AGILE LEADERSHIP

Deconstructing Engineering Manager Role

Recently I started to ponder about the Engineering Manager role. Who exactly is an Engineering Manager and what do they do? What’s the difference between an Engineering Manager, an Engineering Lead, Team Lead, Tech Lead, Functional Lead, etc? Is there any difference other than the company they work for? Because it looks like the same job title might mean something completely different in a different company.

Engineering Manager Interviews Trailer

Taking up a challenge

I decided to take up a challenge and find out what it means to be a Leader in Technology. An Agile Leader. And for that, I decided to start a series of Engineering Manager Interviews both on YouTube and also as a podcast. Since the conversations will be for under 1 hour. I will deconstruct the role that by talking to people who actually do the job and are good at it. How do I know they are any good? I apply my own judgment.

Engineering Manager interviews — new episode every Tuesday both on YouTube and as a Podcast!

New Engineering Manager Interviews every Tuesday

The first episode premiered on June 15th, on the second anniversary of the Agile State of Mind channel. I interview Luis Castro, a full-stack developer and a Tech Lead at Cameo. Cameo allows celebrities to send personalized video messages to fans. And apart from that, Luis is also a co-host of a podcast “No es solo código”.

Cover Photo for the first Interview on June 15, 5pm CEST

Three elements of confusion about the Engineering Manager role

For now, let me take a step back and explain what exactly about the role is creating chaos for me.

1. The role confusion

We all know what a developer does, don’t we? We can also imagine what a Product Owner does, and a Scrum Master although that’s quite vague too — but at least the role is described in the Scrum Guide. But any management role in tech seems like a black hole. Are you managing people or technology? In one company an Engineering Manager manages the team, while in another they manage the Team Leads. It is all up to what a company defines. However, oftentimes the definition is not even there. Recently, my friend told me that he asked a tech lead in a startup in their 1:1 meeting what they actually did. And the Tech Lead couldn’t reply. Btw, what a terribly tricky question to ask, isn’t it?

So there’s this — the role confusion. With my interviews, I would like to clarify that by asking the manager what they actually do and how.

2. What does it mean to be a Team Manager?

My second headache is the role of a Team Manager. You can call them Engineering Manager, Team Lead, Team Captain, etc. I’d say we have two schools here. The Scrum school and everyone else. In Scrum, there is no hierarchy in a Team, even less after the 2020 Scrum Guide update. The team is self-managing and the Product Owner and Scrum Master form part of that flat team. Back in the day when I was working with Scrum Teams, I would sometimes stop to wonder why Scrum founders didn’t prescribe the role of Team Manager. Wouldn’t that make things easier? Now that I have been working with over 50 teams with Team Leads in different companies, I understand why Scrum is strict on the no-hierarchy aspect. But I also understand the organization’s need for a Team Leader.

Should I reveal this now? Or shall we wait for you, dear readers and viewers, to form your own opinions after watching the interviews? I will go with the latter because I can share my conclusions but I’m sure hearing the opinions of the people doing the job will be far more interesting. I wonder how different the opinions of my guests might be.

So there goes the second reason. How to be a Team Leader who empowers the team.

3. How to help prepare a Developer to become a Manager?

And last but not least, my third reason is to help prepare new emerging leaders for the job. I would like to understand what the transition from a developer to a lead looks like and if it is the only way to progress in the software developer career?

All in all, let’s try to understand what makes an awesome engineering lead and take a close-up on the day-to-day doings of leaders in tech.

Are you with me?

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Maria Chec

Maria Chec

Agile Coach and Content Creator at Agile State of Mind https://www.youtube.com/c/AgileStateofMind and Head of Agile Practice in Fyllo