5 books you should read as a new Engineering Manager

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Stepping into the engineering manager role is challenging. The skills that got you there are not the skills that will make you succeed in your new role. If that wasn’t enough, you will feel lonely. The folks who were your peers are now your reports. Those relationships are entirely different now.

You will need plenty of support.

Having a mentor was certainly invaluable, and you should aim to have one. A few selected books gave me tremendously helpful insights. There is a lot of faff on the Internet out there about leadership. So, I thought writing a list may help you find the good ones!

🙌 1. The Manager’s Handbook

Written by Alex MacCaw as the actual handbook for managers at Clearbit. It covers a wide range of topics, such as self-awareness, hiring, coaching, expectation setting, and processes with down-to-earth, actionable advice.

The book is quite opinionated, which may not be an entirely bad thing if what you need right now is a bit of structure before you find your management principles and style.

❄️ 2. Leading Snowflakes

Oren Ellenbogen takes you through the transition from Maker to Manager in this short and to the point guide. Each chapter comes with a bit of “homework” to put what you learned into practice.

As a bonus, you should subscribe to Oren’s newsletter Software Lead Weekly. It is the engineering manager newsletter.

🌟 3. Radical Candor

As an Engineering Manager, you will need to have many challenging conversations. They can be a tremendous emotional drain. You need to let a team member know they are underperforming, but you don’t want to be an ass. I get it. Radical Candor by Kim Scott can give you some of the tools to deliver difficult feedback with care and make it easier on your mental health.

✋ 4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

A fable by Patrick Lencioni that tells the story of a newly appointed CEO who finds all sorts of politics and issues within her executive team. This book helped me realise that I no longer had one team, my engineering team. My teammates were now the engineering leadership group.

🕑 5. The New One Minute Manager

Another fable, this time by Ken Blanchard. Perhaps this one is a bit dated, but I remember it dearly as it is one of the first ones I read. It tells the story of a new manager who seeks the knowledge of the legendary One Minute Manager.

🙌 Thanks for reading! Did you notice how only one of these is specific to engineering?

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