The Path to be a Manager (Engineering)

For a while I was trying to write an article called: “How to manage your manager”, but I’m really stuck with it (Really! it’s in draft mode for 2 months now!).

So, to get myself out of this writer’s block (hehe, like I’m a serious writer or so), I decided to write something else, something that I’m thinking about for a while…

What is it you ask, well, I’m writing about

The Path to be a Manager.

I’ll start with saying that I’m not an expert here, I’m just a manager doing it for some time, but as I tend to self reflect a lot, I’m asking myself what made me the manager I am today (not that I’m hinting that I’m good in any way).

I broke it down to the following points:

Technical Skills.

  • So, I think there are a million articles saying that Engineering Managers are not technical manager, whether if you agree or not, there’s one thing that has to be addressed, in my opinion, you can’t be an Engineering Manager if you haven’t done the job of a developer or even been a Senior Engineer.
  • Why?
    1. You need to understand what your team is talking about!
    2. If you haven’t felt their feelings, and you haven’t done what your devs are doing, understanding the day to days and what they go through will be difficult and sometimes not straight forward.
    3. Engineering Managers have a problem, this role title is super vague and could vary from Hands-On team leader to Hands-Off group manager, but no matter what it means, you are still an Engineering manager, which means you need to understand the lingo and share smart opinions.
    4.  Respect of your team will be earned according to your managerial skills but could be destroyed by your lack of technical skills.

You embody “Team Work”.

Why is this important, I think this is self-explanatory, Managing a team (or several), means you need to put the team first (and that means first for real, not you, but rather the team). 

As a manager, you need to be the voice of your team… you will have to put yourself behind the team, not in front.

In my opinion, a manager is more a supportive role than anything else, it’s not a promotion, but rather a different role, where you need to make a group of people shine and be as good as they can, I always tell my teams, I’m a glorified garbage collector, and I stick by this sentence.

Engineering Manager AKA glorified garbage collector 🙂 

You had good Engineering Managers in your past.

This is of course not a must, I’ve met some good engineering manager that didn’t have that experience, but for me, it helped and helps a lot! In many cases I ask myself what would X do in this case, how would Y deal with this and then I ask myself how would I deal with it and I mitigate the different scenarios…

I basically have a thought experiment every time I need, but also, I have a network of great managers that managed me to ask around and get advise from…

You Read about Management and learn all the time.

A big part of understanding that management is a role not a promotion for me, means that you (the reader), are moving forward in your career, you read, you learn and you always progress, like when you were a developer… you learned a new framework or syntax, managers need to do the same things.

I find writing and reading to be my way to keep up with the time, I try to talk to other managers and understand their methods… Don’t be fooled, being a manager is a role and not treating it as such will doom you to fail.

 

You care about your peeps and their growth.

It’s easy to explain this, but I’ve seen many managers that fail here, they like the code more than the team, and thus they set themselves and their team members to failure…

It’s important to care about the technicality of the work, but don’t forget, this is a supportive role, your team are the do’ers, let them grow, help them overcome obstacles and reap the benefit of their achievements.

 

Lead by example.

First, Leading by example doesn’t mean that you do your team’s job, but better! this is not leading in any sense! and honestly, a very bad example to set!

Leading by example means,

  • That you will be a professional in your day to day
  • You will not break processes (and expect others to uphold them)
  • You care about what you do and strive to learn and expand your knowledge (even if it’s a different knowledge that you expect your engineers to expand)
  • You are passionate about what you do
  • You don’t bad mouth the organization or treat people badly…

Basically, you will need to be the example of the team member you want to have… if you will be snarky and mean, don’t be surprised that your team members are…

But again, Leading by example doesn’t mean that you are a super developer and you write the best code and that’s it, it’s an abuse of the term that I had encountered in my career more than once and I really would love to see it end.

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