Advice, Engineering Manager

10 Signs That You Are Not Ready to Be an Engineering Manager Yet

Somehow, in our heads, we have this illusion that once you’ve mastered the technical skills required for your roles and you have been senior engineers for a few years, the next step for you is to become an engineering manager.

You are also known to be a good team player, you enjoy working with your fellow software engineers, and you’ve heard many times that managers are people persons.

“What else would you possibly need to be an engineering manager,” you thought to yourself.

I hate to deliver this news, but the path to engineering management is not as simple as you may have hoped. In fact, it’s not even a career progression.

Some tech companies put senior engineers on the same level as their engineering managers for this very reason. Engineering management is a linear and alternate career track to software engineering.
With that in mind, let me share with you ten signs that you’re not ready to be an engineering manager just yet.

1. You Live to Code and You Take Utmost Pride in Your Ability to Write Beautiful Clean Code

Did you ever look down on those who failed to write beautiful clean code and solve complex problems with simplicity? Do you ever feel like you can’t go by a day without writing some code?

If there was an offsite or a team-building event where you had to be away from your computer the entire day, did you feel exhausted and unaccomplished at the end of the day?

If you answered yes to one of the above questions, then you will be challenged mentally when you become an engineer manager.

Because, as an engineering manager, you will spend most of your time talking to people, organizing work, planning and collaborating, instead of spending time coding and solving technical problems.

2. You Can’t Stand Doing Mundane Admin Work

You dislike doing admin tasks so much that you’d rather pay someone your day rate to do an hour of admin tasks on your behalf, for example, filling in a two-page application form.

3. You Think Technical Skills Are the Most Important Skills to Have

By technical skills, you actually mean coding skills. If someone doesn’t code, you immediately consider them non-technical.

That project manager you see around the office? Well, not sure what they do around here but they aren’t technical.

4. You Think Every Software Engineer Is Just Like You

Whether you’re a software engineer who likes to be the hero of your team or whether you’re someone who is focused deeply on solving technical challenges, you think that everyone else is just like you.

For example, if there is a highly visible, challenging project, as a ladder climber, you think everyone will be jumping onto it because they would want to get promoted too.

5. You Have Never Thought Much About Other Disciplines

You have never thought much about other disciplines such as design, product management, and marketing.
Who are the creators, makers, and innovators? You immediately answer: “Software engineers. Other disciplines exist so they can support software engineers,” you say.

6. You Believe Software Engineers Make the World Go Round

Enough said.

7. You Think Any Kind of Meetings Are a Waste of Time

“There are too many meetings,” is one of the complaints that you frequently make.
1:1s, estimation meetings, planning meetings, all-hands, and even standups are a waste of time, if you are completely being honest.

8. You Are a Night Owl and You Don’t Start Your Day Before 10am

“Isn’t it what flexible work is all about?” you say.

You have even set your working hours to be 10:30am to 6:30pm on your calendar. The last time you got up before 10am was back in university for your exam. You’re glad those days are over.

9. You Don’t Understand Why Good Communication Skills Are So Important

“Write good code and it will speak for itself,” you say to yourself.

There’s nothing you dislike more than writing status updates about the project you’re working on or doing a presentation on what you and your team have built.

10. You Avoid Confrontation at All Cost

You prefer harmony and you’d rather keep your mouth shut and mind your own business than to point out a mistake that could put your project off-track.

When asked to give feedback about your team member, you keep it short and sweet, literally.

You’re Just Not Ready Yet

Were you nodding along as you were reading the list above? Even if you can totally relate to the points above, let me assure you that while you may not be ready to be an engineering manager, it doesn’t mean you will never be ready.

The first and most important step to achieving your goal of becoming an engineering manager is to be aware of what you need to do.

In this case, what you need to do is to change your mindset. Once you have the right mindset and attitude, the rest will follow.

“Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet” — Henry Mintzberg

If you enjoyed this article, you might like to check out my latest book on engineering management. It’s a practical guide for engineering managers at tech companies.

The Engineering Manager’s How-to Guide is very targeted for engineering managers, and in this book, you won’t find generic advice like having regular 1:1’s, giving feedback, etc. Yes, those things are absolutely important, but they are not specific to an engineering manager’s role. It’s my goal to make sure this book provides a concise and actionable guide for engineering managers, the specific and niche content for engineering managers that you won’t find in other leadership and management books.