Books for software engineers and managers

The Making of a  Manager

What to Do When Everyone Looks to  You

by Julie Zhuo, Design manager at  Facebook

Categories:
Engineering Manager

What would be different about the world if your team were wildly  successful?

I like this question, but I gain more from reframing it from an engineering manager’s perspective. What would be different about your company if your team were wildly successful?

If your answer is “not much” then I don’t have any advice. Maybe get a new job because yours sounds super depressing.

But in the world of SaaS and software development, product and engineering teams carry an enormous responsibility. When our teams are wildly successful, great things are usually happening for the company.

Additive vs. multiplicative  value

Zhuo provides a lemonade stand example. If you’re personally selling the lemonade, your contributions are additive. When you lead a team of sellers (or engineers in our case) your contributions have the opportunity to be multiplicative.

Additive vs. multiplicative is what Andy Grove would call “leverage” in High Output Management but I love Zhuo’s terminology because she provides direct comparison.

Imagine speaking with a senior engineer during a performance review – the additive vs. multiplicative language can provide clarity on where they are now vs. where they need to go.

Find a management mentor without  asking

The Making of a Manager is sprinkled with examples of mentorship that Julie Zhuo received at Facebook, notably from Chris Cox, the company’s current Chief Product Officer.

She provides one solid piece of advice – don’t ask someone to be your mentor. That’s lame. Instead, ask someone you trust for specific advice on a situation.

Framing your worries as questions feels  disingenuous

Introducing conflict doesn’t come naturally or comfortably for many people. As a manager confronting a subordinate about poor performance, you might be tempted to offload the confrontation with questions.

How do you think the team performed on that project? What role did you play in that performance? What would you do differently?

Leading questions feel disingenuous. You’re asking them because you’re afraid of the conflict, not because questions are better at producing change.

Shooting straight with people builds trust, but it requires courage (link to Hard Things post) from you the manager.

Hiring is an opportunity to build the  future

Zhuo writes, “Hiring is not a problem to be solved but an opportunity to build the future of your organization.”

Wow, I love it. This quote is now the first slide on my Interview Prep presentation deck.

When recruiting and hiring, I find myself trying to solve immediate problems. We’ve got a shortage of frontend skill. We need someone who can restructure our data systems for improved performance. Our design team needs more firepower.

Zhuo asks, “What do you hope will be your team’s reputation in a few years?” Your current hiring problem (unfortunately often phrased as a “resourcing issue”) is actually an opportunity to shape your team’s future reputation.

The Making of a Manager

How strongly do I recommend The Making of a  Manager?
8 / 10

The Making of a Manager is particularly good for new managers, both in software engineering and in related fields like design.

This book covers the basics of people management and I appreciated that lessons felt applicable outside of FAANG/SV companies.