Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

Jem Young

Jem Young

4 hours, 29 minutes CC
Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

Course Description

Are you interested in becoming a team leader or engineering manager? Jem Young, Software Engineer Manager at Netflix, discusses motivations for transitioning into management and confronts hard truths about the position to discover what makes a good manager. You'll learn to develop people leadership skills, learn the day-to-day responsibilities, effective meeting management, and the initial challenges of new managers. You'll know if management is right for you and get the foundations for a successful career in software management!

This course and others like it are available as part of our Frontend Masters video subscription.


Course Details

Published: January 14, 2024

Learn Straight from the Experts Who Shape the Modern Web

Your Path to Senior Developer and Beyond
  • 200+ In-depth courses
  • 18 Learning Paths
  • Industry Leading Experts
  • Live Interactive Workshops
Get Unlimited Access Now

Table of Contents


Section Duration: 17 minutes
  • Introduction
    Jem Young introduces himself and the course - and talks about appreciating and importance of doing a job well done at Engineering Management. The instructor also shares their personal experience of transitioning from a software engineer to an engineering manager and the challenges they faced.

What is Engineering Management

Section Duration: 1 hour, 24 minutes
  • Business of Technology
    Jem discusses the importance of understanding the business side of software engineering. He emphasizes that while coding skills are important, it is also crucial to recognize the various roles and teams involved in delivering a product, such as sales, marketing, design, QA, infrastructure, and more. Jem highlights the need for engineering leaders and managers who coordinate and support the software engineers and emphasizes the importance of considering the entire business ecosystem when developing software.
  • Management is a Role Change
    Jem discusses the role change that occurs when transitioning from a software engineer to an engineering manager. He emphasizes that engineering management is not a promotion, but rather a different role within the team. The lesson also explores various aspects of engineering management, such as compensation, hiring, expenses, and project prioritization, highlighting the importance of considering both the people and business sides of these decisions.
  • Transitioning to Management
    Jem talks about the transition from developer to a manager in software engineering. He also illustrates the how the scope, deliverables and perspective varies between a manager and developer varies. Jem also emphasizes that becoming a manager is not a promotion and that it is a different role entirely, and individuals should not feel pressured to make this transition if they are not comfortable with it.
  • Roles Engineering Managers Play
    Jem discusses the different roles that an engineering manager may have to play, and these roles are not predefined. Some of the roles were coach, cheerleader, therapist, mentor, peacemaker, speaker of the house, lawyer, and partner. The speaker emphasizes that it is impossible to be good at all these roles and encourages acceptance of one's strengths and weaknesses while striving to improve.
  • Motivations to Become an Engineering Manager
    Jem highlights the common motivations for people becoming engineering managers. He addresses the motivations of control, money, prestige, impact, and mentoring/growing people, emphasizing that while these motivations may exist, they may not always align with the reality of being an engineering manager. He also highlights the challenges and responsibilities that come with the role, including realizing where your control starts and stops, how many things are intangible and how long a manager can take to see the impact of their work.
  • Ask an Engineer Manager
    Jem interviews senior manager at Netflix and co-worker Ryan Burgess about his management experience. Ryan shares how he got into management, his motivations for becoming a manager, and why he enjoys the challenges of dealing with people and thinking strategically. Ryan also talks about how his view of technology has changed as a manager, focusing more on the impact to the business and the value it brings rather than technical debates and preferences.
  • Truths about Engineering Management
    Jem discusses some hard truths about engineering management. They explain that as one transitions from being a software engineer to an engineering manager, they will become less technical and may not be as well-versed in the technical details. Jem also emphasizes the importance of trust and the challenges of micromanagement. Additionally, they discuss the difficulty of determining how to spend one's time as an engineering manager and the loneliness that comes with leadership. The lesson concludes by mentioning that while it is possible to go back to being an engineer after being a manager, it may become harder over time.
  • People Leadership
    Jem discusses the importance of recognizing that people are not static and that as a manager, one must adapt to the different needs and moods of their team members. Jem also addresses imposter syndrome and the need for self-improvement as a manager. He concludes by highlighting the difficulty of the job but also the fulfillment and rewards it can bring.
  • Exercise: Self Reflection and the Path to Leadership
    Jem walks through an exercise to help the audience understand their motivations for becoming an engineering manager. The audience is asked to reflect on their career goals, what challenges they anticipate, and what aspects of the role they are most and least excited about. Jem also emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and having a support network during the transition to management.

Becoming an Engineering Manager

Section Duration: 57 minutes
  • Paths to Management
    Jem discusses the different paths that individuals can take to transition into management roles, focusing on accidental and deliberate paths. Jem emphasizes the importance of considering how people end up in positions of authority and the need for formal training and support for new managers.
  • Management as a Skill
    Jem emphasizes the importance of learning new skills as a manager, whether one becomes a manager accidentally or deliberately. The lesson also touches on the different stages of skill development, from unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent, and the importance of being aware of what one doesn't know. Jem also addresses questions about management courses and team size management.
  • Critical Skills for Management
    Jem discusses the critical skills that engineering managers need to develop over time, categorized into four main areas: communication, people management, business acumen, and technical knowledge. Jem emphasizes the importance of effective communication and provides examples of different communication challenges that managers may face. He also discusses the need for skills such as mediation, conflict resolution, growth management, budgeting, project management, and understanding the company's domain. He also suggests various ways to build these skills, including talking to mentors, reading books, attending conferences, observing other managers, and taking on proximate roles. Finally, the lesson also briefly touches on managing conflict and dealing with "brilliant jerks."
  • Ask a Manager: Skills
    Jem discusses with Ryan Burgess about the skills he relies on most in his day-to-day work. Ryan emphasizes the importance of people skills, such as observing, asking the right questions, and understanding deeper-level issues. He also discusses the value of learning through experience, reading books, observing good and bad leaders, and engaging with other leaders in the company. Ryan highlights communication and avoiding micromanagement as skills that are often lacking in new managers.
  • Exercise: Self Skill Assessment
    Jem discusses the importance of self-assessment and identifying personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to engineering management by walking through a self-assessment exercise. He then discusses discoveries and insights with the class regarding their own skills and abilities. Jem also emphasizes the need for vulnerability and candidness in leadership and encourages the students to be honest about their areas for improvement.

Finding a Role & Interviewing

Section Duration: 27 minutes
  • Interviewing for a Manager Role
    Jem describes the process of finding a role as an engineering manager. He explains the two options: looking internally within the current company or externally at different companies while discussing the pros and cons of each option, including familiarity with culture and technology for internal roles, and the need to sell oneself and tailor the resume for external roles. Jem also mentions the challenge of finding available roles, especially in high-performing companies, and the potential need to move to a smaller company for an external role.
  • Looking for your First Role
    Jem covers the important factors to consider, and the questions to ask when looking for a managerial role. Jem emphasizes the benefits of choosing a role in a similar domain or technology, as well as the importance of a healthy team size and company culture. He also highlights the significance of finding a manager who is willing to invest in and mentor you, and the value of networking to find job opportunities.
  • The Manager Interview
    Jem talks about what to expect in a manager interview and provides examples of questions that may be asked. He covers topics such as leadership philosophy, influencing without authority, delivering results for partners, project prioritization, and creating a positive team environment. The lesson also includes a mock interview with Ryan Burgess, where he answers questions about his leadership style and how he would handle certain scenarios.
  • Interviewing Takeaways
    Jem reflects on the takeaways from a previous interview and emphasizes the importance of recognizing that there are many skills required to be a good leader, and it's not possible to be good at everything. He advises being kind to oneself and building up skills in advance to make the transition to management easier, while also stressing the importance of taking advantage of opportunities, learning from others, and leveraging luck to be successful. Finally, Jem highlights that in an interview, the focus is on measuring potential rather than current knowledge.

The Role of a Manager

Section Duration: 53 minutes
  • What Do Managers Do?
    Jem discusses the role of engineering managers and explains that the responsibilities of managers can vary depending on factors such as company size, team composition, and business priorities. The lesson emphasizes that managers have to balance technical and managerial aspects while keeping the business goals in mind. Jem also highlights the importance of understanding the competing interests and priorities that managers must navigate.
  • Engineering Manager Responsibilities
    Jem discusses the various responsibilities of an engineering manager. He explains that on the management side, there is a lot of paperwork involved, such as updating compensation, hiring, and firing. They also highlight the importance of communication, setting context, managing relationships, and project management. Additionally, Jem mentions the responsibilities of recruiting, team development, performance coaching, team health, conflict resolution, and onboarding.
  • Daily, Weekly, & Yearly Tasks
    Jem discusses the responsibilities of an engineering manager in the timeline of day-to-day, week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, and year-to-year. He emphasizes the importance of managing the team and understanding the context of the business. Jem also provides advice on how to navigate situations where there is a lack of direction or mentorship from higher-level managers.
  • Meetings
    Jem discusses how engineering managers spend their time, focusing primarily on meetings. The different types of meetings that managers typically attend are mentioned, such as one-on-ones, project meetings, planning and strategy meetings, all hands meetings, team meetings, social events, team retrospectives, and staff meetings. Jem also emphasizes the importance of being prepared for meetings and the need for agendas to ensure that time is not wasted.
  • Meetings Exercise
    Jem highlights the importance of balancing time and responsibilities as an engineering manager and encourages participants to reflect on where their time goes and what their responsibilities are in their role. Jem also shares personal insights and tips on time management, delegation, and making space for creative work. This lesson emphasizes the need to align where one should be spending their time with where they spend their time to avoid frustration and burnout.
  • Purpose of a Meeting
    Jem discusses different types of meetings and their purposes. The audience is engaged to gather opinions on the purposes of standup meetings, one-on-one meetings, all hands meetings, team meetings, and project meetings. Emphasis is placed on the importance of understanding the goals and outcomes of each meeting and provides insights on which meetings managers should prioritize.
  • Role in a Meeting
    Jem discusses the roles and purposes of meetings in the context of engineering management while emphasizing the importance of understanding one's role in meetings, whether as the owner, producer, or consumer of information. Jem recaps the section and encourages managers to prioritize their time and only attend meetings that provide value, while also reminding them to focus on the people at the center of their work.

Your First 30 Days

Section Duration: 17 minutes
  • What is Different?
    Jem talks about the first 30 days of being a manager in engineering management, specifically about the different perspectives and changes that occur, such as understanding the organizational chart, attending staff meetings, knowing team members' salaries, and having a calendar filled with meetings. Jem also mentions the importance of building relationships with peer managers and adjusting to the new role and expectations.
  • What Should You Be Doing?
    Jem advises new managers to refrain from taking immediate action in their first 30 days. Instead, they should focus on listening and understanding the context, history, relationships, and dynamics of their team. This lesson also emphasizes the importance of being curious, asking questions, running effective meetings, building relationships with partners, evaluating and improving team processes, and understanding the role of the team in relation to the business. The lesson concludes with an exercise to help new managers understand their new position and set long-term strategies.
  • Mistakes to Avoid
    Jem reflects on their own mistakes as a manager and provides advice on what to avoid. He also discusses the dangers of micromanaging, overpromising, staying too close to the code, overthinking decisions, not letting go of previous work, and putting too much pressure on oneself. The lesson emphasizes the importance of trust, delegation, and self-awareness in effective management.
  • Managing Up
    Jem discusses the concept of managing up, which involves managing one's manager by understanding their expectations, priorities, and information preferences. The importance of establishing clear communication and boundaries with the manager is emphasized, as well as the value of regular one-on-one meetings and listening to other managers' perspectives. The lesson also advises new managers to avoid trying to do too much or make drastic changes too soon.

Wrapping Up

Section Duration: 11 minutes
  • Wrapping Up
    Jem discusses various topics related to engineering management. He covers responsibilities shared between engineering managers and product managers, the ideal size for meetings, how to avoid micromanaging when individuals are underperforming, the frequency of one-on-one meetings with team members, setting a good example as a manager, and the key takeaways from the course. The lesson emphasizes the importance of effective communication, continuous learning, and the fulfillment that comes from being a manager.
As a new-ish Software Engineering Manager, I enjoyed watching the new course on Frontend Masters by Jem Young called, "Engineering Management Fundamentals 101" Well done Jem 👏
Elijah Manor

Elijah Manor


Whichever engineering track you're on, nothing gets done without collaboration. I believe there's power in cross-functional empathy and learning about other roles within our teams, so I took a Frontend Masters course on engineering management this weekend.

We all have someone we report to. Jem Young's thoughtful and honest reflections deepened my understanding of my manager's goals, priorities, and pain points, helping to contextualize my role as an engineer further.
Lizz Rennie

Lizz Rennie

Frontend Software Engineer @ ecobee

Engineering Management 101 and 102 are amazing, funny, humbling retrospectives on the day-to-day of an Engineering Manager. I wish these existed years ago!
Ryan Yogan

Ryan Yogan


Learn Straight from the Experts Who Shape the Modern Web

  • In-depth Courses
  • Industry Leading Experts
  • Learning Paths
  • Live Interactive Workshops
Get Unlimited Access Now