Engineering Manager

What does an Engineering Manager do?

An Engineering Manager manages a team of engineers, overseeing their work, providing technical feedback, and helping their company’s engineering organization ensure that projects are completed to quality standards and on time.

How is an Engineering Manager different from other senior engineering roles?

While this depends on the company and company size, an Engineering Manager is often the first leadership role and next step from an individual contributor role. Many Engineering Managers will also be expected to be contributors themselves, and work with their teams on projects in addition to their management responsibilities.

What is a typical background of an Engineering Manager?

Many Heads of Engineering have 10 or more years of experience in the Engineering field, and may have worked in a variety of engineering roles across different companies.
  • Successful past projects or products: An Engineering Manager should be an excellent Engineer, and should have a track record of great companies they’ve worked at and projects they’ve been part of.
  • An advanced degree (although not always required): An Engineering Manager may also have an advanced degree in computer science or another technical field, or even an MBA.
  • Previous experience as a manager (although not always required): Many companies ask for a couple years of experience in a managerial role when interviewing candidates. Candidates who have this experience, or have examples of leadership roles they’ve assumed on projects, may be more desirable.

What are some of the typical responsibilities of an Engineering Manager?

  • To spend dedicated time with their 1:1 reports: An Engineering Manager is often the first escalation point for problems their team may be facing, and often dedicates time each week to meet with their direct reports individually. These meetings give Engineering Managers an opportunity to learn what their reports are working on, offer advice and support, help them troubleshoot problems, and offer mentorship.

    Directors or Heads of Engineer may not always have the time to meet 1:1 with many engineers, so an Engineering Manager is a critical role in keeping an engineering team happy at work.
  • To help align their team on daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly goals: Senior Engineering management roles will also do this, but Engineering Managers should have a thorough understanding of their team’s goals and what they need to work on each day in order to be successful. For example, an Engineering Manager may be in charge of developing the schedule for their team’s projects, ensuring that the work is completed on time.
  • To provide feedback to their team: An Engineering Manager will need to deliver feedback to their team on their work, ensuring projects are high quality. This can take many forms, like leading code reviews.

What are some of the skills a successful Engineering Manager should have?

  • A desire and passion for mentorship: Engineering Managers should enjoy spending time with their direct reports and offering them guidance to further their own careers.
  • Thorough understanding of the latest technologies and programming languages: An Engineering Manager is critical to understanding. A great Engineering Manager may also have an interest or understanding of other technical fields that are tangential to engineering, like data science (which can help their team work better on software engineering projects that involve large data sets), or product management (which can help their team better understand the lifecycle of the products they are building).
  • Strong project management skills: An Engineering Manager will not only need to manage their own time across projects, but also the time of their team. For example, is a particular bug taking up all of their engineer’s time? If so, their other projects may need to be spread across the team to share the workload, to ensure that everything gets done.
  • Excellent communication skills: Engineering Managers will need to often communicate across different functions of their company, like product, marketing and finance. Or if their organization is large enough and has several different engineering departments, they may also need to have excellent communication skills when working with other engineering teams.