Engineering Managers Matter to Google
In 2002, Google reorganized into a flat organization and did away with all managers. The experiment did not last long. After a few months, Google leaders Larry Page and Sergey Brin understood the value of their managers. They saw how they counted on engineering managers to work one-on-one with employees to support career development, to communicate plans and strategies, and to ensure that processes and decisions are aligned with company goals.
The Job Outlook for Engineering Manager is Good
Google is not the only company looking to hire qualified engineering managers. The U.S. Department of Labor expects engineering management employment to grow by 10 percent through 2020. Traditionally, managers were grown and mentored by higher-ups. In today’s business culture, it is more likely that engineers need to self-educate, find their own trainings and ask for career development opportunities, if they want to move up to a management position. A higher degree in engineering management provides the kind of education, training, and skills needed to advance.
The Skills Managers Need
Google researched the characteristics of the most effective managers. The company found engineering managers demonstrate skills like coaching, empowering team members to make their own decisions without micromanaging, express an interest in their teammates personally and their success and well-being, are results-oriented, good communicators, have clear strategies, and the technical skills to advise a team.
The manager skills can be broken down into four major areas: supervising people, project management, working with clients and acting as an engineering resource to other departments.
Supervising people is clearly what is valued by Google. Managers manage people first, and then manage the project and systems. If you are looking to grow in a career in management, make it a priority to work on your communication and people skills.
Project management is the bulk of an engineering manager’s day-to-day responsibility. This includes planning, creating timelines, creating meeting agendas, and enforcing deadlines for clients, contractors and teams.
Working with clients means compromise. It means listening to a client’s needs and desires and then setting clear expectations with them regarding cost, timeline, and feasibility. It can also include finding the right people to serve on the team to complete the project.
Being an engineering resource to other departments is part of serving on a cross-functional team. In this function, engineering managers can provide advice to other departments, discuss the feasibility of projects, address issues between departments, and give praise to the engineering team.
Career Pivot Point
The career pivot point comes when you start thinking less about the day-to-day engineering tasks and more about the importance of sharing other skills such as communication, project oversight, and leadership. For engineers, it means that you start to see how you could provide value in oversight, meetings, planning, and employee relations.
Set Yourself Apart
The field of engineering managers is growing, but is also competitive. Advanced training in leadership and a master’s degree in engineering management can set you apart from other engineers in your field. It’s the perfect time to move into a position of management and to learn the communications skills needed to manage a high-technology, cross-disciplinary team.