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Tips for Surviving Engineering Management

14 Feb 2022


I was a software engineer that took up engineering management at a 🦄 startup based out of SF. I loved working with my team– we were recognized as a high performing bunch.

I wrote this for a friend who was considering an engineering management position. It’s mostly geared towards new managers and engineers considering engineering management.

Engineering Management

Compared to software engineers, engineering managers play a support role. You’re there to help really smart people (that know the technology better than you do) accomplish great things.

General Tips

  • Get a therapist.
  • Keep a work journal.
  • Lead by example and take mental health days.
  • In your management career, you’ll take some L’s. It’ll be ok.
  • Be open and vulnerable with your team. If you’re having a bad day, share that with them.
  • As you grow, copy others less– develop your own style with values that matter to you.

Tips on 1:1s

  • Skip a 1:1 if you have to. It’s better for the team to have you there mentally healthy and present.
  • Not all people on the team need weekly 1:1s. For some folks, a bi-weekly cadence is more appropriate.
  • Do your best to schedule 1:1s according to when you have the most energy: e.g., schedule challenging 1:1s earlier in the day so you have time to rest and recover.
  • Prepare a set of questions that you can use for times when you aren’t feeling your best. My favorite question was “what are three words that best describe the mood on the team?”
  • Create “office hours” slots on your calendar so people outside of your team know you’re available to them as well.

Tips on Meetings

  • Your time is important. If your schedule is packed, and you’re getting more meeting invites, ask for the meetings to be rescheduled.
  • You can’t “win” every meeting. Decide early on how much you want to engage in the meeting.
  • It’s ok to change your mind after a meeting. Write down your reasons, think it over, then email/slack the right people, apologize and move on.
  • For meetings that maybe draining or contentious, set up an agenda, or ask whoever called the meeting to set an agenda.
  • There are people who will use meetings to create pressure and force decisions. These are the type of meetings you want to reschedule.

Tips on Delegation

  • Share your engineering values with your team.
  • Not every engineer can, or should, contribute through code all the time. Leverage their strengths.
  • Grow some of the folks to run meetings themselves– sprint planning, operational review meetings, and some product strategy meetings can be handled by the team.
  • Try to find a person on your team that you can confide in, someone who’s aligned with your vision, and is excited to be a part of it.