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Engineering Management Q&A and Videos

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Being a good manager is hard enough already - It's even tougher for engineering. Learn more about this complex craft and how you can land a stellar engineering manager yourself.

How to give constructive upward feedback towards an Engineering Manager?

Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Software Engineer at Taro Community

A bit of context, I've read the EM videos on Taro, and I feel the one that I have is not on the same levels. They lack of many things. I fear to provide the proper feedback because my promotion and appraisal is on the line.

They got promoted from SDE 1 to EM because of the funding

  1. I would recommend my manager to others?
    ~ For people management yes, for technical stuff no
  2. My manager assigns stretch opportunities to help me develop in my career?
    ~ I don't really understand this question
  3. My manager communicates clear goals for our team
    ~ No they don't, don't have any documentation, a system design decisions are made on ad hoc basis, team is not aware about the changes.
  4. My manager consistently shows consideration for me as a person
    ~ yes people ops are good
  5. My manager effectively collaborates across boundaries(eg team, org)
    ~ Nope, there are certain teams expecting the manager to steer the ship but since there is no planning many of the things are pending
  6. My manager gives me actionable feedback on a regular basis
    ~ Nope 1-1 is there is no feedback for me
  7. My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about my career development in the past six months
    ~ Yep promotion and appraisal talks as I'm identified as top IC + team lead who is proactive
  8. My manager has the technical expertise required to effectively manage me.
    ~ Nope, they lack
  9. My manager keeps the team focused on priorities, even when its difficult
    ~ This they do but always the output has no value only there is a hype and fear to get things done, no business value is generated
  10. My manager makes tough decisions effectively
    ~ They reorg the team only thinking them as a resource rather than how much context and individual has made in the project
  11. My manager provides the autonomy I need to do my job
    ~ They do and then I plan it accordingly but when a junior goes to manager he changes the scope and context
  12. What would you have your manager change?
  13. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?

But, overall I fear to write what I wish to communicate to the leadership.

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I'm Sanjay, Senior Director at a Series B Startup. AMA!

Sanjay Siddhanti (Senior Director of Engineering at AKASA) profile pic
Sanjay Siddhanti (Senior Director of Engineering at AKASA)

I'm doing a soon: I'll use this thread to collect questions and will follow up to answer anything we don't cover within the hour.

I'm Sanjay ( / ) -- I'm a Stanford grad (same as Rahul), where I got a BS in Computer Science and MS in Biomedical Informatics. I've built my entire career in the Bay Area, with the past 5 years at AKASA, an AI healthcare company to help revenue cycle teams.

I'm the Senior Director of Engineering at AKASA. I joined AKASA in 2019 as one of the first employees when we were a seed-stage startup. I originally joined AKASA as an individual contributor, and quickly switched over to management. I built much of the company's early technology as an IC and later as a tech lead / manager. I also started and managed multiple engineering teams at the company, including Platform Engineering, now an org with 20 engineers.

Happy to answer questions about:

  • How engineering leaders think about the role of Senior, Staff, and Principal ICs
  • How and why to transition from IC to management
  • The differences between an Engineering Manager vs Engineering Director
  • How to hire and retain great talent
  • How to succeed in a startup environment

I can also discuss how to introduce effective development processes (code reviews, agile development, postmortems, planning, etc) in early-stage companies and how to evolve these practices as a company grows.

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How to deal with internal team "level" jealousy?

Mid-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community

In a previous team and organisation I had 3 different reports.

Lvl 5, lvl 4 & a lvl 2

I was the only remote member of the team, so at times it was difficult to fully understand the social and team dynamics within their office. I initially was unaware of any jealousy within the team until I was asked to fly out for a week for an unrelated reason. When on the ground, it become very clear to me there was a strong level of tension between some of the employees.

  • The lvl 5 was jealous of 2 of their friends who were now lvl 6 because they joined the organisation at the same time.
  • The lvl 4 was a strong performer who was happy with their current position.
  • However the lvl 2 who was an apprentice, was an outstanding performer (approx lvl 6) and it was close to witnessing a savant, especially at their age (18).

However there was no possible way for them to go up any higher as their role was tied to the completion of a certain stint of education.

This, alongside that the lvl 5 had aspirations of becoming a lvl 6 but was severely under performing which was especially noticeable by the lvl 2 - made things very awkward and difficult to navigate.

The outcome of this in the end was that I would support the lvl 2 in finding another role in a different organisation and with the lvl 5, we had a long discussion alongside my director to work out a plan of how they can start adding more value and improving their position within the team.

How could I have gone about this differently to create a more positive environment for the team?

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Staff IC to EM-1: Should I make the transition?

Staff Software Engineer [E6] at Taro Community profile pic
Staff Software Engineer [E6] at Taro Community

I have 15 years of experience in the tech industry. I joined meta as an E6 engineer in July, following 7 years at Amazon and over 6 years at Microsoft. Afte joining, I quickly initiated and led small projects, progressing to a major project. I utilized my experience to guide and support other engineers, contributing to their professional growth. Our team has another E6 tech lead with deep domain knowledge and currently, he is the face of the team. We maintain a positive and respectful relationship, trusting each other.

However, I observed that our engineering manager (EM) was not effectively providing direction, hindering team productivity. Recognizing this gap, I collaborated with other tech lead to create a project tracking sheet, enabling us to monitor initiatives with timelines and ownership. This significantly improved our team's efficiency and motivation, leading to the successful completion of a major project.

Now, here's the exciting part – my skip reached out and surprised me with an offer for the EM role! While I'm honored, I'm grappling with doubts about whether I have the necessary skills for success. Despite enjoying mentoring others in technical discussions, I'm concerned about potentially losing touch with the hands-on tech work that I love.

On the bright side, my tech lead partner is supportive and believes I should take on the EM role, offering full support. However, I'm contemplating whether I should explore the possibility of a Tech Lead Manager role to strike a balance between leadership and hands-on technical involvement.

I'm at a crossroads and would love to hear your thoughts and advice based on your experiences.  One side me want to try EM path but one side says why take this hassle and stick with what you know better i.e tech. Also, I treat myself as avg communicator. I feel, I am good at empathy, task breakdown and mentoring skills.

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How to push for changes when not directly in a leadership position?

Senior DevOps Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior DevOps Engineer at Taro Community

Hi Taro,

I'm cross posting this from the premium slack because it was raised that the answers might help the broader community.

I work for a small company - the engineering org is approximately 60-70 people all told. The company is about a decade old, but has grown more recently, and I joined the small SRE/Developer Tooling team within the last year. Historically, the company has operated at a relatively slow pace, and followed practices that are, politely, out of date. Just to give an example of the kind approach the company takes:

  • We operate out of a single AWS Region, with no DR or failover capabilities
  • infrastructure was provisioned ad-hoc and manually, with effectively no Infrastructure as code
  • Developers would typically bypass deployment pipelines to manually update files or run commands, even for production systems
  • QA is primarily manually performed for our SaaS application. There is some automation, but this is something that QA runs and checks the output, instead of automatically tracking the output in some way.

In my role, I've been pushing for change where possible, trying to evangelize the better ways of working, such as Infrastructure as Code, logs sent to a centralized location like Splunk, and deploying to other AWS regions to assist in both regional lag and general DR/failover concerns.

Thankfully, there's definitely some purchase there by leadership, at least on a high level, as they're generally receptive to these changes and recognize that they cannot continue with the same old practices. However, this mentality doesn't appear to be flowing through to the rest of the engineering organisation. My team and I are repeatedly asked to revert changes we've made, often because developers are merely used to the way things used to be, or because PMs/teams want to stick to a schedule or speed that was only possible via shortcuts (such as manually provisioned infrastructure). All of this has happened despite repeated public comments by some in leadership against those requests specifically.

What can I do to push for these kinds of changes, when I'm not in any kind of official management or leadership position? I have no official power beyond a general remit by my manager to uphold certain standards for my team.

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