Table of Contents
- What is engineering management?
- General management resources
- Engineering Management Resources
- Career growth and job ladder
- Code reviews
- Conflict resolution
- Diversity and inclusion
- Emotional Quotient (EQ)
- Employee handbook
- First-time manager
- Feedback and performance
- Incident prevention and response (on-call, outages)
- Learning, retro, postmortem
- Management style
- Mindset and attitude
- Onboarding new team members
- Personal productivity
- Planning (reviews, OKR, etc.)
- Presentations, design and public speaking
- Processes for engineering
- Programming languages
- Product management
- Project management
- Remote teams
- Team vision
- Technical strategy
- Team culture
- Scaling an organization
- Work ethics & work/life balance
- Keeping up-to-date: blogs and newsletters
More than any other field, management is full of fluffy books that could be summarized in one 100-word article. That being said, there's a number of excellent books, listed below.
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
This book made me truly understand what empowering local decision means. In particular, I liked how the author explains that the usual chain of command requires information to go up the chain, and decision to go down, which is insanely inefficient.
It provides great tools for managers to help their team members come up with their own decisions, in particular the notion of deliberate action. There's a also a presentation that talks about the main concepts the author developed.
There are numerous cheesy management books and this is not one of them. The narration is great as well and the explanations are short, and to the point.
You can find a short summary in video here.
- The Advantage, Enhanced Edition: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business
- Oren Ellenbogen, Leading Snowflakes: the Engineering Manager Handbook
📖: some truly great content and concrete ideas to move from maker to manager mode, code reviewing your management decisions, delegating tasks without losing quality or visibility.
- Adam Grant, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
📖: "This gem is a joy to read, and it shatters the myth that greed is the path to success.", Robert Sutton.
- Ken Blanchard, Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time
- Andrew S. Grove, High Output Management
📖. A landmark book by Intel CEO Andy Grove. Introduced many of the management best practices such as 1-1, OKR.
- Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
There are some other more specific books quoted below.
Book reading lists
- Jason Evanish's list (Lighthouse founder) is quite comprehensive.
What is engineering management?
Here are some generic resources:
- Unintuitive Things I’ve Learned about Management
- Thoughts on Building Weatherproof Companies: while originally aimed at startups CEOs, this article from Andreessen Horowitz's blog is a very inspiring read on what it takes to scale your team.
General management resources
- 14 Points for Management by W. Edwards Deming.
- Keith Rabois on the Role of a COO, How to Hire and Why Transparency Matters includes some nice management nuggets.
Tal Bereznitskey's awesome definition for managing engineers:
Hire motivated people. Trust them. Set high standards for everything. Lead by example. Get out of their way and let them be the heroes of the day. That’s it.
- The Quiet Crisis unfolding in Software Development
- Mistakes of the First Twenty-five Years, in which Warren Buffet describes the "institutional imperative", or how an institution will amplify (not resist) a bad manager's irrational decisions.
- 44 engineering management lessons from the cofounder of RethinkDB. Very high-level, a pretty good summary.
- 21 management things I learned at Imgur
- The Rands Test, Rands in Repose. The equivalent of The Joel Test for management.
Engineering Management Resources
This is a list of inspiring articles related to engineering management. Those are usually short and concise articles that are packed with inspiring and concrete ideas. They have shaped my own management practice, and I hope they will inspire you as well.
I don't necessarily agree with everything listed here. Actually, you'll see that some of those articles have diametrically opposed opinions. I do believe those thought-provoking resources will help you in your manager journey.
- On 1-1s
- How to have an honest one-on-one with an employee
- Tool: Hold effective 1:1 meetings
- 21 Reasons You Should Start Having One on Ones with Your Team
- What is an Inquiring Leader?
- HBR, How to Ask Better Questions
- Mentor vs Advisor vs Coach
- How To Be Someone People Love To Talk To
- Seven Deadly Diseases of Management, Dr. Deming. Great video as well. I don't necessarily agree with everything but Deming is still one of the great management thinker.
- You're not going to believe what I'm about to tell you, The Oatmeal (comics) about the backfire effect ("given evidence against their beliefs, people can reject the evidence and believe even more strongly", confirmation bias - Wikipedia).
Cognitive biases don't only apply to hiring... They can impact performance reviews, 1-1, team meetings, even small talk with colleagues.
Career growth and job ladder
- Titles are Toxic, Rands in Repose. A pretty interesting take on titles.
- Engineering Growth Framework, Medium pulls back the curtain on how they do career growth.
- Ask HN: How do you review code?: great discussion on HackerNews, full of interesting ideas.
- Maslow's pyramid of code reviews
- Code review in remote teams: very complete set of rules.
- Tough News: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs. How We Got Here, the Financial Details and How We’re Moving Forward: a great post by Joel Gascoigne (CEO & Founder of Buffer) sharing some pretty tough news to the team and to the world. Great transparency, great message, great ownership. A model to follow.
- How To Pitch A Product, AVC.
- Ken Norton’s Discipline of No. #attitude #habits.
- Nonviolent communication (Wikipedia)
- Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful
- Square Defangs Difficult Decisions with this System — Here’s How
- How to simplify complex decisions by cleaving the facts, Jason Cohen.
- The Counterintuitive Art of Leading by Letting Go
- Against micromanagement: "After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing", William Coyne, Head of R&D at 3M.
Diversity and inclusion
- Project Include: an open community working toward providing meaningful diversity and inclusion solutions for tech companies. A great resource for anything diversity-related.
- Guess Who Doesn’t Fit In at Work
- Good Intentions Fail at Scale: great article about why you can't rely on good intentions to increase diversity.
- List of cognitive biases on Wikipedia
- Making the Unconscious Conscious (Google Video)
- There’s no "silver bullet" to increasing diversity, but here’s how we’re making progress., Magoosh.
- Why Diversity Programs Fail
Emotional Quotient (EQ)
- Clef's employee handbook has been open sourced on Github.
- Gitlab's handbook
- Valve's handbook
- Inaka's handbook
- Learn how to escalate issues
- Mental frameworks for making decisions: how to handle escalations as a manager.
- How to Ensure a New Manager Succeeds
- Six Recipes for Software Managers
- The Problem with Tech Leads
- Trained Engineers - Overnight Managers (or, The Art Of Not Destroying Your Company)
- A Manager’s FAQ
- This 90-Day Plan Turns Engineers into Remarkable Managers
- The New Manager Death Spiral, Rands in Repose.
- Learnings from six months as a first-time manager
Feedback and performance
- Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss
- Firing people: Zach Holman's talk about his experience being fired from Github offers some great insights into a process that is rarely talked about.
- It’s Never Too Early to Fire, Andreessen Horowitz.
- A Primer on Giving Critical Feedback
- Feedback goes both ways: Tool: Try Google’s Manager Feedback Survey
- Negative feedback antipatterns
- A good example of offer letter from eShares.
- We Hire the Best, Just Like Everyone Else, Jeff Atwood.
- How to Hire: one of the best articles about hiring.
- The hiring post: another truly awesome post about hiring by Thomas Ptacek.
- This is why you never end up hiring good developers
- The single most sure-fire hiring decision you will ever make is about establishing an intern program.
- Engineering Management - Hiring explains why hiring should be your top priority.
- When we only hire the best means we only hire the trendiest
Hiring: diversity and bias
Feel free to also checkout the general diversity section.
- Why Hiring for "Culture Fit" Hurts Your Culture
- Xavier Niel explains 42: the coding university without teachers, books, or tuition: a thought-provoking take on CS diplomas.
- A Quick Puzzle to Test Your Problem Solving... and a great way to learn about confirmation bias (which is not only applicable to hiring but also to testing).
- The Diversity Hiring Playbook, LinkedIn. Pretty high level but probably a good start.
- Hiring women at Klarna
- Vanquish whiteboard interview puzzles with test-driven development, Jocelyn Goldfein.
- The Phone Screen
- The pursuit of happyness' interview scene
- Real talk: the technical interview is broken
- Finding a Tech Leadership Job in Silicon Alley (interviewing seen from the candidate experience point of view).
- How I Interview
- What if companies interviewed translators the way they interview coders? - a great counter example of how interview can be disconnected from one's actual job.
- How to Interview Engineers: some pretty good guidelines with original research.
- Interviewing, Baron Schwartz. A good explanation why you should only ask behavioral question about the past.
- 45 sample behavioral questions for interview with developer
- 30 most common behavioral interview questions
- Behavioral interviews
- Medium’s engineering interview process: Medium open sourced their hiring process.
Incident prevention and response (on-call, outages)
- A guide to handling incidents, downtime and outages
- When the Sky Falls, Rands in Repose
Learning, retro, postmortem
- This is How Effective Leaders Move Beyond Blame
- A great description of what blamelessness actually means: How is team-member-1 doing? (team-member-1 is the name of the person that "gave the unfortunate command to delete our primary database" during the global Gitlab outage in Feb 2017.
- A list of postmortems on Github
- Debriefing Facilitation Guide: Etsy's guide to debriefing & incident review.
- General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis Email About Being 'Too Busy To Read' Is A Must-Read: "by reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men."
- You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential: forgive the clickbait link, it's actually a good article.
- Startup Graveyard – History Shouldn't Have to Repeat Itself
- "Excellence is achieved by the mastery of fundamentals", Vince Lombardi, considered to be one of the best coaches in NFL history.
- Humane Development: "we are humans working with humans to develop software for the benefit of humans."
- Leadership is making a comeback : interesting article that proposes a model where the leader is neither a servant nor a hero, but a host.
- Management Philosophy
- "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.", Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.", Peter Drucker
- On Better Meetings: Lara Hogan shares tips about ensuring efficient meetings.
- Almost Live! - Middle Management Suck-Ups
🎬: a great example of a terrible ineffective meeting.
- The Conjoined Triangles of Senior-Level Development looks into how to define a senior engineer.
- Advice is Cheap — Context is Priceless
Mindset and attitude
- Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us (summary of Daniel Pink's book).
- The two-factor theory (Wikipedia) "states that there are certain factors in the workplace that cause job satisfaction, while a separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction."
- Bored People Quit, Rands in Repose
- The Development Abstraction Layer, Joel on Software
- "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now", Chinese proverb.
- "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.", John A Shedd.
Onboarding new team members
- Why Are Maker Schedules So Rare?
- David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
📖: while it could be much shorter, this book is probably the best way to learn about the GTD methodology.
- Productivity 101: A Primer to the Getting Things Done (GTD) Philosophy: a great summary of GTD.
- Zen Habits: a blog you can follow to get productivity tips and tricks.
- Zen To Done (ZTD): a simpler productivity system.
- 43 Folders Series: Inbox Zero: how to get and maintain your email inbox at a sane level.
- Busy to Death: a good story involving W. Edwards Deming.
- CannotMeasureProductivity, Martin Fowler (about how you cannot measure developer productivity.
In terms of software, I can't recommend Things enough (Mac and iOS only). It is a delightful piece of software that gets out of the way and lets you focus on your tasks.
Planning (reviews, OKR, etc.)
- How to Use OKRs for Quarterly and Annual Planning
- The Heilmeier Catechism: a crafted a set of questions to help DARPA officials think through and evaluate proposed research programs.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Presentations, design and public speaking
- Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen Talk (Talks at Google)
- Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen book
- Garr Reynolds, Top Ten Slide Tips
- You suck at PowerPoint
- Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
📖, a classic book on how to present data.
- The Non-Designer's Design Book
📖- despite its catchy title, it's actually a great book with a very memorable acronym to learn about how easy it is to design great documents.
- William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler, Universal Principles of Design
- A Five Minutes Guide to Better Typography
Some great examples of presentations:
Processes for engineering
- The most important thing Dropbox did to scale Product Management: a very simple model for stating the stage a product is in.
- How Amazon Web Services (AWS) Achieved an $11.5B Run Rate by Working Backwards: which explain Amazon's product management process.
- Jason Yip, It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings: standup are a pretty controversial topics. This article on Martin Fowler's blog provides a good list of patterns and anti-patterns to ensure they're a good productive use of everybody's time.
- 15 Fundamental Laws of Software Development
- How we structure our work and teams at Basecamp
- Will your project be a success? Find out in five minutes.
- Project Smart, Project management tools
- How should deadlines be used in software engineering?
- My 20-Year Experience of Software Development Methodologies: includes a great poster about different project management methodologies.
"Starting with the why" is one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People's best chapters.
- Seth Godin, A manifesto for small teams doing important work: really inspiring list of short cultural values for a team. Craft your own!
- Seth Godin, Big questions before little ones
- Focusing is about saying no (Steve Jobs)
- Vision is about perseverance (Steve Jobs)
- Bryan Cantrill (Joyent VP of Eng) about the importance of why. Steve Jobs on the same topic.
- Start with why, TED talk by Simon Sinek.
- Joel Spolsky, Things You Should Never Do, Part I: Joel explains why (according to him) you should never rewrite a codebase.
- Choose Boring Technology, Dan McKinley (Slideshare presentation).
- Stevey's Google Platforms Rant: how Amazon became a platform.
- Letter to Shareholders, Jeff Bezos: “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” So much is packed in this letter. Day 1 is about true customer obsession, resisting proxies, embracing external trends, high-velocity decision making.
- Lessons from 7 highly successful software engineering cultures
- Engineering a culture of psychological safety
- Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast
Those are considered classics:
- Valve Employee Handbook
- Netflix Culture Deck
- Gitlab's employee handbook (includes cultural values)
- The HubSpot Culture Code: Creating a Company We Love
- Don’t pave the path used by the unhappy cows
- Amazon's leadership principles
culturecodes is a repository of culture deck from companies (including the ones above).
Scaling an organization
Shameless plug here, two presentations I contributed to:
- Amazon: the hidden empire
- Apple: 8 easy steps to beat Microsoft
- Michael Porter's generic strategies (Wikipedia)
- Steve Jobs explaining why you should start from the customers, and go backward (video
🎞). He makes the point that stopping the OpenDoc project was the right thing to do because it was a technology without any customer.
- Can Do Vs Must Do , AVC. "Doing a startup is like playing a video game. Each level requires you to master one thing and once you do that, you level up and then there is a new thing to master."
- "Waterline principle" from Bill Gore: "Think of being on a ship, and imagine that any decision gone bad will blow a hole in the side of the ship. If you blow a hole above the waterline (where the ship won’t take on water and possibly sink), you can patch the hole, learn from the experience, and sail on. But if you blow a hole below the waterline, you can find yourself facing gushers of water pouring in, pulling you toward the ocean floor. And if it’s a big enough hole, you might go down really fast, just like some of the financial firm catastrophes of 2008. To be clear, great enterprises do make big bets, but they avoid big bets that could blow holes below the waterline.", How We Might Fall.
Work ethics & work/life balance
- The Virtues of Laziness and Impatience: "there are two areas I encourage you to practice showing, right now: figuring out what’s important, and going home."
- Lazy Leadership: "entrepreneurship is really just a fancy word for delegation".
- Your non-linear problem of 90% utilization, Jason Cohen: why constantly running at 90% utilization is actually counter-productive.
- Evidence-based advice on how to be successful in any jobs: most self-help advices are not research-based. The ones listed in this article are.
- The 7 Emails You Need to Know How to Write
- The Inverted Pyramid or BLUF (bottom line up front) (Wikipedia): a method to prioritize and structure information in a text.
- How to say you’re sorry, Jason Fried (Founder & CEO Bootcamp)
- How To Write With Style, Kurt Vonnegut.
- Moneyball. What's the problem?
- Office Space
- The Pursuit of Happyness contains some great lessons about hustle. Watch the interview scene.
Netflix's Chef's table profiles a couple world-renown chef. The kitchen world bears a lot of similarities with management. In the season two, I especially recommend episode 1 and 3:
- Alex Atala's story shows that you need to constantly reinvent and disrupt yourself.
- Dominique Crenn explains how she was given ownership over her work in her first kitchen experience (where she was basically given just a dish name, a list of ingredients, and was expected to invent the recipe with no kitchen training). She replicated that in her own kitchen.
Keeping up-to-date: blogs and newsletters
Here are some blogs and newsletter I follow.
- Software Lead Weekly (Oren Ellenbogen): a short curation of great management articles. Also include some videos, and some less serious, funny material. A lot of the links founds in this repo appeared in Oren's weekly email.
- HBR's Management Tip of the Day
- Tech People Leadership (Joe Dunn): Links, notes and opinions for leaders in the tech industry.