to ask when you’re ready for that promotion. It’s tempting to breeze through each aspect of the review, but don’t short change yourself. Take the time to really elaborate. Or brag.


So you’ve been there, done that, I’m preaching to the choir. You already made it known you’re ready and willing in your review meeting, but your manager isn’t taking action. Now what? All that’s left to do is ask. But before you do, come up with talking points. Go in armed with your accomplishments and areas of growth. Make them aware of the responsibilities you’re already covering that a manager would be. Hey, you already made a list for your review, right? So use it. Prove you’ve earned it and ask for that promotion with confidence.

Have a question or work challenge you’d like answered in a future article? Email me at And you can read the previous column Girl On Girl Crime In The Workplace.

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MORE FROM FORBESHey Tech Lady: How A Great Mentor Changed My Career – And My LifeMORE FROM FORBESHey Tech Lady: Girl, Interrupted – And What You Can Do About ItMORE FROM FORBESHey Tech Lady: How To Beat Impostor Syndrome

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