Engineering Managers: What Makes Them Most Effective in Startups?
A sharp and effective engineering manager is one who is able to blend his/her technical expertise along with strong business and management acumen. The role of an engineering manager is a highly critical one and can be the decisive factor between the success and failure of a team. In this article, we look at the 5 skills that an engineering manager should possess/ be evaluated on-
- Technical Expertise – This one is foundational and must go without saying. An engineering manager is required to have the same key skills as those of the engineers within the team. This is essential so that the manager is able to understand and help solve the issues that may be faced by the engineers working on the project. Having experience in the same tech stack as that of their team is a huge plus.
At Spottabl, our expert recruiters on-cloud rely hugely on hiring suggestions provided by recruitment teams when posting their openings. If ever there’s an EM opening, a recurring requirement is always a hands-on individual who can get their hands dirty when the situation demands it. So if your coding skills have gotten a little rusty, it’s time to sharpen them.
- Project Management – This is the one big skill that allows an engineer to move into the role of an Engineering manager. It’s important that the manager is not only able to effectively lead the team in their respective sprints but also must be on top of the budgets, time lines, allocation of resources etc.. In a nutshell, it’s important that the engineering manager is able to have a high level understanding of the whole project and not just be able to read the code written by the engineers. Planning is the core aspect to developing this skill; both capacity and capability planning to be able to deliver a project in the least amount of time.
Agile project management tools like Trello, Asana, Jira are commonplace in startups. Also try Clickup, Clubhouse, Linear.app (We use linear at Spottabl). Please comment if you would like us to do a blog on the top tools that you should try.
- Communication – Communicating with clarity and precision is an asset to any engineering manager. It’s the manager’s job to provide direction to the team and let them know what is expected out of them. From time to time, an EM will be required to manage performance, provide feedback, resolve conflicts and also keep the team motivated and inspired. This is essential to building trust and strong relationships within the team.
Also, communication is not only limited to within the team, but also keeping the other teams like product, customer success teams informed on delays or helping align technical debt tasks into their priorities as well.
- Effective Delegation – It’s not about doing things yourself but getting them done in an efficient manner. While this is technically a part of effective project management, this aspect requires a special mention because most engineering managers tend to struggle with this. Getting this piece right can make life so much easier for the manager and the entire team on the whole. It’s important to know what needs to be done from which person based on their skills, work ethic and also the current workload being managed by that person. This creates balance and also ensures timelines are being honored.
- Problem Solving – Great leaders and engineering managers are essentially problem solvers. It always comes down to managing budgets, resources and ensuring that the outcomes are achieved in a timely manner, while being able to handle the various challenges that might come up in the process. It’s important for an Engineering Manager to be solution focused at all times. This is what separates an effective manager from an ineffective one.
This is one skill that helps you evaluate future team members as well. As an EM one of your primary responsibilities will be to hire great talent. You can’t go wrong with hiring problem solvers than just evaluating based on the tech skills.
Our goal at Spottabl is to be the bridge between bright talent and great opportunities. We have, on our platform the most exciting opportunities that can be the big break you are looking for in your career. We have a long list of well curated companies that are currently looking for strong talent to build with. Click here to find the right opportunity to take your career to the next level. And if you are a startup looking to hire engineering managers or any talent, our platform is the only one you will need. Do sign up here. Or just write us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.