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What to do to become an Engineering Manager before you are an Engineering Manager

A lot of engineers want to be managers. I don’t think that eng management is right for everyone, but if you at least want the chance, here are somethings you can be doing to help you get that manager opporunity: (In no particular order)

  • Own something: A feature, a component, a system, an app, a product, whatever. Whatever it is, you need to be the go-to person on this and you need to be autonomous and accountable for it’s success. Ideally this is something that is big and meaty enough to warrant its own team as the company around you scales.
  • Mentor people: Make people around you better. New hires, interns, non-technical staff, etc. This is a key part of management and mentoring is something that you can do without being a manager.
  • Hire people: Constantly improve your skills around sourcing, filtering, selling and the hiring process and pipelines.
  • Adopt and improve the key processes around you: This could be scrum or deploy or onboarding or whatever. Need evidence that you can drive increasing efficiency via process.
  • Understand the business and product. Understand how day to day engineering work (yours and your peers) affect the company and its strategy.
  • You should read:
    • The Phoenix Project (@kevinbehr, @gspaff, @RealGeneKim)
    • The Manager’s Path (@skamille)
    • Managing Humans (@rands)
    • High Output Management (Andy Grove).
  • Ask your manager what management opportunities are available. Your expectations should be in months (6-24), not weeks for this transition to happen, depending on your abilities and company situation.
  • Make sure your techincal skills are up to snuff. This is particularly important for new managers.

It’s a harder transition that you think. Don’t lose faith in yourself. Take feedback well (even poorly delivered feedback). Ask for feedback proactively. Honestly assess yourself. Do what you can to increase your own self-awareness.

The realities of the workplace mean that the quality of your current manager has a lot to do with how fast you become a manager. You may be left the with unfortunately options of having to change your environment in order to achieve your goals.

In a nutshell: Be excellent at work and make you and everything around you better.

This post based of a series of tweets you can read here. You should follow me on twitter for more of my thoughts on engineering, management and hiring.

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