Technical Skills and The Engineering Manager

Engineering managers with technical acumen are more successful. They understand their team's challenges, guide growth effectively, and accelerate organizational progress by leveraging their technical expertise.

Technical Skills and The Engineering Manager
It takes a lot of technical skill to ski stuff like this.

A lot of leaders, including Engineering managers, didn’t start in the fields they manage. The statement, “Growth will bring you away from coding” sounds off the wall of every company I’ve known. It’s not explicitly wrong, but the whole idea irks me.

“Engineering Management is a lateral move” is another one and it’s plain wrong. I suggest that the EM track starts past SWE3 and either goes to senior or management. When a senior engineer moves to management, it should still be considered a vertical move.

More responsibilities & impact === a vertical move.

Engineers who have climbed and climbed to get to where they are offered management jobs are climbing vertically to get there. Great engineering managers know their stuff, and can still get their hands dirty if needed.

Here’s why I think Engineering Managers who have technical acumen are more successful than their counterparts:

1. 👂 Empathy

In Empathy and the engineering manager, I mentioned that successful leaders are empathic leaders. It turns out that to be effectively empathetic, you have to understand what your reports are talking about. Sure, if you didn’t know exactly how to help them, you may refer them to a senior member of your team, but this could be seen as shrugging off their request if you’re still building relationships.

2. 📈 Growth

Again, effective managers grow their reports, but you cannot understand the intricacies of someone’s desired work, career path, or daily struggles without having been in their shoes in some regard. Sure, to effectively coach someone you don’t necessarily need to have experience exactly with their issues, but you most definitely need to be able to reason with them. Remember, your path to engineering manager from an engineer can prove to be an extremely valuable roadmap for someone else wanting to achieve the same thing.

3. 🚀 Force multiplier

From innovation and unblocking projects to understanding project/team dependencies, engineering managers with technical acumen prove to be a force multiplier in organizations willing to move fast. They also understand the importance of things normal leaders wouldn’t care about like refactoring, performance, & technical debt. This doesn't mean you're hopping in and micromanaging delivery - no - let your reports handle delivery for work, and guide them to success.