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The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change

The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change PDF

Author: Camille Fournier

Publisher: O'Reilly Media


Publish Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN-10: ‎1491973897

Pages: 244

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

In 2011, I joined a small startup called Rent the Runway. It was a radical depar-ture for me to go from working on large distributed systems at a big company to working with a tiny engineering team with a focus on delivering a great customer experience. I did it because I thought the business was brilliant, and I wanted a chance to lead. I believed that with a little luck and some hard work, I could get that leadership experience that I was so eager to have.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I joined Rent the Runway as a manager without a team, a director of engineering in name and something closer to a tech lead in practice. As is often the case with startup life, I was hired to make big things happen, and had to figure out myself what that might look like.

Over the next four years, my role grew from managing a small team to run-ning all of engineering as CTO. As the organization scaled, so did I. I had men-tors, coaches, and friends who provided valuable advice, but no one was there to tell me specifically what to do. There was no safety net, and the learning curve was brutal.

When I left the company, I found myself bursting with advice. I also wanted a creative outlet, so I decided to participate in “National Novel Writing Month,” which is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I attempted to write down everything I had learned over the past four years, everything I had personally experienced and several observations I’d made watching others succeed and struggle. That project turned into the book you are reading now.

This book is structured to follow the stages of a typical career path for an engineer who ends up becoming a manager. From the first steps as a mentor to the challenges of senior leadership, I have tried to highlight the main themes and lessons that you typically learn at each step along the way. No book can cover every detail, but my goal is to help you focus on each level individually, instead of overwhelming you with details about challenges that are irrelevant to your cur-rent situation.
In my experience, most of the challenge of engineering management is in the intersection of “engineering” and “management.” The people side is hard, and I don’t want to sell the challenges of those interpersonal relationships short. But those people-specific management skills also translate across industries and jobs. If you are interested in improving on purely the people management side of leadership, books like First, Break All the Rules1 are excellent references.

What engineering managers do, though, is not pure people management. We are managing groups of technical people, and most of us come into the role from a position of hands-on expertise. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do it any other way! Hands-on expertise is what gives you credibility and what helps you make decisions and lead your team effectively. There are many parts of this book dedicated to the particular challenges of management as a technical discipline.
Engineering management is hard, but there are strategies for approaching it that can help make it easier. I hope that in reading this you get some new ideas for how you might approach the role of engineering management, whether you’re just starting out or have been doing it for years.

How to Read This Book

This book is separated into chapters that cover increasing levels of management complexity. The first chapter describes the basics of how to be managed, and what to expect from a manager. The next two chapters cover mentoring and being a tech lead, which are both critical steps on the management path. For the experienced manager, these chapters have some notes on how you might approach managing people in these roles. The following four chapters talk about people management, team management, management of multiple teams, and managing managers. The last chapter on the management path, Chapter 8, is all about senior leadership.

For the beginning manager, it may be enough to read the first three or four chapters for now and skim the rest, returning when you start to face those chal-lenges. For the experienced manager, you may prefer to focus on the chapters around the level that you’re currently struggling with.

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