The Engineering/Management Pendulum with Charity Majors
6 minute read
A newsletter that started as a personal learning and getting-in-touch project by Ivan Krnic grew into a sociotechnical newsletter covering topics of technical excellence, organizational improvements, and productivity.
A question occasionally pops up with our Engineering Managers:
“How much should I code? Tell me a number. A percentage.”
Charity Majors wrote a great blog post called The Engineer/Manager Pendulum. She wrote it for a friend who had the same doubts and nailed it.
The best Engineering Managers are those with development experience. The best developers are those with managerial experience. Working on technical tasks enables EMs to be up to date with technology, to understand better what the work is, to understand people in the team better, and to help make the right decisions.
Can EM find time for both coding and managing? It’s hard to simultaneously keep the focus on complex technical tasks and the organizational big picture.
At CROZ, we’ve been practicing having two EMs in a team for a long time. The such setup enables one EM to focus on technical stuff while the other keeps the organizational lights on. And after some time, they can switch.
Is having two EMs per team an overkill? We don’t think so. There are two pilots in a plane and two drivers in a rally car. Leading a team is not less complex.
To circle back to the initial question, how much should EM code?
There is no “right” number. EM needs to balance keeping their technical saw sharp and their team organized and growing. Based on their position in the Engineering/Management Pendulum, sometimes their focus will be on technical stuff and other times on organizational stuff. But what helps a lot is staying away from complex technical tasks on the critical path. Those will lock them down for a long time, grinding the pendulum to a halt.
Interview of the Month
The Pendulum with Charity Majors
Charity Majors is CTO and co-founder at Honeycomb, book author, speaker, and a person unselfishly sharing her views and lessons from both leadership and engineering perspective. I talked to Charity about engineering management and platform engineering, how long you should sharpen your technical saw before thinking about a management role, and whether it is ok for managers to feel useless sometimes 🙂
What do you say?
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Read with us
Engineering Management For The Rest of UsGet the book
Moving from Individual Contributor to an Engineering Management role is challenging. There are many questions, like the one opening this issue of 0800-DEVOPS. Starting the EM role feels like a spaceship dropped you on a new planet. You can tell it’s still the Earth, but everything looks different. If you’re a Stranger Things fan – it’s like the “Upside Down”! 🙂
Sarah’s book is a great read to get your bearings. It will gradually demystify the role and make the “Upside Down” blend into the real world. I highly recommend it.