Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

Daily, Weekly, & Yearly Tasks

Jem Young

Jem Young

Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

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The "Daily, Weekly, & Yearly Tasks" Lesson is part of the full, Engineering Management Fundamentals 101 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

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.


Transcript from the "Daily, Weekly, & Yearly Tasks" Lesson

>> When you think of the business and the people side, the day-to-day, week-to-week, the quarter-to-quarter are gonna vary a little bit. The day-to-day doesn't change, you're always talking to people. I talk to people every single day, it was interesting a couple of weeks ago, my voice went out for two days but I still had meetings.

So that was interesting experience of having to type out my responses [LAUGH] made me think critically about my written communication skills. But it wasn't bad, it's actually good exercise and listening which I need to get better at anyways. You want to wake up your there's paperwork to do there's been this trade of tasks, there's documentation to read documentation to write, there's emails and slacks and all this context you need to get up to speed on.

On the people side, you're really making sure that teams on blocks. You shouldn't be down in the weeds being like, what's the status of pull requests? What's the status project in the week-to-week? That's more of a, maybe month-to-month you should be checking in a little bit more on those things.

Quarter the cord on the business, the OKRs, the objective key results, different ways of measuring performance, different metrics, butt how are you doing as a team? Are you delivering for the business? Do you know what the business needs? That's something you should know and you should be making sure you're making progress in that.

In the quarter-to-quarter, I look at Team growth. I have a quarterly growth conversation with every member of my team because like I said, it's really important to me. And I have it quarterly instead of monthly because it takes time for growth to happen. So we check quarter to quarter and see how they're doing.

And I'm always looking at team processes, I mentioned earlier about the problem we had early on, which is how do I email my partners? Who do I know who that is? That's a process that I can now solve easily. We have the same thing now, I actually need to send out an email where people don't know what Slack channel is joined, we have, I think in Netflix we have like 20,000 Slack channels or something, because every request on Slack channel for every reason and they don't return them.

I don't actually know the number but it's somewhere up there. So which Slack channels are important? That's my job to figure that out and share that out with people. And the year-to-year, I'm looking at the long-term strategy and the vision of the team. The vision is gonna change over time, it should.

The strategy is gonna change over time as you react to the business, other teams, etc. But in the year-to-year, that's something I'm focused on on the business side. And the people year-to-year, probably the hiring side, hopefully, your team is growing and you're thinking, what personalities do I need right now?

What skills do I need? So, really the commonalities, even though engineering, the technical side, and the management side sometimes are very different. The common thread is always the people, and that's where you're always gonna spending your time because your success is the, your successes are just from the team.

You never, no one's ever gonna be like, hi, five Gem, that's a hell of an email you sent. I'm like, yeah, wow, that was really polished and clean. I did, I do get, occasionally get compliments on the newsletter, which I, I'm like, thank you, that means so much to me.

I spent a couple hours on the newsletter, but that usually it's not gonna happen. No one's gonna be like, good job, the team's functioning well. They just expect that. So you really have to focus on the people, even though you're always juggling these two other priorities as well.

And really your role as engineering manager is to manage the team and the context of the business. And I like the juggling analogy, because that's true. You can juggle all the balls. Some people are really good at, they can do a lot, like I said, people that can be deep on the technical side and the people side but very few people can.

So, your job is to figure out what's important right now. What balls can I upside down and I'll pick it up later. What balls do I just throw away that is not important anymore and never will be? And what balls do I actually need to actively be managing?

And this is why engineering management is difficult because there's always something, what that something is, no one can tell you because they're your boss, the juggler. Any questions on that last section on the responsibilities on what engineering managers do? Or, yeah, what does your manager do?
>> I was in a situation reporting directly to the CTO and he wasn't giving me any direction mentorship or targets.

The issue was something's required his attention or empowering me to make particular decision none of which were happening regularly. The question is, should I accept it knowing that I'm not really being able to be effective and within the team and the products? Does that makes sense?
>> Yes, so they're reporting to the CTO.

The CTO doesn't have time to really invest in them being good at the role they're reporting to, yeah.
>> Sounds like they're not setting a clear target, either. They're just kinda, go do important stuff, I trust you. But you're really lacking the context for what is the important stuff.

>> The manager hasn't given you context.
>> Yeah, that's a good take. And I think in that scenario, one, sometimes there's nothing you can do about that. You're not going to be, CTO, you're doing your job wrong, probably not a good career move. What you can do is ask them, hey, what's important for me right now?

Here's the things I'm thinking about, and you make it a really simple, I don't know if you ever heard of the rule of threes when it comes to talking to through someone above you. So the idea is you give them three ideas for something but two of them are really bad and, they're gonna say no, but you give them one good one, they know they're gonna say yes to you and it makes them feel good that they're like I've made a decision here, but really you led them to that.

I'm not saying that's that's a good business move, but it's an example of, hey, I'm focused on these are three things I'm thinking about focusing on. These are my priorities. Which of these do you think is most important right now should focus on? And you want to make it really easy because remember their contexts especially at that level is so much broader than yours and they're not focused on you specifically, and there's not much you can do about that.

But what you can do is make it really easy for them to help you as much as you can. And in that scenario, you're like, I wanna grow more, but I'm actually being stifled by having too much freedom and not being able to focus on one thing. Take what you can from those situations, take the leadership examples and learn what not to do, and then try to maybe find a new role, but you try to make the best of it in those kind of situations, sometimes you can't fix it.

>> Another thing there is have a conversation around clear expectations of your role and his role and maybe that's not the right phrasing, but like, hey, to do my role, this is what I need from you, does that work? Or if it doesn't, maybe have that conversation.
>> That's a great one.

Yeah, getting expectations. I have been a scenario where I've asked that and they're like, you're doing great, whatever. Which is, it seems like you're being nice or I think as a leader and you say that somebody you think you're like, they're giving them freedom, but really, at the end of the day, people want you to tell them what to do, so it's really kind of an anti-pattern when it comes to leadership.

In those cases, you do what you wanna do, essentially, but you always check into like, hey, I'm planning on doing this, hey, I'm planning on doing that, so when it goes wrong, and it probably will, you're going to make a mistake at some point, you're like, yeah, we talked about this, remember?

And maybe then they'll be like, okay, maybe I shouldn't give them so much latitude. Maybe I shouldn't let them focus on this project for a quarter when it wasn't really that important. But yeah, the truth is sometimes, it's hard. And you're just in a situation, you have to make the best of it.

>> It's another one of those things where you can't control other people, so if someone's not telling you clearly what to do, then all you can do is your best to figure it out.
>> Yeah, and I want to be a good instructor and give you really good advice, and be like, here's what you should do in this situation, but sometimes life is not fair, and sometimes things suck, and that's the truth of it.

The best you can do is change how you respond to it and try to learn from what you can. We've all had bad managers, we all raise their hand for that question. Even in those situations, we learned something, we learned what not to do, how not to treat people.

And that was a bad situation that you're still here and you're, I wouldn't say you're better for it, but you've learned something. And that, at the end of the day, is all you can do.

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