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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.

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Transcript from the "Ask an Engineer Manager" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> So now, we're gonna segment to an area called Ask a manager. And we're gonna interview a more senior manager, Ryan, and talk about his path into how did he get into management or his motivations. Let's hear from a real experienced manager who's been doing this for over ten years, Ryan Burgess.

[00:00:18] So, Ryan, how did you get into management? I feel like, Jem, you talked about how you got into management. I feel like you had a more thoughtful approach on it, than I did. I did think about it in my career as, maybe that's a possibility at some point in time, but it wasn't super thoughtful.

[00:00:37] It was me showing up one day, being a frontend lead engineer on the team and showing up the one-day going, being told you are now the leader of this team, you are now managing everyone. A leader had left the company that day and now I was the new manager.

[00:00:56] So I was thrown right into it. I didn't know really what to do at that time and it was a little bit different of experience. I wish I had a little more thoughtful of approach.
>> It's a common story for a lot of engineering managers, the accidental approach.

[00:01:11] So I guess since you're kind of more of a accidentally get into it, were there any motivations then? And what are your motivations now?
>> Yeah, I think like even my motivations then, I'd had a taste for it as being more of a lead, right? I was still coding and I was still maybe thinking more broadly about the deep technical things, but definitely was dealing more with people at times.

[00:01:38] And I think even in other work that I'd done prior to being at the startup, I was working at agencies, where I was working with a lot of clients. And I started to get this taste of how to deal with people more, and so I started to really enjoy that.

[00:01:51] And so my motivation then was, yeah, it seems like a great challenge. And I don't think my motivation today has changed. Like you said, it's not the money, it's not all the prestige. I don't get those types of things. It's more that I enjoy dealing with some of the people challenges and thinking more strategic at that higher level.

[00:02:13] You give up the coding though, which is always something that I've struggled with because that's what I started in this industry for is I love to build things. And so you're building things in a little bit different way. You're playing a different role, like you said.
>> I like that perspective of you're still building things.

[00:02:29] You're just not writing code directly anymore. How was becoming a manager change your view of technology in general? You talked a little bit about that, but it has it changed at all?
>> Yeah, it definitely has. You kind of make me think back to being an engineer. I cared a lot about, yeah, maybe it was tabs versus spaces or cared really about certain frameworks or tools that made my life easier.

[00:02:54] And you'd have those debates and conversations with other engineers, and it was really always interesting to have those discussions. I still enjoy those as a manager, but less so. I'm thinking more about, all right, cool that is a cool new framework, but should we invest in that, what does that get us in the future?

[00:03:14] What's the cost to migrate that? What are the pain points that we're currently facing that makes us want to move to that? It's not just, yeah, that would be really cool if we moved to that new framework and every other company is doing it. It's is it really valuable for us?

[00:03:28] My perspective has definitely changed in my thinking around that. It's more, yeah, what's the impact to the business? What's the impact to our team and what value are we getting out of it?
>> Yeah, I like that, thinking about the impact. All right, thank you, Ryan. Thanks for providing your more senior experience, but yeah.

[00:03:46]
>> Thanks, Jem.