What does the average day of an Engineering Manager consist of?
I am a junior in high school, and I am looking to pursue a Master's Degree in Engineering Management. Before I commit, I am looking to form a clear picture of the daily duties and responsibilities of Engineering Managers. To any engineering manager specifically, or even any engineer in general, what activities are performed in a typical day? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of each day? #management #project-management #engineering #engineering-management
Hi Dylan. The primary role of any manager is resource management. I make sure that the engineers in my group have the tools, money, time, training, and details to get their jobs done. With Engineering, however, a large part of my day is spent working with the engineers in their projects: giving advice, watching for opportunities to involve other people or groups, and looking ahead at how each project helps the business and might be helped by new technology or processes. It is the employee's job to do the work, but the manager's role is to create an environment where engineers are successful and enjoying what they do (morale drives creativity and productivity).
Specifically on a typical day, I will have administrative duties like tracking employee time and sharing new information about pay and benefits. I will spend 1/3rd to 1/2 of a day on peer, supervisor, and project calls where I provide reports and status on projects, outages, and the performance of our systems. I also use those calls to learn about how other managers work, and what they need in general and from my group. The rest of the day will be involved with questions and requests, and team discussions about technical problems and solutions. I've come from a network engineer background, so I enjoy keeping one foot in the engineering.
My least favorite part of any day is the administrative portion of the role. Any company, large or small, has non-engineering, non-project tasks that must be taken care of. It's like cleaning the house, it has to be done, so I do it, do it well and quickly, and move on.
The hardest thing I've ever had to do, the worst workday I've ever had, was when an employee passed away. I've had 16 hour workdays fixing a security breach, but a 4 hour day with tragedy is worse. The hard part is that people naturally look to the manager for support and direction. Every situation is different, but there are resources and people that I looked to for advice, and then helped people work through their grief and get re-focused on work while I had to deal with the administrative tasks associated with the employee passing away, and started the process to look for a replacement.
The most fulfilling part of a day is always when I can enable or share in one of my engineer's successes. When they overcome an obstacle, fix a problem, finish a project, or make a discovery, I ensure that they get credit and recognition for that success with their peers and the management above me. This is good for morale with that person and their peers, and is good for the perception of the group. Then we follow-up with the opportunity for the next success.
Probably the second most fulfilling part of a day is when we realize and resolve a mistake. People make mistakes, and engineers are constantly called upon to try new things and learn while working. It's stressful because I take responsibility for the mistake happening in my group, and accountability for getting it fixed. The fulfilling part is that, unlike success, I don't pass along information about who made the mistake. This helps create a safe environment for my engineers, where they can be excited about opportunity without fear of failure, and their response is gratifying. Even though the job is technical, the manager role is about helping people succeed.
Good luck in school. I hope you move forward in this area. Companies need engineers, but engineers need good management.
David recommends the following next steps:
E.g. if you manage a team of recruiters, it's less about you doing the recruiting, and more about creating a team that excels at recruiting based on whatever the team/org defines as measures of success (e.g. in this example could be hiring velocity, days to fill a position average, etc...).
A manager uses a number of tools to achieve this:
- Project Management
- Recruiting & Retention (e.g. filling missing skills within the team)
- Staff coaching/training
- Feedback, 1 on 1 meetings
- Vision & purpose
- Process Improvement
An engineering manager is more defined in that not only do they do the above, but they're also guiding the team towards making proper technical decisions (not necessarily making the decisions themselves, although they could be a technical/product expert, but using their experience to make sure the right decisions and approach are being made).
They also tend to own the feature/product, so also making sure other key factors are being measured and managed. Such as team velocity, estimation accuracy, quality metrics, on-time-delivery metrics, efficiency/productivity (e.g. what can be automated), technical debt backlog, and maintaining a modern technical tech stack.
They also collaborate with key stakeholders such as Product Managers (who are driving the requirements and priorities - they define the what, you control the how).
You will need to focus on stress and time management. In order to manage stress you have to manage your time wisely. <span style="background-color: transparent;">You have to set a routine for yourself and stick to it for the most part. Once you get into the groove of a routine it will be much easier for you to manage your time and have enough time for everything you need to do (including relaxing). Make yourself to-do lists on a weekly basis, use Google calendar or a planner to keep track of events, deadlines, and due dates. In addition to setting a routine and sticking to it, plan out relaxing activities into your day. Or set aside a time, after everything is done for the day, that you can have "me" time. I have also personally found it essential to not only find time for myself but also make use of that time in a way that is best for me and my holistic wellness. I have found the HeadSpace app to be an essential tool in helping me relax and generally feel more relaxed throughout the day, Guided meditation, even if you have a busy schedule, will make you feel more at ease and relaxed throughout the day as a whole (not just when you have the time to relax and focus on that "me" time).</span>
<span style="background-color: transparent;">Set a routine.Use Google Calendar.Set aside Me TimeWrite weekly to-do lists and use a planner.Find a peaceful and restful activity that will help you feel relaxed.</span>
Wishing you an Awesome start to your career! Split your day/week into 4 areas;
Ensure that you spend time in every area with varying sense of opportunities to learn or contribute. Most of my learning happens when I connect with People & Customers. Most of by contributions come when I'm required to provide solutions to product/technology/domain.
Cheers & All the best