What it takes to be an Engineering Manager

Being an Engineering Manager is very different from being a Software Engineer. Let's dive into the responsibilities, skills, and daily tasks of an Engineering Manager.

What it takes to be an Engineering Manager
Jeroen Fiege
Jeroen Fiege
Founder Strateamic
September 14, 2022

Being an Engineering Manager is very different from being a Software Engineer. As an engineer, your day primarily revolves around coding. Building new features, fixing bugs or issues, reviewing code, maintaining infrastructure, and what more. If you love to code, transitioning to an EM role might not be for you. Perhaps transitioning to Tech Lead or Architect role would suit you better.

The EM role is about people. Making sure everyone is happy and productive. About removing obstacles and helping others grow in their career. You will be involved in hiring new talent for your team and participate in Performance Review cycles. You need to be a good communicator to share new ideas across teams, resolve conflicts, and inspire others. You shouldn't be surprised if your agenda is mostly filled with meetings. If this speaks to you, then the EM role might be something for you!

Let's dive into the responsibilities, skills, and daily tasks of an Engineering Manager.

What are the responsibilities of an Engineering Manager?

An EM has many responsibilities. Here are the top 10 responsibilities that we've aggregated from dozens of Engineering Manager vacancies.

  • Involved in Performance Review cycles
  • Involved in the hiring process
  • Collaborate with Product Owners and Stakeholders on the technical roadmaps and product strategy
  • Empower the team to perform at their best and remove obstacles
  • Facilitate architectural discussions and other meetings
  • Facilitate the onboarding of new hires
  • Responsible for your team's KPIs and OKRs
  • Coach and inspire team members
  • Develop a positive work culture
  • Keep technical debt and development velocity in check

What is the typical skillset of an Engineering Manager?

We've analyzed dozens of Engineering Manager job descriptions and aggregated the following list of skills that are requested the most for an Engineering Manager role.

  • Solid software engineering experience
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Architectural design experience
  • Good interpersonal communicator and listener
  • Able to mentor and coach others
  • Good at facilitating (large) meetings
  • Pragmatic decision-making and problem-solving abilities
  • Well-organized; consistent; and strong note-taking abilities

What does a typical day for an Engineering Manager look like?

These are some of the tasks that you will find on an Engineering Manager's calendar, throughout the week.

  • Review incoming resumes of new applicants
  • Have an interview with a potential new hire
  • Have one or more 1-on-1 meetings with your direct reports
  • Facilitate an architectural discussion on how to solve that scalability issue
  • Facilitate a post-mortem call with the team to ensure everyone learns and this type of issue doesn't happen again
  • Send a status update to upper management on the current KPIs of your team
  • Check-in with HR on the upcoming Performance Review
  • Prepare a presentation on the new technical roadmap for next quarter

Further reading

In this article, we named the responsibilities, skills, and daily tasks of an Engineering Manager to give you an idea about this role, so you can decide for yourself if it fits you. If so, you might want to start by reading more on this. We've compiled a list of top-rated Engineering Manager books:

Strateamic for structured 1-on-1 meetings
Strateamic helps Engineering Managers structure their 1:1s. After you've invited your team, you can create a meeting schedule with your direct reports. Strateamic automatically prepares meeting questions, or you can add your own talking points. Ahead of the meeting, your reports are asked to go over the questions and answer them. Because they already put thought into it before the meeting, they will be better prepared during the meeting, which makes it more effective for both of you.

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