실리콘 밸리의 엔지니어링 매니저(리더)들은 대체 무엇을 하는가? (1편)
Introduction and motivation for writing
Hello~ I am Eunchang Lee who is leading the Chat & Data Platform organizations at Sendbird. It seems like just yesterday that I joined the company, but it's already been 1 year and 4 months. I've been through a lot in the meantime, and while making meaningful changes in many ways, I'm growing diligently with the team and the company.
If I had to pick one of the toughest challenges in my experience, it was finding an engineering manager in Korea who would fit the engineering leadership role we are pursuing. So, I, who had never written a blog post in my life, asked, “What kind of person is SendBird looking for as an engineering manager?” I'm trying to tell a story about .
After looking for and interviewing many people over the past year, I felt that what is expected of an engineering manager in Korea is very different for every company and organization, and there are many unclear parts about the expectations for the role or career as an engineering leader. So, I would like to summarize my thoughts on engineering managers (leaders), which I felt while working as an engineer and engineering manager at Facebook for 8 years, what I experienced after joining Sendbird, and what I thought about while talking with colleagues in the company and industry.
Role of Engineering Manager (Leader)
What role do companies expect from engineering managers?
I think this question is related to “How is the performance of engineering managers evaluated?” In fact, the engineering manager's role can vary according to each company's culture and processes, and even across organizations and teams within the same company. Among them, I would like to talk about the commonly expected roles and the main criteria for evaluating the performance of managers.
The first and most important item is the impact and performance of the team or organization I am leading.
At this time, what role the engineering manager played in the good or bad of the performance itself is more important than the superficial performance. Therefore, an indispensable part of evaluating this is the context and context of the team and organization. For example, Manager A's team has 5 active Super Engineers who do a lot of things on their own. So naturally, the team's performance and impact came out well. However, if the same performance would have been achieved without A's management in the process, the value that A contributed to this team is 0. In contrast, the new team led by manager B had individual capabilities, but the performance was poor because the working process and trusting relationship were not established. However, if B found a way to increase collaboration efficiency within the team, had a significant impact on the process for it, or built a trusting relationship within the team, and the team's performance improved 2 to 3 times compared to the previous one thanks to B, then B's contribution in this team Value is the part that made 2-3 times the previous performance.
The second item is the ability to lead people, that is, the growth of individual team members and a healthy organizational culture.
In the relationship between an employee and a company, the most ideal situation is that “what the employee wants from the company (salary / valuable experience / growth / honor, etc.)” and “what the company wants from the employee (performance of a specific project, leadership, etc.)” are well matched. In a win-win situation apart from each other, it is a case where the engineer works in line with his own growth and produces the performance the company needs. However, in reality, there is inevitably a gap between the needs of the employee and the company, so it is important for managers to find ways to minimize the gap between the individual and the team or organizational unit and draw alignment.
As part of that, it is the manager's role to promote the growth of team members. We need to teach them how to work efficiently, mentor them so that they can make quality code and good technical decisions, and create an environment and process where they can provide direct feedback or receive feedback from other seniors. As a joke, it is often said that engineers debug code, while engineering managers debug people. When team members are having a hard time, when a conflict occurs or when something prevents them from progressing, it is the manager's role to quickly catch them and help them get out of such a situation.
Let's take another example. Although manager A has achieved remarkable results in the first item, Team Achievement, if it is achieved by forcing team members to work overtime and causing burnout, especially in a situation where top-down alignment is not achieved, it is a sustainable and healthy performance. is not In such a case, it is difficult for managers to receive good performance evaluations, no matter how impactful they are.
Occasionally, exceptionally, the company will go all-in on the first item (with the support of the leadership) based on the company's critical business needs. At this time, an important criterion for evaluation is how well the manager explained the context to the team members and drew internal support.
The third item is managing external cooperation. When working at a company, there are many cases in which we cooperate with other teams or organizations. In terms of whether these projects are well supported, or whether we are communicating well so that there are no blockages or conflicts by clarifying expectations management, etc. Engineering managers will play a key role.
For example, if you prioritize internal work too much and work in an irrational or territorial way in the process of collaborating with other teams, even if the team's performance is good, other important things within the company will be negatively affected. Or it may not work. In this case, the role the company expects of managers is to first understand the priorities between your team and the collaborating team, make good decisions based on that, and then communicate effectively within and outside the team.
The last item is called Org Impact, which is the part that brings a good impact not only within the manager's team, but also to the organization to which the team belongs and to the company as a whole . Contribute to improving the recruiting process, assist other teams in the interview process by participating as an interviewer, make decisions and interface on behalf of the company or organization in meetings with clients, and lead important initiatives within the organization or company. or identifying ineffective communications or processes and proactively addressing them. This is also a part that becomes more important than when you are simply a manager of one team, as the scope of work in charge increases as the organization expands and the manager grows into a leader of multiple teams.
How does an engineering manager add value to the team?
If you've read this far, you're probably thinking, "No, there's so much to look forward to and so much to do... ” you might be thinking.
Up to this point, I think it can be seen as a comprehensive summary of the various roles that are generally expected of engineering managers. often do. We've given a few examples above, but we'll be more specific about how engineering managers can contribute to their teams.
For example, if there is a senior engineer on the team, technical decision-making and design architecture are delegated. On the other hand, there are many cases where a Tech Lead Manager, an engineering manager, not only makes technical decisions, but also does coding and code reviews. In this case, the team size should be small so that you can focus more on that part. As the team grows, it is necessary to build the team in a sustainable way by growing and delegating seniors so that the manager's time can be invested elsewhere.
And as mentioned earlier, discovering and resolving processes or inefficiencies within the team is also a representative way for managers to contribute to the team. As needed, making decisions as a leader or improving existing processes and structures do. So, is this meeting really necessary? Are there clear action items after the meeting? Do all members have to attend the meeting now? You have to constantly worry about it.
On the other hand, I feel that the role of engineering managers related to people management is relatively less important in Korea. In order to fulfill this role, it is essential to first understand the team members. To do this, it is ideal to hold a meeting for about 30 minutes once a week or two. Through this conversation, you need to understand more about your team members so that they can grow well and lead them in a direction that will benefit the company. If you increase the performance of each team member by increasing the strengths and complementing the weaknesses, the more impact created by the rapid growth can be seen as the manager's actual contribution to the team.
In this respect, it is also the manager's role to help engineers get out of the typical growth curve more quickly. for example:
a) When digging into a specific problem and then digging too deep to deviate too much from the original problem, or when going in the wrong direction due to wrong assumptions in the middle, you need to discuss it and get out of it
b) When a project needs to be started at the beginning of the project without deep consideration of design documents or edge cases, and needs to be continuously revised, so that the big picture and rough approach must be documented first to get feedback and then start.
c) If you are trying to find the perfect solution to a problem that is difficult to solve, and you need feedback to iterate while specifying milestones because work keeps getting delayed and progress is not possible
d) Senior engineers should appropriately delegate tasks to juniors so that they can focus on problems that cannot be solved without their own capabilities and in-depth consideration, and at this time, they should be guided to give job scopes and challenges suitable for their capabilities. case
e) All engineers have their strengths and weaknesses, and we tend to focus on fixing and supplementing our weaknesses. However, sometimes it can be more effective by paying more attention to the strengths of team members and providing a process or partner to compensate for the weaknesses.
Managers often need to provide direction for the overall growth of these teams. By communicating these types of feedback at the right moment, engineering managers can make a real difference to their team and company in the long run. Even if it is invisible in the short term.
In Korea, culturally, not saying bad things to others is thought to be polite, and I think that it is a manager's role to lead the team well without causing conflict and without major accidents, and to make the team members happy (?). . On the other hand, I sometimes think that I have to make decisions while pressing down. However, I believe that the role of an engineering manager is far more important and meaningful than that.
There is no right answer, but it is most important to take a step back and think about how I contribute to the team, and to make a variety of well-balanced efforts together so that the team members, the team, and the company can play the role that is most needed. .
Summary of part 1 and introduction of part 2
At first, I was thinking of covering one blog, but as I wrote it with specific examples, the article became very long. At this point, Part 1 is finished, and in Part 2, what is the long-term career path of an engineering manager, what to do when engineering managers vs engineers are troubled, and the recruitment process of engineering managers and the engineering manager that Sendbird is looking for continue. Let's unravel the story. (Shortcut to Part 2)