Some articles and books that I found super useful to help me navigate my work as an engineering manager. I originally put this together when a former colleague stepped into a people management role for the first time, and keep expanding this list over time.
- Melissa & Johnathan Nightingale: How f*cked up is your management? An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership. If you want to get a rough idea on how to be a good leader, learn about how to D&I, hiring, growing, managing up and out, feedback, and leading when it’s hard, and you’re okay with swear words, then I’d really recommend this book.
- Michael Bungay Stanier: The Coaching Habit. Great book on coaching-style management (which I’m a huge proponent of).
- Camille Fournier: The Manager’s Path, if you haven’t read it yet, I’d recommend starting with this one, as it covers the basics of Engineering Management and how to progress from there. It also works just as a book to look things up in from time to time.
- Brené Brown: Daring Greatly. This book only has one chapter on management, but the book really shaped me in many unexpected personal and professional ways, and changed some things fundamentally for me.
- Kim Scott: Radical Candor. Great book on building relationships, trust, and strong feedback culture.
- Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen: Difficult conversations – How to discuss what matters most. Very good book about communication in general, and how to talk about what hard things, and what really matters.
I make a habit of focusing on reading and recommending management books that were written by women, People of Colour, and other members of underrepresented groups in tech and management roles. If you know good books that match these criteria, I’d love to hear about them.
Newsletters and other content
I’m normally not big on newsletters, but have found a few that are relatively low-traffic (once a week or less), contain a manageable amount of content, and provide high value for me:
- Lara Hogan (former VPE Etsy, Kickstarter, Meetup) has a great newsletter, and her blog is a great resource for leadership-related content
- Lara Hogan and her now-cofounder Deepa Subramanian (former VP Product) also have a newsletter together.
- Software Lead Weekly often has pretty good content as well.
- The Engineering Managers Slack is a great community. I only follow a few channels there, but sometimes find discussions there really useful (and have also used it to ask for advice in the past).
- Inclusion at work. Great and important reads.
- Marlow Management Series. Fortnightly management content, always with one bigger topic, and very practical.
What to expect from moving into management
- Engineering Management: Lessons learned in first year – Good post about what to expect, and how to shift your mindset over your first year as an engineering manager
- How to fail as a new engineering manager, in 8 easy steps
What to do as you start out
- This 90-Day Plan Turns Engineers into Remarkable Managers – A very good primer that can help you make a plan together with your own manager
- How to become a great engineering manager
- How New Managers Can Send the Right Leadership Signals
- The Brutal Truth About Why Being a Leader Is So Hard (I find the title very annoying, but the article really good. It focuses on the flexibility required from being a good manager, and on adapting to the people you work with, which I find one of the cores of the work.
- 6 Necessary Skills of Effective Team Leaders
- Another all-time fav of mine: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
- How understanding loss helps you manage culture through change
- Guide to allyship. (I think that effective ally work is an important part of inclusion.)
- You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach
- Why you should manage your energy, not your time
- Manager energy drain – I found being deliberate about organising my work and scheduling things really important to ensuring I could do my work well, and take care of myself. I used a similar approach to Lara’s, and found it super useful.
- Questions for our first 1:1s
- 1:1s are key to much of your work, so it’s important to make them useful. 101 questions to ask in one on ones. I’m not a fan of all of them (personally, I don’t use the “Personal Life” section normally), but there are a lot of great ones in here. (There’s also a document in the Travis CI Google Drive with a 1:1 template that contains some of these questions. One of the other eng managers has the link.)
- How to run 1:1 meetings that work for 2
- I always found it useful to be deliberate about also managing my own boss. This article has some useful advice: How To Manage Your Boss — Ten Dos And Don’ts.
- When It Comes to Feedback, Start with Yourself: A Manager’s Guide for Effectively Giving Feedback
- How Managers Can Get More Feedback from Their Teams
- Another Way to Motivate Employees: Try Building a Culture of Praise
Further reading materials
- How to Lead People and Be a Manager – An extensive collection of documents about how-to management, from philosophies, transitioning into management, 1:1s, feedback, culture, time management, to hiring and conflict resolution. While it’s a lot to read, I find it a useful document for looking things up when needed.
- This thread by Marc Hedlund with management advice is one of my all-time favs
Should I move from maker to manager, or not?
Over the years, I had many conversations with folks who were interested in management-type roles, but not always sure whether these roles would be for them (and that’s okay, there’s only so much of an accurate impression that your imagination of working such a role can give you). Here are some posts that I think describe the differences well:
- “Look up into space and imagine a space ship. What would excite you the most? Being the person who wrote the code? Being the person who architected the system? Being the person who managed the team?” — This Quora thread has a lot of good responses.
- Do you have what it takes to be a manager? Good outline of core competencies.
- So, you want to be a manager? A coaching conversation. This post is a guideline for managers whose reports want to step into management, but lists great questions that can be useful to go through by yourself as well (or have someone actually coach through this topic).
- Things I’ve learned transitioning from engineer to engineering manager
- How to Make the Leap from Engineer to Manager
- 6 lessons from a former engineer on humanizing management (point 1 about recalibrating what success looks like is particularly important)
- How to Decide Whether or Not You Want to Be a Manager
- Why I Left Management: the engineering technical track vs. management track