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How to keep solid engineering skills as an Engineering Manager?

How to keep solid engineering skills as an Engineering Manager?

How do I know the right level for me?
Which KPIs should I measure or “management smells” to look for?

How to fight FOMO? Which books/posts should I read now? Why are they a better fit?

Oren Ellenbogen

December 27, 2021
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  1. How to keep solid engineering
    skills as an Engineering Manager?
    Oren Ellenbogen
    VP Engineering at Forter and maker of potentially useful stuff:
    SoftwareLeadWeekly, LeadingSnowflakes, ManagerREADME, Downleft

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  2. So much to know...
    Handling the basics (code, OS, network, etc.)
    Coding techniques (TDD, DDD, etc.)
    Tools (IDEs, CLI, etc.)
    Pair programming, Code/Design Reviews
    CI, tests, deployments, CD
    Ops (debugging, monitoring, alerts, etc.)
    Distributed systems concepts (queues, back pressure, etc.)
    System design (composability, DX, etc.)
    The hottest and latest languages, libs & tools!
    Effective Communication
    Project Management
    Product thinking
    Development Processes
    Business understanding
    Org design

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  3. “I’m still hands on”
    You manage a team of:
    1. 1-2 engineers
    2. 2-4 engineers
    3. 5+ engineers
    4. Manager of managers
    (+different seniority ratio)
    Should you be hands on?

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  4. Legit concerns
    1. “Nobody will hire me (for my next job) if I cannot write code”
    2. “I won’t be able to provide good feedback if I cannot understand how things
    work and do it myself. People won’t trust me or my opinion”
    3. “I won’t understand new technologies”
    4. “It will be harder to have empathy for my teammates without knowing how
    easy it is to do or understand something in our systems”
    Right? Anything else?

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  5. “Solid” engineering skills
    The framing is a bit misleading.
    Desirable engineering skills is maybe a better way to look at it?
    Useful engineering skills?
    The question is - to whom? For what?

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  6. Complement, don’t compete
    As Engineering Managers, what is our biggest LEVERAGE to help our team?
    What’s in it for them to have us as their managers?
    1. Design requirements, trade offs, risks, teach
    2. Operate sustainability, quality of life, focus
    3. Hire puzzle, level up, momentum
    4. Envision pitch, alignment, personal growth

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  7. Investing time in your eng skills
    “It will be harder to have empathy for my teammates without knowing
    how easy it is to do or understand something in our systems”
    30% in the present: Write code in areas you’ll gain insights and feel pains
    → Level up Design & Operate
    70% in the future: Research for missing knowledge your team is lacking
    → Level up Envision & Hire
    A day per week? More? Less? Hours should fluctuate, keep the ratios

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  8. How to do X → How X works
    (and why was it invented)
    Seek to understand how things work. fundamentals.
    How to choose the right level of data consistency for the app’s reads/writes?
    Who invented Spark? What was missing at the time? How is it different?
    How Virtual DOM works?
    What should I worry about when using event-loop based framework?
    Why Kafka is using append-only log?
    What becomes more difficult when using microservices?

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  9. Design
    Great talks & posts:
    - Dan North - Decisions, Decisions
    - Replicated Data Consistency Explained
    Through Baseball
    - Silence is Golden: Coordination-Avoiding
    Systems Design
    - Turning the database inside out

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  10. Operate
    Great talks & posts:
    - How to Write Documentation for People
    that Don't Read
    - Practicalities of Productionizing
    Distributed Systems
    - How NOT to Measure Latency
    - Stability Patterns & Antipatterns

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  11. Hire
    Great talks & posts:
    - There is no talent shortage
    - https://staffeng.com
    - The Accidental Diminisher

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  12. Envision
    Great talks & posts:
    - How to Move Beyond Gamification
    - Streams as the team interface
    - https://www.useronboard.com/

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  13. Is it working?
    The EM’s
    technical skills
    time
    Team’s technical skills
    Common end result
    Desired end result
    But they still seek your opinion and respect it
    Envision → Hire

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  14. How to keep solid engineering skills as
    an Engineering Manager?
    Would you like to go much deeper into the 70%?
    Ping me for a workshop I plan...
    Feedback? Questions? Say hello 👋
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    Build empathy. Understand the fundamentals. Live in the future.

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