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Technical People Management

Technical People Management is a subspecialty of generic people management. Technical Managers often possess many of the technical skills of their direct reports, and in many organizations this is an advancement within the technical career path.

A software engineering leader is responsible for delivering user value and developer experience1. Technical managers often must make or help make larger technical decisions and project planning efforts while coordinating with project managers. Given that much of software engineer is delivering a product, they must also have a functional understanding of product management.

Technical managers face some unique challenges versus generic managers. Their direct reports are:

  • well compensated (budget size) and have frothy job prospects (recruiting and retention)
  • involved in a creative industry that is difficult to quantify and measure
  • often owe their success to their technical talents and therefore may be under-developed in other “business” related areas

(Technical) management is a series of choices centered around striking a balance. Do you move fast and accrue tech debt or so we pay it down slowly or do we try to pay it down quickly? Do we play for the short because we need to survive or do we play for the long because we have to the lead?

General advice

Avoid writing code on the critical path, but do not stop writing code2,3. You can write code that helps you do your job, or something that helps your developers do their job (but do not go overboard here).

You do not have to solve all the problems yourself and you do not have to be the best engineer3.

What do they do?

Ongoing

Growing their team

To grow the team, the manager must engage in effective technical recruiting. A reasonable alternative to hiring experienced developers is growing junior developers within your teams4.

Developing their team

Leveling up their teams skill sets and responsibility is a high-leverage activity for managers. Creating and maintaining and engineering career ladder allows the team to have clear pathways for progression. Managers help with the progression through feedback, mentorship, and coaching.

Organizing their team

Responsible for the SDLC

Managing the business

Time Specific

Yearly roadmap planning

  • Quarterly checkins

Performance Reviews

One-on-Ones

Resources

Newsletters


References

1.
Kant, E. 7 Mental Models For Great Engineering Leadership | Athenian. at https://athenian.com/blog/7-mental-models-for-great-engineering-leadership (2022).
2.
Majors, C. Engineering Management: The Pendulum Or The Ladder. at https://charity.wtf/2019/01/04/engineering-management-the-pendulum-or-the-ladder/ (2019).
3.
Gamon, T. What I Learnt Becoming a Tech Lead | Tom Gamon. at https://tomgamon.com/posts/things-i-have-learned-new-tech-lead/ (2021).
4.