Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

Engineering Manager Responsibilities

Jem Young

Jem Young

Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

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The "Engineering Manager Responsibilities" 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 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.


Transcript from the "Engineering Manager Responsibilities" Lesson

>> So I can break down the responsibilities as we did before, management, engineering and people. On the management side, this is a lot of work you don't see. I won't say paperwork is the nature of it, but you do do paperwork. Businesses run on paperwork, we don't just make decisions.

You were just so in competition you need update that you have to make sure they're getting paid properly. When you're hiring that's that's a lot of paperwork. You probably haven't thought of writing a job description, which Ryan's going to cover in engineering management one or two tomorrow. That's a lot of work to write a good job description.

It takes time, that's paperwork. Letting someone go, you've got to write down why, you have to talk to HR, you have to fill a lot of paperwork there. There's a lot of business side of things that a manager is responsible for that most people never see. And I'm just trying to shine a light on some of that.

When it comes to expenses, someone fills out expense reports, you buy something new, unless you're filling out the expense reports, someone's got to approve that. I was gonna take a look. One that I ran into recently that I found not so fun vendor management. If we're buying software, I need to deal with a vendor.

I got to talk to their sales rep who's trying to sell me something more trying to get more into the company. Like hey, there's some other people that can talk to him like now. Just me, am sorry. But you have to keep them happy too cuz you're buying technology from them.

I have to look over the contract, I've got to talk to legal, I have to sign that contract. All this stuff that goes into, hey, Jim, can we just buy Adobe Suite or something like that or some piece of software? Sure, but someone has to put in all the paperwork and business side of things.

That's the responsibility of the manager, that's fine. I don't know anybody that loves this part, but it is necessary to have this done. Engineering, you're responsible for the charter of your team now. What does your team do? What don't they do? You should probably have an answer to that, someone's got to figure that out and that's your job now.

The communications, and that includes things that you probably don't think of. If you use Slack, someone's got to set up your team's Slack channels. Someone's got to set up the other Slack channels. Someone has to maintain those, that's usually the manager doing that. When I joined the team, it was a frequent question we got was, hey, Jem, we're working on this project, we're gonna ship it out.

Who needs to know this I was like, that's a good question. I should know that answer. So I had to aggregate all of our partners and teams together and to create a distribution list. And then I shared that with team and I was like, hey, just if you have any announcements to send it to the steel, you don't have to worry about anymore.

But that's just the process I introduced, but someone had to do that. So I had to set up all this stuff. When there aren't big changes, too. It's your job to share it out and share the joy and like yeah, way to go team. That's all communications that you have to do as you're responsible now as manager.

The long term strategy, we've talked a bit about that. Where are we headed? Why are we headed there? Are we making good progress? Should we reevaluate that progress halfway through? That's your job. Work proposition, what should we be doing? What should we not be doing? Something just came in, should we address this immediately?

Is that a high priority? A lot of that's your job too, is it a piece here or is it something we can wait till another, another quarter. Context setting, my style of leadership is leader. I like to be a leader who builds up other leaders. And that's the way I scale myself, I scale the team.

It's worked pretty well. We do a lot, so we do a lot with not a lot of engineers. But to do that, a leader still needs context. It doesn't matter what level you're operating at. Why, why are we doing things? How I don't think about as much that's up to the individual members of the team.

But the why is really important. Humans wanna know why they're doing. Intelligent people wanna know why you can't just tell them what to do. So, I do a lot of context settings and something else you don't think about if there's any sort of change management, a reorg, maybe your company got a new CTO, maybe my manager, the director has let go or something like that.

Maybe they have let someone else go on a different team. I have to set a lot of context for people and say like, this is why things are happening. Here's all this background information. That's your responsibility, cuz manager or software engineers generally don't know all these things that you know, and the challenging part of that.

If you have to filter it for them, you can't just give him a firehose of like, here's the latest trauma. Let me tell you, they just fired that person over there and here's why. Guess what, you can't do that. That's not helpful. It's something, but you can't just share everything with people.

You can't share everything with every single person that sometimes people aren't ready to handle that or you have to change the way you communicate that. So context setting is a large part of the role, but it takes work, it's not a one-to-one. Managing your partners and your stakeholders.

Who are people dependent on your team? Who are you dependent on? Do they know what your team is up to? Are you going to need their help in the next quarter, the next year? Do they know that? Are you gonna need to help them? Does your team know that?

You have to manage all these relationships too. So relationship management is really big part of engineering management. And then there's project management as well, sometimes you had to step in a leader project, plus it's really large. You had to become good at leading technology projects when you're not the one coding, which is an entirely different skill set than actually coding.

So, question?
>> This is a little related back to the bridge between engineers and engineering management, but isn't it our job as engineering managers to motivate engineers to care about the business?
>> Yeah, I wouldn't say care about the business. I don't know if I'd use that terminology.

You have to make it relevant to them. I mean, you could say care about the business, but if you're a software engineer and you're getting paid a salary and the stock goes up, the CEO comes in a meeting, you're like, it's really important to get the stock up to this, blah, blah.

As a software engineer you're probably not gonna care that much. So you have to make things relevant to people in a way that makes sense. Find out what they care about, and then change the context so they understand it and make it relevant. But the carrying of the business, sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can't.

Not everybody works, I'm privileged to work for a company where it's pretty well loved, we have a good product. But sometimes you're working in, I don't know, making accounting software. I don't know, unless you're really passionate about numbers, I'm probably not gonna be able to make you passionate about that particular side of business.

So, it's my job to find the things that are important and translate those to the team,yeah.
>> Wouldn't that actually be a red flag if you're being asked as an engineering manager to make this stuff go up [LAUGH] ?,
>> Maybe a too far example,
>> Maybe, yeah.

Well, I find sometimes managers complain to me that they're being asked to do well the charter of the team for example is like a constant struggle because delineation of responsibility between teams is sometimes a struggle between teams [LAUGH].
>> It is an aspect I did not invest enough, but now I do look back and its really important to have a charter, its one of those things you are like this is silly, when is it really reading this, but I won't [INAUDIBLE] I believe goona write one tomorrow.

Or in engineering management 102, cuz they are important. On the stock price thing, it's happened to me before. Maybe not the stock price per se, but it's more we have a financial target as a company to hit these gross margins in order to improve our stock price or do something.

And then, I have to take that and say, like, how does that translate to me? Usually that's for my director and above who distil that down. But still, that's context, I get that I know where we're heading as a company. Does my team care about that? They don't, but how does that show up?

There's a variety of ways so I won't go into all of them, but yeah, that is a challenge. Was there another question?
>> Yeah, it was a little related to maybe working on something that isn't as fun or exciting, but a person in the chat mentioned that when I'm forced to work on a project that I don't agree with.

I frame it as a demo for how our team can elevate our engineering rigor.
>> Yeah, I like that, that's a good way of translating things. It's a balance. Sometimes you need to be direct with the team, say like, here's what we got to do. And sometimes you need to step back and let the team figure that out.

Say like, what about this and ask a series of leading questions to get them to arrive at the answer. And how you do that? It really depends. That's kind of the whole story of management, it's like, it depends. So I wish I had concrete, this is what you do in this scenario, but it's gonna vary a lot.

And the final responsibility is people recruiting. Something people struggle with, a lot of new managers struggle with hiring and recruiting, surprisingly. For me, it's one of the more enjoyable aspects, but I'm weird. But recruiting is something you need to get good at, talking to strangers, explaining what your team does and why this person should work for your team or not quickly and concisely takes a lot of skill.

The elevator pitch for your team. It's trickier than it seems. You're responsible for Team developments. Are they growing as a team? Are they picking up new skills and technology or they're stagnating, happy where they are. Sometimes you need develop teams, sometimes you leave me alone. You got to figure that out.

Performance coaching we've talked about during the manager interview. Sometimes people just need a nudge in the right direction. Some people are slipping and they don't know it. Some people are doing consciously and you have to figure out are they doing it? Is it conscious or unconscious? And figure out what to do next and set expectations.

You're responsible for team health. Like I said, I have a team of introverts, so I have to work a little bit harder when it comes to getting them to talk to each other outside of technology, talked about the personal lives, but that's important. At the end of that you're working with other people.

So you need to get along with those people whether you know it or not. It's really important for have good team cohesion. And that's your responsibility now. Any sort of conflict that arises with partner, intra team that's your responsibility too, you gotta solve that there's no so and so's arguing so and so these jerks I can't believe they're doing that that's all you man [LAUGH] that's your responsibility now, you can avoid it.

Earlier, I think someone said conflict avoidance is something to work on. Yeah, you can't avoid conflicts anymore, you have to run to them, and put them out before they become much larger. And that's uncomfortable for me too, I don't wanna deal with it, I have my own problems.

And now people on my team are creating new problems. Like, why are you doing this to me? See the gray hair in my beard already? But it's something you have to do now, it's your responsibility, you can't offload that to anybody else. And then onboarding, that's a one you probably don't think of very often.

Is you hire someone new, you're picking them now, you got to get them up to speed and get them productive. How do you do that? What does that look like? Does that depend on the role, the person, the place your team is at? That's your responsibility now too.

There's probably a lot more on the people's side, but hopefully this is a good snapshot of there's a lot of responsibilities you have as an engineering manager. How those play out, it's gonna vary from person to person, team to team. But in general these are all things you have to think about and it's your job now to care.

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