From Employee to a Manager: Top 8 Skills of a Great Engineering Manager in 2022

Are you planning to make a transition from an employee to a manager or are you already there, but wondering what makes a good engineering manager? In this blog post, you'll get an engineering manager skillset & find first time manager tips.
From Employee to a Manager: Top 8 Skills of a Great Engineering Manager in 2022

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Are you planning to make a transition from an employee to a manager or are you already there, but wondering what makes a good engineering manager?

First of all, you need to learn how to become a great engineering manager. Namely, learn what skills a good engineering manager should have and tackle the personal and professional challenges that the first-time manager faces.

In this article, you will find the top 8 engineering management skills to succeed in 2022, as well as first-time manager tips, with practical solutions, tools, and advice experienced engineering managers have shared with us that will help you overcome these challenges and become a great manager.

Engineering manager skill set 2022 - checklist

In this part, you will find the answer to the question — what skills you need to be a software engineering manager.

Top 8 engineering management skills

When transitioning from a software engineer to an engineering manager, a specialist should know what skills a software engineering manager needs. Undoubtedly, one should have good hard skills, in order to be able to manage the work of other programmers and assess their work.

However, great software engineering management has a lot to do with people management and communication. So, developing soft skills is essential, too.

Vectorly has prepared the most complete and up-to-date list of skills a good engineering manager should have and divided them into 8 main skill groups.

Here are the top 8 engineering management skills in 2022:

  • People management
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Project management
  • Knowledge management
  • Company skills
  • Team management
  • Personal skills
Engineering management skills
Engineering Management skills

Now, let’s consider each group of skills in more detail.

  • People management. Engineering managers often face different tasks that require specialist competencies, such as hiring new team members, onboarding and motivating them, as well as holding regular assessments and 1-on-1 meetings.
  • Technical skills. This group includes hard skills. The manager must have a technical background, in order to control the quality of the code, give constructive feedback, and communicate with software developers in the same language. With no good hard skills, a software engineering manager will hardly get the job done.
  • Communication skills. This group implies the ability to negotiate and quickly resolve issues in a dialogue. It is useful for an engineering manager to understand the intentions and motivations of each team member. Empathy and high emotional intellect also play a key role in managing a tech team.
  • Project management. This group of skills is based on planning and control of execution. An engineering manager helps teams work together and deliver the product in time.
  • Knowledge management. This skill is associated with the organization and collecting of knowledge and transferring it within the development team. It also includes the ability to maintain technical documentation.
  • Company skills. The software development manager is responsible for the development team playing by the rules of the business. He or she should be perfectly aware of the company’s structure, its goals, and interests, as well as promoting the corporate culture.
  • Team management. An engineering manager must show himself or herself as a competent organizer, who can make sure the tech team is well-coordinated and autonomous. A manager should be able to build a competent team, organize their workflow, and maintain team spirit and transparency.
  • Personal skills. The trickiest challenges are the personal ones: he or she should improve their skills in time management, decision making, and goal setting, as well as learning how to set priorities, in order to be effective as a manager.

You can clearly see the top skills a good software engineering manager should have in this picture.

Engineering management skills
Engineering Management skills

Sources to improve software engineering management skills

How to improve the ability to negotiate, plan and delegate? The best way is to do it in practice. However, to get you on the right track in this issue, we offer a list of resources that will help you better understand the essence of useful soft skills for an engineering manager.

Top 15 Engineering Management books

  1. An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management
  2. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
  3. Harvard Business Review Manager's Handbook: The 17 Skills Leaders Need to Stand Out (HBR Handbooks)
  4. The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change
  5. The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master
  6. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
  7. Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent
  8. Agile Software Development, Principles, Patterns, and Practices
  9. Extreme Programming Explained
  10. Test Driven Development: By Example
  11. Mythical Man-Month
  12. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
  13. Death March
  14. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  15. The First-Time Manager

Top mentorship platforms for Engineering Managers

One of the best ways to develop skills is to find a mentor, who has relevant experience and can provide professional support. Vectorly’s gathered the most popular mentorship platforms where Engineering Managers can find a mentor.

Find a Mentor: 12 Popular Mentorship Platforms For Software Developers, Product Managers, Designers

Online courses

In this article, you will find online courses platforms for all tech roles including Engineering Management.

35 Online Platforms to Grow Software Developer Skills

List of influencers writing on Engineering Management & Leadership in Tech to follow

First time manager tips (quotes from experienced EMs included)

What makes a good manager? The biggest challenges for a software engineering manager aren’t technical, but personal. And in order to effectively manage tech teams and deliver great software, the manager needs to find bottlenecks and problems, the elimination of which allows the team to focus and become more productive.

In addition, he or she sees their engineers’ less flashy work and knows how to justify the need for additional resources. At the same time, an engineering manager needs to control the productivity of programmers and build communication with stakeholders.

Only team leaders and managers who know how to form strategies to anticipate a few steps ahead are capable of this. It can be a problem for a first time manager.

In this part, you will find information about what personal and professional difficulties managers most often face when transitioning from employee to manager, as well as first time manager tips and comments from experienced and successful managers, with their advice on how they tackle these challenges.

Here are the most typical challenges of first time managers:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Time management
  • Delegation
  • Dealing with stress
  • Managing & leading meetings
  • Work-life balance

Let’s take a closer look at each point and consider solutions, special techniques that will help cope with these challenges and develop the necessary skills.

Emotional intelligence

IQ, or intellectual quotient, refers to a certain set of skills, e.g. mathematical abilities, extensive understanding of vocabulary and language, abstract reasoning, or spatial abilities - which is mostly determined at birth.

Emotional intelligence (or EQ), on the other hand, is an acquired skill and might change dramatically over the years. Having high EQ skills basically means understanding your own feelings and the feelings of other people, expressing emotions, being self-motivated, and encouraging others to be like that.

Good EQ skills turn out to be essential for effective leadership, since specialists high in EQ seem to do much better in managerial roles. They tend to be more successful in their careers, build stronger work and personal relationships, achieve their goals, and motivate others.

If you’re interested in developing your EQ skills, you can find great resources we gathered on the topic below.

Also read on emotional intelligence

Top 6 books to improve your EQ as a manager

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
  2. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence
  3. The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership
  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  5. Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  6. The EQ Difference: A Powerful Plan for Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work

Blogs & authors writing on EQ

Test your EQ level

As we found out, emotional intelligence plays a huge role in personal and work life. Do you want to know your level of emotional intelligence? Tap HERE to access your EQ.

Time management

When taking a position as a manager, one should cover lots of business processes. And this can be very challenging for those who have difficulties planning their time. That’s why first-time managers should improve their time management skills - set correct goals, both personal and the team’s, prioritize and eliminate time wasters.

To help managers, we have gathered the most popular and effective time management techniques.

1. Pareto’s Principle

The so-called 80/20 rule is a time management method that helps to prioritize the tasks that are most effective for solving problems. It’s the idea that 20% of actions are responsible for 80% of outcomes.

For this, the following steps are suggested:

  • List the problems you are facing. For example, performance metrics are declining.
  • Determine the root cause of each problem. Perhaps your metrics are deteriorating due to the fact that you have incorrectly allocated time and human resources on a project, or something else.
  • Assign a score to each problem. Give the most important problems higher scores.
  • Group problems by cause. Problems caused by you making mistakes in resource allocation should be in the same group. for example.
  • Add up the scores for each group. The group with the highest score is the problem you should work on first.
  • Take action.
Pareto’s Principle
Pareto’s Principle

2. The Eisenhower Matrix

This method is based on an urgent-important matrix. According to this method, you need to sort the list of tasks by:

  • important
  • unimportant
  • urgent
  • not urgent

Ideally, you should only work on important and urgent tasks. Delegate the rest of the tasks or even reconsider the need for their implementation.

The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix

3. The Pomodoro Technique

This technique uses a timer to break down your work into intervals — Pomodoros. How it works:

  • Formulate a task.
  • Set a timer, for example, 25 minutes.
  • Concentrate on the task at hand.
  • When the timer rings, check the box.
  • Take a short break from work.
  • Repeat steps two through five: After you've completed this process four times, you can start taking longer breaks (20-30 minutes).

This method will help you concentrate and, at the same time, not feel overwhelmed.

Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique

4. Getting Things Done (GTD) Method

Helps you complete tasks by recording them and then breaking them down into workflows. It works like this:

  • Capture the actions that have your attention.
  • See if there are tasks among them that require action. If an item requires action, perform or delegate it.
  • Prioritize your to-do list.
  • Cross off the tasks you completed.
  • Complete tasks that you can solve right now.
Getting Things Done (GTD) Method
Getting Things Done (GTD) Method

5. Eat That Frog Technique

Start the day with the most difficult task (the “frog”), gradually moving towards the easier ones:

  • Clearly define the goal.
  • Fix it.
  • Set a deadline.
  • Make a list of what you need to do to reach your goal.
  • Prioritize the tasks on this list. The first ones on the list are your "frogs".
  • Eat the nastiest frog first, so it will be easier to approach each new task that is left behind.
  • Repeat this process every day.

Delegation

It cannot be overstated how critical it is for a manager to understand how to delegate. You can focus less on executing duties and more on managing and leading, when you delegate appropriately.

There are many benefits to delegating:

  • First of all, it frees you up to manage and lead others, as well as take on extra projects.
  • Secondly, you let the most involved and motivated employees show themselves, take additional responsibility and gain new skills.

To make it a win-win situation, use these four steps of effective delegation for a manager:

  1. Analyze your current tasks. Find ones that you can delegate.
  2. Decide whom you could delegate it to. Select an employee with a sufficient level of competence.
  3. Discuss details with the employee. Explain what result you expect.
  4. Monitor progress.
Delegation steps
Delegation steps

During 1-on-1 meetings in Vectorly, you can discuss the tasks with a ready-made agenda and make a to-do list with tasks for an employee just as you discuss them. So you don't forget anything and don't have to remember what you agreed on at the meeting.

If you’re interested in developing your delegation skills, read the following sources on the topic.

​​Also read on delegation:

To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well
How to Delegate Effectively: 9 Tips for Managers

Managing & leading meetings

One of the responsibilities of a team manager is to hold regular meetings, both with the whole team and 1-on-1s.

What should an effective manager understand about holding meetings?

  • First of all, meetings are expensive, because you disrupt people from work and spend their time, which may cost a lot. So you need to realize that it should be as effective as possible, meaning resulting in decision-making, and scheduled for a fixed period of time.
  • Secondly, there should be an agenda sent to its participants ahead of the meeting, so everyone will come prepared. This will significantly increase the effectiveness of the meeting and allow participants to bring their own topics to the table. Anyway, one of the main goals of any discussion is to make people feel heard.

Most often, first time managers have difficulty with taking a leadership role during the meetings and feeling confident. To make it less stressful, use these simple tips.

Effective meetings tips for managers:

  • Set an agenda with structured topics and main purpose ahead of the meeting and make sure everyone has time for preparation.
  • Act as a leader: keep the focus on the subject, don’t cut people off before they’ve had their say, but don’t allow them to drift away.
  • Outline the meeting rules at the beginning. These ground rules might include staying on the topic, allowing everyone to speak, criticizing the suggestion but not the messenger, and so on. It will make the meeting run more smoothly and prevent a lot of interruptions.
  • Gather feedback from the participants after the meeting on how it went. It will take five or ten minutes and help improve the quality of the next meeting you run.
  • Only invite those individuals who should really be there. Moreover, invite as few people as possible, in order to avoid unnecessary interruptions and don’t waste their time. Teammates are also not required to attend the entire meeting - they should only participate in those agenda topics that concern them.
  • Make the meetings as short as possible. If the meeting requires 2+ hours, take breaks to keep everyone engaged.
  • Prepare a follow-up action plan with specific actions for each participant. Thus, you’ll make sure that the tasks you assigned to your teammates will be completed.

Meeting templates

To conduct effective meetings and save time on preparation, use Vectorly ready-made templates.

Also read on meetings

One-on-one Meetings in Software Development Teams: Amazing Benefits
Organizational Tips on How to Hold One-on-one Meetings [Agenda Templates]

Dealing with stress

Work-related stress can be caused by a variety of factors. We all have different opinions on what we consider to be stressful. However, anything that takes our body or mind out of whack is stressful.

Here is the list of most common workplace stressors:

  • Receiving no direction from the boss
  • Computer failures
  • Constant interruptions
  • Priorities constantly changing
  • Upper management constantly changing
  • Mergers
  • Downsizing
  • Reorganizations
  • Organizational politics
  • Time pressures
  • Performance pressures
  • Poor time management
  • Bringing personal problems to work
  • Working long hours for extended periods of time
Workplace stress factors
Workplace stress factors

The ability to handle stress at work is a skill of an effective and experienced manager. Here you will find the two types of stress release techniques:

  • Short-term practices that will help to deal with stress in the moment
  • Long-term strategies to prevent chronic stress and keep a healthy mind

Techniques to release stress ASAP

We recommend techniques that bring short-term stress relief. If you need to deal with a stressful situation in the moment, they will definitely help you to calm down a little and clear your mind to make better decisions, even under pressure.

1. Tense and relax technique

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes
  • Tense every muscle of your body for 10 seconds
  • Relax and release tension for 20 seconds
  • Repeat 5-10 times

2. Box breathing technique

Proper breathing helps you get into a stable working rhythm.

  • Breathe in, counting to four slowly
  • Hold your breath for four seconds
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds
  • Repeat until you feel calmer
Box breathing technique
Box breathing technique

3. Quick meditation

Practicing mindfulness is easier than you can imagine. Concentrating on your breathing or physical feelings (feel your skin touching the chair or feet stepping on the ground) helps to release stress and focus.

4. Take a 10-minute walk

If you feel stressed and unable to concentrate, a short walk will help shift attention from the problem and reduce cortisol in the system that causes stress, and clear your mind. In just 10 minutes, you’ll feel much better and ready to continue your work.

Long-term stress relief strategies

You need to take care to build your working days in such a way as to avoid stress in the long run. And here are some methods that will help with this:

  • Sharpen your time management skills
  • Know when to seek help
  • Practice meditation regularly
  • Exercise
  • Identify and track the stressors at work
  • Take time off to recharge
Long-term stress relief strategies
Long-term stress relief strategies

Work-life balance

If you have ambitions to become a great manager, your career must be very important to you. This dedication is admirable, yet it’s also good to remember that work is not your entire life. Of course, you will have to push yourself for the first few months on the job. But after you have successfully passed through the breaking-in period, you need to broaden your interests and activities. A complete manager is, first of all, a complete person.

If a manager starts prioritizing their work and ignores social life and personal interests, it will inevitably lead to burnout. Taking a long-term perspective, this strategy fails and significantly decreases effectiveness.

As with any condition, symptoms of burnout will differ from person to person. But since burnout is ultimately a workplace issue, you can look for some patterns and take action before it’s too late.

Read more on burnout and how to prevent it in our recent blog post - Developer Burnout Can Be a Serious Issue. Here Is How to Spot It.

Key ideas

  • When transitioning from an employee to a manager, you should find out about what skills are required for the desired position and develop them. This strategy will help to become a good manager.
  • For software engineering managers, good hard skills are essential in order to be able to manage the tech team and be able to assess their work. However soft skills are just as important since management is associated with people.
  • The biggest challenges for a software engineering manager aren’t technical, but personal.
  • Among the most typical challenges of first time managers are emotional intelligence, time management, delegation, dealing with stress, managing & leading meetings, and work-life balance.
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