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What is an Engineering Manager?

The role of an Engineering Manager (aka Development Manager) will vary from company to company, but this post covers what, in my humble opinion, the core expectations, duties and deliverables of an EM are.

It is intended primarily as a guide to engineers who are starting down the path of Engineering Management.

At its essence, the role of an EM role is about:

Building, retaining and motivating high performance teams that regularly ship working software into production to meet business requirements.

 

Let’s break that down into 5 key areas…

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How to give difficult feedback

Giving difficult feedback is a critical part of being a manager, and often the part that comes hardest to many. This post covers some strategies for handling that, and dealing with underperformance.

The vast majority of this material (or the good parts, at least) came directly from a great talk by Claire Lew at Know Your Team, and you can find a related post from her in this 4 tips to give tough feedback post. I recently signed up to the Know Your Team annual plan and it has been well worth it.

 

 

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Blog post summary: What is an Engineering Manager?

I liked the short What is an Engineering Manager? post on the AWS blog (from David Ives @ Pusher). This is a summary, but the original is worth reading and not much longer…

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Engineering Growth Framework from Medium

I recently started a new role, and one of the first things I’ve been looking at is career ladders (aka job rubrics), org structure, and performance reviews (a.k.a. talent reviews or growth frameworks).

In that vein, the Medium Engineering team’s “Growth Framework” was recommended to me, so this is a quick summary of it.

TLDR; Medium have a “Growth Framework” for recognizing and developing their team that uses 4 categories (Building, Executing, Supporting, Strengthening) each with 4 tracks. Each track has 5 increasingly difficult to achieve milestones, and each level of milestone has points associated with it. The more points you have, the higher your level, which translates into job titles. Whew! It is a complex system, and while perhaps more complex than many (especially smaller) organizations need, it is none a very interesting framework which many might use as a reference. The tracks, milestones and examples in particular can be useful inspiration when putting together your own career guides.

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Git Notes

These are some git notes I’ve put together over the years. I refer back to these frequently, but there are many better sources for Git docs out there, so use at your own risk!

If you do choose to use, any feedback welcome.

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Blog post summary: Automating safe, hands-off deployments at AWS

AWS’s Clare Liguori wrote an excellent blog post on Automating safe, hands-off deployments.

This is a summary (1,700 words, vs 5,300 in the original) and mostly just a copy & paste of highlights. I have also skipped some of the sections that are at scales larger than most folks deal with (e.g. global releases across 26 regions!).

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Blog post summary: Domain-Oriented Microservice Architecture at Uber

Domain-Oriented Microservice Architecture at Uber” is a blog post on the Uber engineering blog. There were some comments about the post not giving credit to prior art, which I think is fair, but it is a useful post none the less. Uber provide an interesting approach to classifying and organizing their (2,200!) microservices, by using the concepts of Domains, Layers, Gateways and Extensions.

This is a shortened version here (1,200 words, vs 3,800 in the original), since I tend to learn by creating summaries, but it is mostly just a copy & paste, so check out the original with diagrams etc if you’re really interested.

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Preparing for 1-1s as a manager

1-1s are likely to be some of the most important meetings on your calendar. This post discusses how to prepare and run these in a way that makes them useful for both you and your team member, and helps keep both of you accountable.

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Beginning with SRE

This post is an introduction into some basic SRE practices we have been implementing at my company recently.

I’ve written before on SRE, including on SRE resources, SLIs, SLOs and SLAs, and Creating an SRE team, but this is a more practical guide to getting started.

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SRE Metrics

A very quick post on some of the most commonly used SRE metrics: The Four Golden Metrics, and RED & USE.

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Creating an SRE team

If you wanted to build an SRE team at your company, how would you go about it? How would you structure it?

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SRE Resources

The following are a list of SRE resources I’m finding useful. I will update it as I find more. The good news is that most of the books (including all 3 of the Google SRE books) are available for free download at https://landing.google.com/sre/books.

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eBook Summary: What Is SRE?

What Is SRE? An Introduction to Site Reliability Engineering” (registration required but free), is an ebook by Kurt Andersen & Craig Sebenik, published by O’Reilly. The following is a summary (abridged copy and paste) of the parts I found most useful, with a few of my own notes. The original is about 9,000 words; this is about 2,000.

 

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So you want to be a Manager?

Despite how satisfying and fun designing and writing software can be, building high performing teams can be even more so. The highs are higher and the lows are lower, but overall it can be an incredibly rewarding career and developing future leaders on your team is a key responsibility.

So, as a manager, how do you handle an individual contributor (IC) engineer on your team expressing interest in becoming a manager?

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Development and delivery practices for team success

Most metrics for measuring developer productivity, such as lines of code or issues closed, are notoriously ineffective. But the research in the excellent State of Devops report shows that, rather than focusing on local metrics and individual developer performance, it is better to look at overall development and delivery practices. Specifically, there are metrics that predict and reflect a team’s ability to successfully deliver working software into production, including deployment frequency, and the mean time to restore service after an incident. This articles discusses why some metrics are useless, and takes a closer look at the recommendations in the 2019 State of Devops report.

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