Like many software engineers that work as individual contributors for a certain length of time, opportunities to lead teams and projects eventually were presented to me. Then, when team and project lead positions worked out well, my first opportunity to enter a proper "engineering manager" role was offered. It's not uncommon for an engineer to be promoted continually by demonstrating increasingly good engineering skills. Their previous work qualifies them for the next level of work.
However it is at the management level that it becomes apparent that an engineer's previous work as a high-level engineer does not prepare them for the organization and interpersonal complexities of managing a team of other engineers.
In the best of cases, the engineer's life experience outside of the field of engineering will have prepared them somewhat for the challenges of management. In the worst of cases, the engineer will have to learn the hard way, through trial and error, how to be a good manager, without mentorship or guidance.
Luckily there are a lot of great books out there on the subject of engineering management, for those of us who are not working for companies with fully-formed mentorship programs, and who are not gracefully prepared for the position.
"The Manager's Path" by Camille Fournier draws on her own experience as a tech leader, shares practical advice and insights to help engineering managers succeed in their role. It is a valuable first-read for new software engineering managers. It will help them find their sea legs, avoid common pitfalls and bring their attention early to aspects of the job that may only reveal themselves in practice once things have gone off the rails. I'm also confident that engineering managers all levels will take away wisdom from the book.
The book is divided into four sections, each covering a different stage of the manager's journey. It starts with the transition from an individual contributor to a manager, offering tips on communication, mentoring, and goal-setting. Fournier emphasizes the importance of building relationships with colleagues and bosses.
Next, the book explores the day-to-day responsibilities of a manager, such as hiring, team building, and conflict resolution. Fournier provides actionable strategies for creating a positive team culture and fostering growth and productivity.
The third section tackles the challenges of managing multiple teams and aligning organizational goals. Fournier shares advice on scaling teams, coordinating with other managers, and ensuring effective collaboration.
Finally, the book addresses the role of senior leaders and executives, discussing strategic decision-making and navigating complex dynamics within the company.
Throughout the book, Fournier shares relatable stories and practical examples to illustrate her points. She encourages managers to be adaptable, continuously learn, and be aware of the unique demands of each management role.
"The Manager's Path" is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to excel in software engineering management. Fournier's expertise and engaging writing style make this book a great read and a great reference to have on the bookshelf for managers looking to grow and flourish in their role.
In my first management role, I had very little time to plan for the position, and was also still writing a lot of code. The deliverables timeline was fast-paced and it honestly didn't occur to me to go looking for books to help me manage the new role.