Being a good engineering manager

Coming from a technical background as a full stack developer sometimes it’s easy to fall in the trap of doing engineering management and not really knowing how to spend your time. Most people think all you do is pair programming and write tickets on behalf of your team-mates. That’s only part of it…

First and foremost, Engineering management and product management are two different boats, however when you’re highly technical and you end up working as a technical product manager, you’ll often end up doing some, if not a lot of, engineering management in your role. This can happen mostly when there’s no engineering manager on your company/team.

What is the role of an engineering manager

When you’re an engineering manager (or EM), you’re whipping the crack on the engineering team. You’re making sure things are built in time and according to specs (which you might end up writing with your PM). As an EM, you’re both the captain and the surgeon on the ship. If someone needs direction they will come to you, and you should always offer to be the shining light on someone’s map. As an EM, you also should try as hard as you can to inspire people. When people fall sick figuratevely, you get to fix the health problems.

On top of doing the usual management operational work, such as helping with hiring, project management you’ll be doing a lot of communication. Communicating “effectively” is key for EVERY manager position. Especially with grumpy developers. (as a developer myself - I can say these things with certainty)

As an an engineering manager you’ll find yourself doing a lot of the following:

  • Working with engineers to understand the scope of issues (à la Github) and brekaing them down in smaller tasks that you will be assigning to engineers.
  • Understand the progress of a large task/epic and being in constant communication with engineers to understand their progress on a daily basis.
  • You’ll be pulled into conversations with PMs and other teams to provide your technical expertise to understand feasability of certain features.
  • You’ll do a lot of HR-related work to help with hiring, firing and training.
  • Building and presenting reports to different stakeholders inside the company to show how the things you’re working on are progressing.

Qualities of engineering managers

  • Strong communication skills, both verbal and written
  • Strong technical background in whatever stack you’re working with, you can expect to still do coding and doing code reviews.
  • EMPATHY, self-explanatory
  • Extremely well organized, because if you ain’t, your world is gonna be coming down with you
  • Cold blooded - when things go awry, think and breathe, don’t lose it.

Now you can say it out and loud: engineering managers are cool!