8 Things You Need to Know About Becoming an Engineering Manager
Moving to management is fun when you know what it takes
It’s not easy being an Engineering Manager and it takes more than just a good work ethic. The first step in becoming a good leader is learning about yourself as an individual. Self-awareness and self-reflection are key if you want to be an empathetic and confident leader. Once you know what it means to be you, it will be easier for your direct reports and colleagues to figure out how they relate their own strengths and weaknesses with yours. They must be able to see how their work contributes to the whole and feel valued as members of a team.
What makes a good engineering manager at Taxdoo? With our Taxdoo values and culture in mind, here are some tips on becoming and excelling as an engineering manager.
One of the most important things you can do to become an engineering manager is to keep yourself motivated. And understand what motivates you. Motivation is a mindset that keeps you one step ahead of your competition and allows you to achieve more than what would seem initially possible.
In order for motivation to have an effect, the first thing to do is to make sure that there is a clear goal or set of goals that need to be accomplished. From there on, it’s easy. Make a plan with small actionable steps that are part of the overall goal. Once something gets accomplished, ticking it off marks an incremental step toward completing your goal. Not only does it feel good to work in this way, but it also strengthens the resolve of yourself and others as progress is tangible and constant.
Empowering Others to do their Best Work
A good engineering manager knows that empowering their team is their primary role.
Good leaders celebrate and hone the unique capabilities and personalities of their direct reports and strive to support each individual to grow whilst delivering business value. By trusting their team to self-organize with day-to-day operational tasks (such as attending stand-up or organizing code reviews), an engineering manager can then focus on coaching engineers and inspiring them to do their best work by gradually assigning them more significant pieces of work which challenge them and with guidance, push them out of their comfort zone.
Feedback is key
Constructive feedback is key to the success of your team. It’s about giving your team members the information and guidance they need so they can succeed, but also being humble enough to accept feedback from your team or your own manager. At Taxdoo, our culture fosters frequent feedback and this is one of the things our future engineering managers need to encourage as a constant.
To us, feedback is the cornerstone to creating a culture where mistakes are embraced and a growth mindset is celebrated. And encouraging our engineers to be brave enough to take action rather than avoid risk. It means setting up systems for continuous improvement and feedback loops between leadership and employees so that everyone knows what’s expected of them in each role on the team, or across teams. If you’d like to find out how we embed this from day one, check out our Onboarding blog post.
It’s important to remember that mistakes are encouraged when you’re an engineering manager. Think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow. No one’s perfect, so why should you or anyone else be punished for it?
In an engineering setting, we all know that the business of shipping code can be a risky business. Deployment failed? Major outage? Stay calm and fix it. Then assemble your team for a blameless incident post-mortem. Take the lead and share the results with the engineering department and the rest of the business. No one is more stressed than your engineers when something goes wrong; it’s your role as a manager to steady the ship, investigate what happened, support the solution, and show solidarity with your team in front of the entire business. This fosters psychological safety, which will unite your team when times get tough.
At the end of the day, we work in tech, not the emergency room.
Communication solves everything
Communication is so important when building a team. Something that people often miss though is that communication isn’t just about talking; it’s also about listening.
Communication in the workplace is essential because it facilitates collaboration in an environment that brings a diverse range of people together and helps them to harness their unique abilities to achieve success on projects and tasks that are important to the company. Collaboration is something we cherish deeply at Taxdoo. We believe that it allows everyone to simultaneously experience how their work impacts other teams, and how other teams’ work impacts their own. This builds awareness and makes the path to success smoother than ever.
Everyday is a school day
It’s important to keep learning, especially in a fast-paced environment like ours. You can learn from your team, and they can learn from you. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to understand each other before jumping into a critical piece of work.
For example one person might be great at writing code but not so great at understanding what their teammates are talking about; another person may have a very strong background in programming but not so much experience with business management.
We could go on and on, but the point here is that everyone has something unique to offer—and those differences should be valued as much as their similarities!
Learning is a lifelong process. You can’t stop learning and you never have to stop learning. The best thing about it is that it’s not just about reading, watching, or listening; it’s also about asking questions.
Learning isn’t something that happens once in your career—it’s a process of trial and error. Try new things and fail at them until you figure out why they didn’t work for you before giving up. Alternatively, you can try again with another approach or strategy to see if that makes sense for you as an individual, team member, and employee at Taxdoo.
At the end of the day, what you do matters more than what you say
As a new leader, you’ll face challenges that will push your boundaries and stretch your skills. You’ll have to learn new things and put them into practice, including how to empower effectively, motivate others, and communicate with the people on your team. Becoming a good leader is hard work.
If you’re interested in having a role that enables you to make an impact and grow as an individual as well as part of an organization, there’s no better time than now.
While becoming an engineering manager isn’t always easy, it’s definitely rewarding. The benefits of leadership are endless, and you’ll be glad you took this step when you see how much your team grows.
This article is written by the engineering managers at Taxdoo.
André Kowalewski, Katarina Lang, Zeynal Zeynalov, Maria Canero, Alexander Klein and Gabriel Guimaraes.
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