Working in the tech industry, you’re bound to meet interesting people. And it’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to tell what their job is just from their titles. One of these mysterious positions is Engineering Managers, responsible for keeping the products’ technical quality and driving innovations further. In this blog post, we talked to one of the Engineering Managers here at Tesonet, Gytis Murauskas, about his responsibilities and what skills you must possess to excel at his job.
First things first, the Engineering Manager is a somewhat mysterious title. Could you make a little introduction of what it is that you do?
To put it into simple words – we make sure that the product is developed the way it’s supposed to. However, no two Engineering Managers work the same – they may have very different tasks. Usually, I take care of the technical side of a team and product. It’s like making sure that the team working on the product is the right one for it and vice versa. How do I do that? My job is to drive the team to excel in the skills needed to reach a certain quality level. I am a sort of intermediate since product development usually involves many teams. I communicate with others to make sure that they’re getting the support they need. Helping with intricate technical details and decisions is one of my responsibilities as well. It may sound strange, but a big part of my job is building the team (that whole “making sure that they fit the product” bit). I am the team supervisor – hiring new members and overlooking others’ qualifications, making sure that everyone moves in the right direction. That’s extremely important since the technical side evolves all the time – so you have to have people who are ready to face any challenge ahead.
So how did you personally decide to become one?
It wasn’t like a childhood dream. I don’t think it’s like that for any Engineering Manager. First, it’s quite an unknown position, so usually, people naturally grow into it. That’s what happened to me. While working with one of the products at Tesonet, I took the initiative of filling the existing gaps in the team. I had the background and a good knowledge of the product, so I thought, why not. Somebody has to do it. Next came the chance to participate in the evaluation and recruitment process of the people I work with today. Once we filled in the “holes” in our team, it just happened. I found my place.
Would you say that your job is more on a technical side or a more managerial role? Why?
It’s tough to draw the line, actually. It’s both and none at the same time. One of my responsibilities is to keep the technical quality of the product to make sure that it meets and exceeds the industry standards. For that, you have to be up to speed with the technical side of things. However, the actual doing of that depends on the team – I just provide the direction. For this reason, you have to have excellent communication and people skills and make sure that they know what they’re doing.
Could you tell me what your workday includes?
I usually start the day with a strong cup of tea – not a coffee person. I spend my mornings browsing the recent IT developments and other tech projects that I’m following. To keep the quality of the product, as an Engineering Manager, you have to absorb knowledge. It’s vital to know what’s happening in the tech industry and what you can use to take your product to a higher level.
After that, I move on to the team, working on standups, task planning, refinements. Suppose I have any extra time left in the day. In that case, I do grooming/brainstorming sessions with internal or external teams to work on new exciting features. Or I may just use that time to come back to my roots and work on some spicy proof of concept code to be used later in the product development. In any case, my days are always busy and filled with action.
What skills do you have to possess to be successful in this role?
Since this role takes on a lot of different responsibilities, you need quite a broad skill set. And that doesn’t necessarily include just technical knowledge. However, to be adept in technical decisions, you have to have that “intimate” understanding and feel of the programming language/library/framework your team is working with. And as I’ve mentioned, knowledge of the industry and its progression overall is a must. The other important part is communication and people skills. You have to be a great manager – planning, setting up the tasks is essential. Yet, what’s even more important is keeping people on the same page and motivated to go through. Not to mention that this role requires working with other teams that you may not be too familiar with. So learning how to strike a conversation and keep its direction for your benefit is crucial.
It’s said that Engineering Managers have to have superb communication skills. Is it true? Why?
Haha, I kind of got ahead of that one. But, yes, as I’ve mentioned in the previous answer – it’s a vital skill. When working with other teams, you meet different people who you should approach in separate ways. Ideas and proposals need to be communicated clearly, but not everyone understands things in the same manner. So you need to evaluate when to choose a particular vocabulary and what kind of tone will be necessary to communicate what you have to say. As an Engineering Manager, you’re always evaluated by your team’s output, not your personal efforts, so having great communication skills, and knowing how to deliver your team’s results helps tremendously.
What challenges does this job present? Is it stressful to be responsible for so many things at once?
Depends on the day. Some days you’re sweating, trying to keep everything in order. Others are easier, yet it depends entirely on you and your preparation. When teams are working on new features, you have to ensure that everyone has the information they need, the know-how to implement the tricky parts, resources, and support from external teams when required. You also have to look through the planned features and see if everyone knows what they’re doing. On top of that, you always have to see a few steps ahead and plan what news you’re going to introduce next. So yes, it may get intense sometimes :).
What advice would you give to people who want to apply for this role?
Actually, for some people who worked in different organizations, this may sound strange. Yet, it’s straightforward – there is no “I” in the team :). The sooner you drop the notion of looking at your personal progression and focus on the team, the better. So one of the primary shifts in thinking is understanding that you’re responsible for the team and not for yourself. You have to look at the big picture to ensure that company and team vision is the same. Keep an eye on the things happening globally, and don’t be afraid to apply new, unconventional things to your work. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always a great idea.