3 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Consider

If you have dedicated a large portion of your professional career to building and refining your technical skills, becoming an engineering manager may seem like a challenging undertaking. Jessica McKellar, Chief Technology Officer at Pilot, recounts her experience in engineering management and the essential lessons she learned while transitioning from a team leader to a technical leader in this blog post.

She condenses her experience into simple ideas to assist technical leaders in becoming successful.

According to McKellar, as an engineering manager, you should concentrate on three things:

  1. Directly assisting the members of your team
  2. Managing execution and cross-team coordination
  3. Observing and improving processes as the company and team expand.

How can an engineering manager help their team directly?

As an engineering manager, you must ensure that your team members are working properly.

How? By concentrating on two aspects: your engineers’ day-to-day and year-to-year performance.

And it is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that their day-to-day operations align with their long-term objectives.

While meeting the needs of your organisation, you can assign engineers projects that will help them succeed in areas that are important to them.

In order to ensure that your engineers are able to find the best career opportunities for themselves, it is essential to take their career goals into consideration when designing their roles within the company. By taking the time to understand the ambitions of each engineer, you will be able to craft positions that will allow them to reach their goals while contributing to the success of the organisation.

Here are three questions McKellar recommended for better understanding your engineers.

  1. What skills do they wish to hone?
  2. What kinds of technical and non-technical experiences are they looking for?
  3. How do they intend to broaden their impact at the company?

It can be a daunting prospect to consider what one’s career aspirations will be in five years’ time, and there is an implicit expectation that one should demonstrate a desire to remain with their current employer.

As the manager, it is your duty to create a comfortable environment for open communication and dialogue. One way to do this is by initiating a conversation about each team member’s career objectives. Let them know that it is understandable if they decide they want to pursue different opportunities in order to reach their desired goals. Your candidness and support will help to foster an atmosphere of openness and trust among your team members.

In addition to open discussions, have a framework in place to identify what excites people outside of their job description.

It is recommended that these insights be used as the basis for a discussion with your engineers, so that you can identify incentives that truly motivate them. This dialogue should also enable them to gain a better comprehension of how your organisation can support their individual career ambitions. Hence, through this conversation, a greater sense of collaboration and progress can be achieved.

The capability of a team is directly related to the engineering manager’s execution skills.

As engineering managers, it is our responsibility to identify and nurture engineers who possess the potential to move into management roles. We must distinguish between those engineers who are satisfied with their current role of coding, and those who have the ambition to progress into management. Every successful engineering manager has gone through the same journey, and with the right guidance, this success can be replicated.

If you can help your team members develop their individual capacity, you will be able to accomplish far more, according to McKellar.

It is important to have faith in the technical leaders at your organisation and allow them the autonomy to tackle complex tasks. Instead of intervening at the first sign of difficulty, it is beneficial to permit them to make mistakes and use those errors as learning opportunities. By allowing them to independently break down, delegate, and execute projects, they will be able to develop their skills and contribute to the success of the organisation.

Investing in the professional development of your team is an effective way to increase their capacity and improve overall performance. To achieve this, it is important to create an environment that encourages collaboration between new and experienced engineers. This should include providing equal opportunities for knowledge sharing, such as mentoring programs, team building activities, and open dialogues. By doing so, not only will your team gain valuable insight and experience, but they will also build relationships that foster trust and collaboration.

It is essential to ensure a balanced approach when assigning projects, as new employees can contribute fresh perspectives, while those with more experience can impart discipline and instill the company’s culture. By distributing projects evenly, the entire team will be able to benefit from the advantages that each member brings to the table.

Every engineering manager must provide their team with the necessary tools and processes.

Create a process that not only informs your team about the project at hand but also explains how it will benefit their future, says McKellar.

It is important to analyse and understand how each of your team members wishes to progress in their engineering career. Once their individual goals and ambitions are identified, you should strive to incorporate these into your process in order to ensure that they are provided with the opportunity to work on projects which are both impactful and which align with their desired career path.

  • Provide a productive development environment: This entails equipping your new hires with the essential materials and constructing a straightforward onboarding process to enable them to swiftly become acquainted with their new roles.
  • Regular check-ins: In order to ensure the successful completion of a long and complex project, it is important to establish a feedback system that is both detailed and accurate. This will help to keep the project on track and provide visibility into any issues that may be hindering progress. Additionally, it is important to proactively communicate with team members in order to identify any potential roadblocks. To this end, regular unblocking sessions should be held to ensure any issues that may be preventing productivity can be addressed and resolved in a timely manner.
    McKellar suggests the inclusion of coding reviews, architectural reviews, and planning discussions into an organisation’s feedback system in order to capture detailed technical feedback and obtain an understanding of the bigger picture.
  • Be open: It is essential that our engineers are kept informed of the developments occurring at the executive level. By ensuring that they are aware of the current situation, they will be able to better comprehend the inner workings of the company, as well as feel more involved and devoted to its success. Transparency is key in building an atmosphere of trust and collaboration amongst all members of the organisation.
  • Organic Motivation: As managers, it is important to strive to keep our engineers motivated and positive, however, this is not always achievable. A better approach is to focus on assigning engineers to projects that are suited to their skillset and interests. This way, they will be more likely to remain engaged and inspired by the work they are doing.

As a manager, it is important to provide support to our engineers and help them understand the implications of this project on our company. By acknowledging the importance of their contribution to the success of the project, they will be more motivated to do their best work. This will help to ensure that they do not need any additional incentives to complete the task.

To sum up

While transitioning into the role of an engineering manager can be thrilling, taking on the responsibility of managing a team without the necessary frame of mind, understanding, and strategies can be intimidating. It is important to note that the majority of the difficulties associated with becoming a successful engineering manager are more related to personal matters than they are to technical matters.

Use Jessica McKellar’s decades of experience to your advantage and implement her strategies to become a better engineering manager.

Despite the importance of having the necessary managerial skills, it is also essential to have well-trained and experienced software engineers as part of your team. Having a team of highly-skilled professionals will enable you to leverage their expertise to drive successful engineering management initiatives.

Join the Top 1% of Remote Developers and Designers

Works connects the top 1% of remote developers and designers with the leading brands and startups around the world. We focus on sophisticated, challenging tier-one projects which require highly skilled talent and problem solvers.
seasoned project manager reviewing remote software engineer's progress on software development project, hired from Works blog.join_marketplace.your_wayexperienced remote UI / UX designer working remotely at home while working on UI / UX & product design projects on Works blog.join_marketplace.freelance_jobs