How Should You Decide If An Engineering Manager Role Is Right For You?

Insight
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An Individual Contributor is a person who does not manage others; if you’re a Software Engineer, you’re probably an Individual Contributor.

As you progress through your career, there will be a time where you will consider a role which requires you to manage other people, and this is how this article can help you.

A few days ago, the team from Endowus, Open Government Products, GovTech Singapore, and Carousell organized a deep dive to give you more insights about the transition from an Individual contributor to Engineering Manager. 

Moderator: Junxu Lye, Endowus

Panelists:

  • Venkata Rao: Engineering Manager, Carousell
  • Matt clarkson: Engineering Manager, Facebook
  • Zhuoran (John Li): Front-end Team Lead, Endowus

Our favourite parts from this sharing:

  • An Engineering Manager is like an orchestrator who pulls the strings and makes sure the team performs well together
  • As an Engineering Manager, sense of accomplishment only comes over time, not at the end of the day
  • Fundamentally, if you wanna be an Engineering Manager, you have to do it to grow others
  • Good mentors sets you to the right path, and lets you think about the best way to do it
  • The job is about positioning people right and making sure that they have they need to grow and succeed
Source: Giphy

Why should you become an Engineering Manager?

When the panelists were asked why they decided to take up a management role, this is what they said.

John from Endowus 

  • Endowus was looking to fill a management position, and John stepped up to fill the position.

Venkata from Carousell

  • Wanted a challenge as he believes that the hardest challenges lead to the biggest growth. He also believed that it was an exciting opportunity to learn more.

Matt from Facebook

  • Wanted to grow himself by learning more from senior management on how to be a better manager.

What does an Engineering Manager do?

John from Endowus

  • An Engineering Manager is like an orchestrator who pulls the strings and makes sure the team performs well together
  • Spends most of his time during every sprint on technical discussions with team members to discuss system design and documentation
  • Sets aside time for weekly 1-on-1 sessions with his team
  • 1-on-1’s are important in management to find out if team members are happy with their work
  • This time can also be used for conflict resolution between team members
  • As an Engineering Manager, you cannot have a fear of someone being smarter than you
  • An Engineering Manager relies more on leadership skills than technical skills
  • Be a better human being to lead people that are better than you technically

Matt from Facebook

  • An Engineering Manager is like being a coach and a gardener; uplifting people and ‘watering them to grow’
  • An Engineering Manager uplifts the organization rather than himself
  • This role entails a lot of responsibility
  • Must have humility, the best engineers are audacious but you must put yourself back and let other people grow
  • The job is about positioning people right and making sure that they have they need to grow and succeed
  • Engineers are smart people, if they don't feel like they can grow, they WILL leave
  • Large chunk of time dedicated to meetings for alignment 

Should you continue to be an Individual Contributor or should you become an Engineering Manager?

Venkata from Carousell

  • Ask yourself if you’re good at working with people
  • Engineering Manager is a leadership position and has more emphasis on soft skills
  • As an Individual Contributor, sense of accomplishment is immediate such as at the end of the day or after a sprint
  • As an Engineering Manager, sense of accomplishment only comes over time, not at the end of the day
  • Typical day includes meetings to align the team towards the goal
  • An Engineering Manager will always be ‘disturbed’ and dragged into meetings - it’s just a part of life. You must be okay with that.
  • You must have resilience to overcome situations, handle tough conversations, and deliver bad news (yikes!)

Matt from Facebook

  • Fundamentally, if you wanna be an Engineering Manager, you have to do it to grow others, and not be in it for yourself
  • Tell yourself that instead of working with code, an Engineering Manager works more with people
  • Build skills that you need to become an Engineering Manager even before you get the job

John from Endowus

  • When you develop the skills even before you become an Engineering Manager, that's how you get scouted for the job itself

Can Soft Skills be trained for engineers?

Venkata from Carousell

  • Soft skills can be nurtured over time by having more interactions with team members

What is the most non-obvious thing about becoming an Engineering Manager?

John from Endowus

  • Hiring is hard as unicorns are throwing money to talents
  • You have to be laser-focused on what you want to do now, instead of worrying too much about the future
  • Delay of gratification. The small small things add up to the big picture
  • Small contributions add up to a big sense of achievement

Venkata from Carousell

  • Solutions to problems that Individual Contributors face can usually be googled
  • Problems that Engineering Managers face has probably been faced by senior leaders when they were once in your shoes
  • Tap on their experience with mentorships, which is the most important thing
  • The wheel has already been invented, there’s no need to reinvent it. Ask senior managers for guidance.

How are Engineering Managers different from Product Managers?

Matt from Facebook

  • Engineering Managers are people managers essentially, while Product Managers are still kind of like an Individual Contributor
  • Individual Contributor is a functional role, Engineering Manager is more of a people role

Should Engineering Managers enforce culture, or let it develop on it’s own over time?

John from Endowus

  • In a startup, processes are set up deliberately
  • Do something simple and let others come on board to add their feedback
  • You should just give a recipe for the team to figure out it’s best approach

What makes a good engineering mentor?

Venkata from Carousell

  • Engineering Managers have to leave 50% of their daily time for people to ask questions
  • Good mentors sets you to the right path, and lets you think about the best way to do it
  • Synergy with your mentor is important as well, as it encourages clear communication
  • Empower your engineers 

With that, we’ve come to the end of this sharing. Are you looking to take on a role as an Engineering Manager? Check out the latest job postings with NodeFlair Jobs!

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