A list of resources that I have found useful in navigating my work as an engineering manager and executive. The initial list was for a colleague who moved into their first engineering management role, and I’ve continued expanding it in the four years since. I still add to it occasionally, last updated on: December 6, 2021.
Primers to Engineering Management & Leadership
- Julie Zhuo: The Making of a Manager. Solid primer on management.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- HBR guide to managing up and across: It’s a skill, and this guide has a ton of information on managing into all directions, and how to develop the skills to do it well, highly recommend.
- Elad Gil: High Growth Handbook. Your company is growing fast and you want to learn from others who have done it before you? This is for you. I don’t agree with everything in here, but it provides useful direction and nudges in a time that’s often quite chaotic.
- Michael Bungay Stanier: The Coaching Habit. Great book on coaching-style management (which I’m a huge proponent of).
- Fred Pelard: How to be strategic
- Richard Rumelt: Good Strategy – Bad Strategy.
- Marty Cagan: Inspired, Empowered. Very good books on delivery, in particular for leaders in product organisations.
- Mik Kersten: Project to Product. Offers useful approaches for a challenge many teams struggle with: how to get from a project- to a product mindset and delivery approach.
Leading leaders & organisations
- Liz Wiseman: Multipliers – How the best leaders make everyone smart. Great book on growing leaders around you.
- Patrick Lencioni: The Advantage – Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. Really liked this on how to build strong organisations and teams.
- Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais: Team Topologies. A classic already. I particularly love the approach of defining interfaces and interaction patterns between teams
- Robert Anderson & William Adams: Scaling organisations. Great mix of inspirational content and practical tips for leadership in high-growth times.
- Kim Scott: Radical Candor. Great book on building relationships, trust, and strong feedback culture.
- Kerry Patterson: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Good on communication when things get tough.
- 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.
- CTO Craft’s weekly newsletter is a well-rounded collection of tech leadership topics, from agile, engineering & product, to leadership & self-management, to culture & people.
- Lead Developer with a regular collection of original content on all things engineering leadership.
- Melissa Perri‘s newsletter is aimed at Product Managers, and as someone who works with Product Managers a lot, I found it a really good resource.
- Jonathan and Melissa Nightingale have a very good and frank newsletter on difficult leadership questions.
- Lara Hogan has a great newsletter, and her blog is a deep resource for leadership-related content
- Software Lead Weekly often has good content on a variety of subjects.
- 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.
- Josh Radnor has a very good newsletter with musings that have nothing to do with engineering leadership, which is even more of a reason to read it.
Articles on transition into management
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.
- 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