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The "What Do Managers Do?" 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 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.

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Transcript from the "What Do Managers Do?" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> Let's talk about [LAUGH] what do managers do? The most common question, do you have a good idea what your manager does? Probably not, maybe you do. So maybe you have some inkling, you might see the output that they do but you're not in one on ones, you're not in the staff meetings.

[00:00:19] You don't actually know what they're talking about in all these. So let me shed some light on like this hidden world of management and what actually is going on. So what do managers do? The answer is it depends, the good answer. As a engineering manager at a startup, I might spend more of my time coding and hiring.

[00:00:39] I'm trying to build up the team and I'm coding because I don't have a lot of partners to talk to you. At a midsize company, you're probably not hiring as many senior engineers, because senior engineers tend to go maybe bigger salaries. So maybe as midsize company, you're trying to grow quickly.

[00:00:57] But you still need kind of the junior or maybe mid-career software engineers. So you probably spend a lot of time mentoring. And you might be doing a lot of project management at this stage because the people on your team aren't quite senior enough to do that themselves. And of course, if you're an engineering manager at a FAANG company, you spend most of your time chilling.

[00:01:18] And eating the free food as I do every day. The truth is, your role will change from day to day, from week to week. We talked about all these different roles you play. A lot of that varies on the company, the size of the team, the experience of the team, the relation of the team to the business.

[00:01:39] Are you in a part of the business that's really important right now, has a lot of eyes on it? Or are you in more of a keep the lights on part of the business, just keep things running? The size of the company changes what you do. An enterprise company, you're gonna be talking, having a lot more meetings, talking to a lot more partners.

[00:01:56] A smaller company, if you're a company of, I don't know, 20, 30. You're probably gonna spend a lot more time coding cuz you have that opportunity to do that. There's not as much pressure to deliver things as a manager. And then the role of the team, are you a product team?

[00:02:13] Do you build things directly for customers to utilize? Are you like me, I run a platform team, where my customers are actually other engineers who work at the company. And having that perspective on who's your users, who's your customers, is gonna change. And that can be in the same company, you can play different roles.

[00:02:31] So the answer is what do managers do? A lot of it depends. And you have to understand all these things going into a role, and take all these factors into account. So the better question is, at a high level, because the specifics are gonna vary, what are engineering managers responsible for?

[00:02:50] That's a little bit more generic. In general, engineering management is one side engineering, one side management. In the beginning and in the middle are people. It's always about people, but the way that shows up is going to be on the technical side, the engineering side, and on the business and management side.

[00:03:08] But everything you do is gonna be in favor of the business. This is an uncomfortable truth. It means sometimes you can't make people happy. You can't pay them enough. Because the business says you can't pay them enough, you can't pay them more. They wanna move to a bigger role or a different title, and you can't do that cuz there's no room for them in the business.

[00:03:31] There's no room in the budget, or maybe your manager doesn't feel that's appropriate. So that's the challenging part of engineering management is keeping people happy and balancing all these different priorities. But at the end of the day, the business pays you to do something and it pays you to operate the team efficiently and that's what you have to remember.

[00:03:49] But your team is made of people and they don't care about the business as much that's your job and that's my job right now. They shouldn't have to care. And if I'm saying like, man, Jem, these are a lot of contrasting perspectives. Yeah, [LAUGH] that's what you do, though.

[00:04:04] That's the challenge of engineering management. But this chart at a high level is exactly what you're responsible for, everything in between. And the fun thing is, this doesn't change as you move up, if you become senior manager, director, VP. It's always engineering, the technology, and there's always the business and management side, and there's always people in the middle.

[00:04:27] The amount of people, your relation to the technology, your relation to the business change, but it always looks like this no matter what. Any thoughts or perspectives on this one?
>> I would say that this is something that I kind of noticed as I got into engineering management.

[00:04:46] Whereas when I was just an engineer, it kind of felt very, well, if management would just do this, well, [LAUGH] there's a lot more contrasting concerns and desires that you maybe weren't aware of. And therefore, your manager is in a, yeah, has a lot more competing interests that they have to worry about, that you're not aware of, so.

[00:05:09]
>> That's a good perspective. Yeah, I was probably that person, too, [LAUGH] the pointing out of things. Why don't we do this, why don't we do that? And, for my sins now I'm an engineering manager and I understand there's a lot more competing priorities that I was aware of.

[00:05:25] And I didn't have to be aware of. I had a good manager who shielded me from that, but there's no shield when you're a manager at this level.