The Transformative Guide to Being a Successful Engineering Manager

Elad Ash

Head of Engineering at HERE Mobility



Within a two-year time span, the number of engineers, developers, and QA members can grow significantly. As the number of people who report directly to the engineering manager grows, the need for a more focused approach becomes increasingly more apparent. This poses the following question. Which areas should an engineering manager be honing in on in order to best accomplish their responsibilities within the scope of the role?

Actions taken

Initially, it is important for the engineering manager to understand what they provide that nobody else on the team does. This essentially focuses on the roles that you undertake and in turn defines your position as the engineering manager. Once internalized, it should be used to look ahead, taking a variety of outcomes into consideration, and analyzing how this could impact the team. The following subtexts are important areas of focus based on this understanding. Automation - It is comprised of several layers and depends on the full scale of the system, including parts outside of the integration of the product. As the engineering manager, you must contemplate the amount of time or risk there will be in any activity that the engineers are undertaking. Integration - Two separate activities should be involved when integrating components into the system. The adoption from one system to another for the capability to have low repeated costs. The common aspect of pitch integration can be automated by creating configurations that could be easily filled by a non-technical person; someone who doesn't need to write code. It's easy to meet the integration on a specific production, but it's can be challenging looking ahead. Therefore it's pivotal to consider what might be faulty or if you are you ready to scale, whether or not an investment is needed. From there, you must decide what is needed and if the system is broken in such a way that is easy to reuse, or will every integration require a different service. Team Capabilities - It is paramount to identify gaps and provide engineers with alignable measurements. Begin with very clear, high-level goals. Then recognize the strong members of the team and establish expectations. This is easier done in an integration space because it is measurable. From there, you can choose a team leader who should take into account how each team member should reach their best velocity by closing technical gaps. As the engineering manager, it requires you to be involved in several aspects. To understand and be able to code review is important for looking at developers codes. Another area of importance is creating an open discussion/communication between everyone. An hour a day should be allotted with all group managers to align tasks and set clear expectations. You should measure the capacity of the time of individual team members by how many times they meet or miss the deadline rather than whether it was good or bad. Non-Functional Task Requirements - One of the most overlooked concepts of engineering managers is not taking into account these requirements. The product team will not look into maintaining stability, performance, input, latency, etc..., but you are expected to and must be able to measure them. This should be reflected to the team and you should always define the non-functional requirement of each task. Cross Teams - Begin first and foremost by creating an agreement of 'what do you need from me?'. This will further open the discussion to be able to state what you need from them. Both sides need to be in touch with the importance of having a mutual goal and finding common ground amongst several different teams. Sales and engineering need to be divided. The sales team should be focused on bringing in a large quantity of deals and engineers need to make certain that those deals fulfill themselves quickly. On the other hand, the product team should prioritize the integration based on the effort it will take for partners. This means that you need to provide those estimations so that the product team can do so. Furthermore, they should close the gap between the sale and the implementation for the partner, into the system. Ideally, you should keep all the teams you work with updated through weekly reports. Manager Relationship - Invest in the aspect of managing your manager. Help them to understand the benefits of the specific work you are doing. Emulate a good understanding with your leader that defines the gaps and consult with them so they are aware that you are looking towards fixing them. From there, gather feedback and understand how you are being measured. Your personal measurement will greatly define how you must fulfill your managerial role for your team members.

Lessons learned

The importance of understanding your role as engineering manager traverses across several distinct areas. It ensures that somebody is thinking about the long-term through the following realizations.

  • Identifying the gaps in integration time and creating a plan to close them will guide you to successfully complete tasks.
  • Investing in automated tests to accelerate and allow QA's/developers to focus on their specific tasks will increase the capacity and confidence of the team.
  • In automation, it is key to question missing parts, as well as deliberating time and risk for engineers, so they feel confident, when they are doing commits or approval requests.
  • Taking the integration of components into consideration can help smooth the planning of all other aspects.
  • Educating team managers/leaders on aims and expectations allows you to think further ahead, ideally 6 months in advance.
  • Team meetings entitle people to feel responsible and able to communicate on a technical level.
  • Measuring the time capacity of team member deadlines prioritizes activity based on the effort required in completing tasks and creating better, more attainable deadlines.
  • Cross-team communication creates a sense of openness, helping achieve the synergy that you need to succeed.
  • Establishing a clear line of communication with your manager helps build trust between you and the manager, establishes better alignment, and demonstrates commitment.
  • Above all, it is important to cut yourself some slack and enjoy the process. Be aware that you could be embarking on something new and that triumph in this takes time. Expect to fail, but also, expect to learn.

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Elad Ash

Head of Engineering at HERE Mobility

CommunicationEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsTechnical ExpertiseTechnical SkillsProgrammingSoftware DevelopmentLeadership RolesFeedback & ReviewsTeam & Project Management

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