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The "Introduction" 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 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.

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Transcript from the "Introduction" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> Welcome to the world of engineering management. It is wonderful, or you'll see why it's wonderful, or hard, or both. Either way, at the end of this course, you will appreciate a lot about engineering management. This course is Engineering Management 101. It is very, very, very much an intro course to engineering management.

[00:00:22] Tomorrow, we're teaching about Engineering Management 102. That'll be taught by my colleague and good peer, Ryan Burgess. We'll talk a little bit more about that. So my name is Jem, as you probably know. I am a software engineering manager. I currently work at Netflix, and I've been a manager for about two and a half years, which is why I was prompted to teach a course on engineering management 101.

[00:00:50] Because I still remember the pain of transitioning, and I'm not yet a grizzled and surly from years and years of engineering management. Or I'm like, this stuff is easy, because it's not, it's not easy at all, and I still remember that. So I'm at the right stage where I wanna teach a course on it.

[00:01:06] You can find me on Twitter at @jemyoung. I don't tweet a lot. Sorry, X, Twitter.
>> [LAUGH]
>> Someday one of my kids is gonna call me out on, its X, dad. I'm on LinkedIn at Jem Young. Again, I don't post a lot, I probably should. Throughout the course, you'll hear snippets from my colleague and friend and fellow engineering manager, Ryan Burgess, and he'll be teaching a course later on Engineering Management 102.

[00:01:38] And both of us, we have a podcast, Front End Happy Hour, if you've heard of it, anybody heard of it? All right, a couple of people. Yes, the front end masters crew is waving their hands as well.
>> [LAUGH]
>> It's one of the longest running tech podcasts that we've done.

[00:01:56] Ryan's definitely spearheaded that whole effort, but it's a good time. It's just a lighthearted take on tech, and a picture a bunch of friends at a bar or a party just talking about technology. I have a few other courses. I have one for interviewing for front-end engineers. Back when I was a software engineer, I worked on front-end.

[00:02:15] So I wrote a course on that because interviewing is hard. We haven't made it better over the years, despite my best efforts of this course. But hopefully, if more people watch it, you'll be like, yeah, we should probably make interviewing for other people a little bit better. I have another course, Full Stack for Front-Ends, and that's where we dive into.

[00:02:34] I'm a front-end engineer, but I don't know anything about what happens beyond the wall of APIs and things like that. And we dive into that in that course as well. And probably one of the my favorite courses to teach. So in Practical Engineering Management 101, we're gonna cover three basic things.

[00:02:55] The path. How do you become a manager? What does that look like? It looks different for everybody, very surprisingly. We're gonna dive into understanding the actual role. Something that's really misunderstood about engineering management and being in charge of things. I'll give you a sneak peek. You're not in charge of anything.

[00:03:14] You're in charge of probably less than you've ever been in your life, and it's a really different feeling. And then we're gonna talking about surviving the first days and early tips of that transition from software engineer to manager. So the goals of this course are I want people to build the skills and knowledge to understand engineering management.

[00:03:36] Even if you say, you know what, maybe engineering management isn't for me by the end of the course. That's fine. If you understand the lessons here, you will become a better software engineer. Which always throws people. What does engineering management have to do with software engineering? A quick question.

[00:03:54] How many of you out there have an engineering manager or a manager? Yeah, most people almost everywhere in the world has someone they report to. They may not have the title of maybe engineering manager But you're reporting to somebody. The President reports to the people, the CEO reports to the shareholders, everybody reports to somebody.

[00:04:17] So as software engineers or even engineering managers, if you can understand the role of kind of what what your manager is doing, you will become better. You'll be able to say, I know what information they want. I know what things they're struggling with. I know how to have a growth conversation with them.

[00:04:32] I know how to navigate kind of just the ups and downs of the business, and that's really my intent. Even if you don't become an engineering manager at the end of this course, or you're not sold on it by the end of this course. And I want to shine a light on the hidden work of engineering management.

[00:04:50] As a software engineer, I had no idea what my manager did. I saw them in one-on-ones. I saw them in team meetings, stand up project meetings, in the hallway, maybe at lunch, but that was it. I had no idea what they did with their time other than they did something because their calendar was always full.

[00:05:05] So I wanna shine more light onto what managers actually do. Because it's surprising how little we know about that. I certainly didn't. If you do want to become an engineering manager, I wanna provide tools to help you transition those early days. The transition is difficult. It's difficult in unexpected ways, in ways that until you do it, you just really won't understand.

[00:05:31] It's a lot like being a parent. I don't know if any of you are parents, but those of you who are know that all the books and all the training and all the advice and movies and all that mean nothing when you're actually holding your baby for the first time.

[00:05:48] And that's a lot like engineering management. You can read as much as you want, but until you do it, you won't fully appreciate and understand how difficult it is. So I wanna help you with that. I wanna give you tools to make that a little bit easier. Then I wanna provide some insights in just common situations.

[00:06:07] It's literally impossible to cover every single scenario and every single situation you're gonna encounter. And that's the joy of engineering management. It's always different from company to company, from person to person, from team to team, but there are common overall scenarios that you're probably gonna run into. And I wanna give you some tools and give you insights into, maybe not how to solve them, but at least give you some insights into, here's how I would think about it, here's how maybe you should think about it.

[00:06:35] And odds are we probably have different ways of solving problems, and that's okay. That's the challenge and the pros and cons of engineering management. There is no one way to do things. Yes,
>> I'll just read a couple lines from chat. The transition can be so brutal. My transition was very tough.

[00:06:56] There's no structure or model to follow. Adam says, isn't it all about filling up your calendar?
>> [LAUGH]
>> Yeah, talking about different stakeholder needs and that my team needs that results in a big organization mess and unraveling it to make sure that we're all facing the same direction.

[00:07:24] And then someone said hurting cats.
>> [LAUGH] That's a good way of putting it, and I have a whole section dedicated to meetings. And not because I love meetings, it's more, well, I'll talk about it then. But yeah, I definitely talk about meetings, the primary tool for engineering managers, kind of how you spend your time.

[00:07:47] This course is a little different. There's no code, obviously. Or maybe not obviously, there's no code in this course, there are exercises we're gonna walk through. Some we'll do together, some you'll do on your own. And that's more just to build up your competencies and kind of help you understand yourself when it comes to these challenging situations.

[00:08:05] There are scenarios we're gonna play out in real-time, which should be pretty interesting. Then we have an ask a manager question, and that's where I'll be talking to my colleague, Ryan Burgess. Ryan is a senior engineering manager with lots of experience. So he provides a very different perspective than I do as more of an early manager.

[00:08:29] So, let's start with the origin story of how I became a manager. Before we dive into that, some prerequisites. For this course, I think it's really helpful to have at least three years' experience as a software engineer. I generally recommend a little bit more if you're thinking about transitioning into management, and we'll talk about that why in a bit.

[00:08:48] But I think if you're still early in your career and you're hearing all about engineering management, you might get overwhelmed. I really encourage people early in their career, focus on coding. Focus on that beauty, the frustration, those long nights of solving hard problems. Because that sometimes goes away later in your career as you think differently about the business.

[00:09:08] So enjoy it now. I don't think you should focus too much on the management side of things, but you're welcome to. It's just my recommendation. And you have to have a willingness to learn new things. These will be different skills, things that you're like, this is silly. Why are we talking about this?

[00:09:24] This has nothing to do with coding. But it does, it's all about coding at the end of the day, but it's also not about coding at all. I know, that's some cryptic wisdom there. Everybody who's an engineering manager is like, yep, and people who aren't are like, that doesn't mean anything.

[00:09:41] By the end, it'll make for more sense. And this course is really for software engineers who, again, want that insight into engineering management. And they wanna say, what does my manager do besides meetings? And it's also for engineering managers. If you want a different perspective on engineering management, we all are coming from a different place.

[00:09:59] We all have different teams, different cultures, different backgrounds. So I wanna share some of my perspective, and mine is definitely more from the bigger enterprise side of things. So yours might be a little bit different, but maybe you can pick something up and hopefully I can learn from you too with the questions.

[00:10:17] So I could do the traditional, what is it, valedictorian speech. Webster dictionary defines manage as, but I like this definition. To be in control or in charge of a business team or organization, land, sure, that's about right. The second one always speaks to me, to succeed in doing something, especially something difficult.

[00:10:42] I managed to overcome something. I managed to do this. I managed to do that. And that's, to me, the heart of engineering management. It is difficult, but when you succeed, it is so fulfilling in a way that is impossible to describe unless you've done it before. And hopefully I can share some of that.

[00:10:57] A lot I'll focus on the realities of engineering management, why it's difficult, but don't let it taken away, I enjoy what I do. It's a very challenging, fulfilling job. So, let's talk about how I became a manager, because the path for everybody is a little bit different and mine is, I think an interesting story, but I'm an interesting person, if I do say so myself.

[00:11:21] 2016, there I was, a fresh, young, Jem Young, engineering manager or software engineer, wasn't quite a manager yet. I just got my first role and it was at Netflix. So I moved from New York all the way to the Bay Area in California. And they're a software engineer working on the homepage, Netflix.com, I was working as a, I started as a front end engineer.

[00:11:45] And I thought I knew a lot back then. I knew very little, I was very, very excitable. We're gonna change the world, you remember your engineering job. You're like, yeah, we're gonna be rich, stock options, my company's only gonna go up, this line of code I'm writing is critical.

[00:12:05] Everything's gonna be different. Everything's gonna be better. So fast forward a few years, I've been working at Netflix for four years at this point, and I noticed something really, really weird, really uncomfortable. So I noticed my GitHub contributions, this is a graph of my GitHub contributions, they were going down, and down and down, and I was perplexed.

[00:12:31] I said, I'm an engineer, I'm a software engineer. What am I doing though? If I'm not writing code, what am I doing? And it really threw me for a loop because I base my entire identity off of being a software engineer and writing code and my technical expertise, but I was still doing something for the company.

[00:12:53] They hadn't let me go, I was doing well by all metrics, but I wasn't writing code anymore. This really made me think about, what is software engineering at this point? I'm leading meetings now. I'm running projects. I'm throwing out ideas. I'm helping. I'm delegating work. I'm helping people write code or explaining technology to people.

[00:13:14] How am I still a software engineer? I'm not even touching code anymore. It's going down and down and down. This really gave me a lot to think about. So fortunately, I have a really good support group of friends who are like, Jem, maybe you should try engineering management.

[00:13:28] I was like, [LAUGH] no thank you, that doesn't seem very exciting to me. They're like, why don't you try it? You're pretty good with people, so people tell me, and you know if nothing else. And this is how I got tricked into Netflix and interviewing for Netflix was, you know what, if it doesn't work out, you learned something and you can go back to what you were doing before.

[00:13:53] I was like, yeah, that's true. Now I know that's not the case. You shouldn't casually become an engineering manager. The blast radius is high if you're not committed to it, and you can impact the real lives of people. But at the time I was like, yeah, I'll try it, what's the worst that could happen?

[00:14:12] So in 2021, I became an engineering manager. And we'll talk more about that transition and why it is difficult. It is not easy to become an engineering manager. There are ways that are a little bit easier than others, but making that jump was really, really difficult. So as an engineering manager, and it was 2021 and I'll be honest, I was struggling.

[00:14:35] I was struggling. No one was telling me what to do. The culture of the company is very much, you're smart, we hired you for a role, you figure it out. Which I appreciate as a software engineer. But as engineering manager, I had no idea. What should I be focusing on?

[00:14:51] There's so many problems and there's so many ways I could be spending my time, what should I be doing? And the challenge of management is no one can tell you that. People can give you insights, they can give you some tips, maybe their perspective, but no one can tell you what to do.

[00:15:07] And that's kind of the pro and con of engineering management. No one tells you what to do. In my first year, it was bad. It was really bad. I was in a really bad place. And I had to figure out how to get myself out of the hole.

[00:15:19] And fortunately, I had friends I can count on, give me good advice, but overall, I don't like to quit and I like the challenge. And if something's hard that I especially like when I overcome it. But I pushed really hard and I'd say this is something I don't want anybody to go through though.

[00:15:37] And that's kind of the onus for this course is like, I don't want you to struggle the way I did. And so you look at me, I'm smiling now, the team is good. I can look back in 2023 and say, wow, I really made a difference. I really turned things around from a team that probably wasn't doing so well.

[00:15:56] But I can only see that now, but when you're in the thick of it, you can't see it. All you can see is the problems. So, that's the origin story of how I became a manager and how I'm standing up here now. And all of that I wanna teach you.

[00:16:11] I wanna teach you how to avoid what I did. I wanna teach you how to become a manager the right way. I wanna teach you all these skills and just lessons I've learned, very, very hard won lessons as a manager. Why the practical part? Why practical? It's practical because there's so many books on engineering management, there's so many books on leadership.

[00:16:34] A lot of them are, I remember reading them, they're philosophical. I guess you're like, your team and how do you build trust with your team? And how do you think about that? And, what are the different personalities in your team? And these are important things to know. But that's not really my style of learning.tell me real lessons, tell me real tips that I can take away today, not theoretical things, because there's just too many scenarios to cover well.

[00:17:03] So this is why the course is called Practical Engineering Management. We're not gonna go into thought leadership too much. This is all gonna be real practical things that you can take away today. That will make sense to you whether you're an engineering manager, software engineer, a director. And that's the goal of the practical side of things.

[00:17:20] Things you can actually take and do something with.