Engineering management

This page documents resources that are relevant and valuable to anyone on the engineering team, but in particular to engineering leaders.

Slack

  • #eng-manager-internal is a public channel where engineering managers can discuss work as a first team.
  • #leadership-chat is a public channel (not specific to engineering) where anyone can discuss and share information of general interest to leadership at Sourcegraph.
  • #manager-team is a private channel where managers across functions can solicit advice from and share info with fellow managers about topics that they do not feel comfortable discussing in #leadership-chat for any reason.

Status updates

The goal of status updates is to communicate each team’s progress toward their OKRs and roadmap items.

Engineering managers send an update to [email protected] after each iteration retrospective. Teams have different iteration cadences, and as such, we do not expect updates to come through on the same day, but it should follow soon after you have completed your retrospective for the iteration.

You may send an update anytime (you don’t need to wait for the end of an iteration). It might help communicate the achievement of an important milestone or significant change of plans mid-iteration.

Delegate to someone else on your team to send the update when you are on vacation.

While any teammate can join the group to receive these updates, your target audience is up (your manager) and out (your peers). You can also cc your team.

Please include the following content in your update:

  • The email subject should contain the team name and the date (e.g., “Search update 2020-10-14”) so each update starts a distinct email thread (otherwise, they get grouped in the Google Groups UI).
  • Follow the 3Ps approach to reporting on the Progress, Problems Challenges, and Plans against the team’s goals.
  • Managers should favor a prose style communication over a changelog style update.

Company meeting demos

We’re experimenting with showing short (<1m) demo videos (max 1 per week) during company meeting. If your team ships something that would make a great demo, send an update to [email protected] to let us know. Requirements:

Book recommendations

Here are some books that multiple people on the team have read and recommend. If you haven’t read these, use your education budget and read them!

  • Turn the Ship Around - An inspiring story of how Navy captain David Marquet turned the lowest performing submarine in the Navy into the top performing one with his bottom’s up leadership style.
  • Orbiting the Giant Hairball - An entertaining self-account of Gordon MacKenzie’s experience fostering creativity on his team at Hallmark Cards. Buy the hard copy. There are lots of fun illustrations and short stories. It is a quick read and probably unlike any other book you have read.
  • Radical Candor - How to be a great leader by caring personally and challenging directly.
  • An Elegant Puzzle - A field manual on how to do engineering management. Reads like a well structured markdown file.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - A model of how to think about what makes a highly effective team paired with a fictional story that illustrates the model.
  • A few members of the engineering management team will be reading The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias and doing some facilitated small group discussions. This is like a small scale beta test of one step of our plan to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion this year. The tentative plan for the first cohort (can be adjusted based on availability of the actual people in the first cohort) would be:
    • Kickoff email week of May 17
    • Session 1 week of May 24
    • Session 2 week of June 7
    • Session 3 week of June 21
    • Session 4 week of July 5
    • Session 5 week of July 19

Temporary Management Positions

We create temporary management positions when there is an organizational need. These may be filled by someone who is transitioning into the role (Interim Manager), experimenting with the role as they work on determining their career path (Acting Manager) or, someone who is just filling in and who is not interested in pursuing an Engineering Manager role long term (Acting Manager). This difference should be made explicit with the individual and team members before the temporary role is assigned.

Acting Manager

An Acting Manager occupies a role temporarily and will move back to their original position after a set amount of time or other conditions. An Acting Manager may be experimenting with the role as a part of determining their career development path or could be filling in for a vacant role while we hire.

Interim Manager

Interim Manager positions are for teammates pursuing an Engineering Manager role long term but lack the necessary people management experience. The requirement is that, before moving into the role full time, they will make at least one successful hire. The official transition to Engineering Manager will not occur before 30 days after that new hire’s start date, so that we can assess whether the hire was truly successful. If the new hire’s success is indeterminate at the 30-day mark, we will continue to review until a firm decision is made. If the new hire is not successful, that does not mean that the Interim Manager cannot eventually move into the full-time role.

In some cases, it may not be practical, or headcount planning might not allow for the Interim Manager to make a new hire. In this case, the Interim Manager and the interim manager’s manager should agree on success criteria based on the role’s requirements.

Once the Interim Manager’s first new hire has been at Sourcegraph for 30 days or other agreed success criteria have been met, their manager will formally review the Interim Manager.

This process aims to have a determination made by the interim manager’s manager about the promotion to a permanent manager role after the agreed success criteria have been satisfied. Generally, we aim to have the interim period not exceed four months before turning into a full-time position.