Engineering Leadership: Balancing Technical and Managerial Responsibilities


Ah, the age-old conundrum: as an engineering leader, how do you strike the perfect balance between your technical and managerial responsibilities? Fear not, for you’re not alone in this struggle!

The Great Shift and The Managerial Mindset

As you move up the ranks in your engineering career, it’s natural to find yourself with fewer hands-on technical tasks and more managerial duties. It’s all part of the journey, so don’t fret! But how do you navigate this transition without feeling like you’re losing your technical edge?

First, understand that this balancing act is something that all managers grapple with. Many managers question if they’re becoming technically stale, but rest assured, it’s normal to feel this way. Remember that your performance as a manager is measured by the aggregate performance of your team. It’s less about you and more about enabling others. Your main goal is to create an environment where your team can thrive and excel.

That said your ability to take informed decisions depends on having technical context (what is different from technical knowledge itself), so even though you primary responsability is not technical work, there is a lot of value on acquiring technical context, especially domain-specific knowledge about the code paths your team is responsible for.

As a manager, knowing every technical detail is neither realistic nor scalable. Instead, focus on understanding the broader technical landscape, and trust your team to handle the nitty-gritty.

Knowledge vs. Experience and Staying Up-to-Date

There’s a difference between technical knowledge and technical experience. As you progress in your managerial career, prioritize maintaining your technical experience over being an encyclopedia of technical knowledge. Staying up-to-date with technical changes is valuable and will help you with foward-thinking, but make sure you do so without becoming a blocker for your team or dropping the ball on other fronts. A good rule of thumb I’ve use is asking myself “is this the most impactful thing I could be doing to help my team achieve our goals”

Asking the Right Questions

Ultimately, good management is less about making the right technical decisions and more about asking the right questions. This is where your technical experience comes into play. By using your experience to guide your team, you’ll foster an environment where innovation and success can flourish.

So, there you have it! The key to balancing technical and managerial responsibilities lies in understanding your role, focusing on the big picture, and leveraging your technical experience to ask the right questions. Embrace the challenge and watch your team soar! 🚀