- Arthur Coudouy
Getting to Know the Engineering Productivity Manager Job
Could a career in engineering productivity management be on your horizon? You may be wondering what the job entails. This quick dive into the typical engineering productivity manager's duties, skill set, and career path should get you on a more informed track.
What is the engineering productivity manager job?
When building IT teams, it's easy to focus on more traditional roles – like the engineers themselves. As more companies adopt a rigorous approach to keeping apps and systems running smoothly, however, they're also shifting how they invest in their workforces.
The engineering productivity manager job is a prime example of an IT position that hasn't historically taken the spotlight. It's undeniably important, however. These professionals help oversee and improve the productivity of engineering teams, making them key players in organizational growth.
Where do engineering productivity managers work?
Today's organizations embrace the tech aspects of their work. From building customer support systems to resource management tools, modern businesses are heavily involved in information technology.
This means that you could work in a wide variety of computing subfields, from user interface/experience design and data storage to networking and distributed computing. Engineering productivity managers don't just work in settings associated with traditional software engineering either – You might land an IT role at a company that's in a totally different field, like finance, retail, or education.
What sorts of tasks does an engineering productivity manager handle?
Each company and team is unique. As such, engineering productivity managers may enjoy somewhat self-defined roles. In many cases, they're not only responsible for improving productivity but also for figuring out what such improvements entail.
This work could involve many different elements, so here's a generic scenario: A productivity manager who started a new job might conduct an informal audit of their company's workflows to determine where it stood. From there, they could develop new performance metrics as they guided the journey along.
After identifying metrics, productivity engineers often set specific goals and objectives designed to help the engineering team enact positive changes. For instance, you might kick off an optimization project targeting a codebase built long before you came on board.
Next, engineering productivity managers are heavily involved in providing training and support, but not just because they're assumed to be knowledgeable. They may also manage certification programs and be heavily involved in architecting the support systems that let developers accomplish routine jobs.
In many cases, an engineering productivity manager will also dip their toes into waters traditionally associated with HR. For instance, you might get involved in hiring and firing decisions or become responsible for tracking performance. Similarly, you could find yourself responding to common workplace complaints about factors that hamper productivity – like not having the correct talent or resources to get jobs done.
It's important to understand that this is an evolving, dynamic role, even though productivity and management have long gone hand-in-hand. From Kanban to Agile and other management systems, the IT world is still learning what makes workplaces and projects go smoothly. As an engineering productivity leader, you must help your organization push the knowledge further – and disseminate the lessons to key stakeholders at scale.
Engineering productivity manager career skills
Thanks to the broad scope of their roles, engineering productivity managers need a diverse array of skills. While this is definitely an example of "the more you know, the better," every productivity manager ought to bring the following abilities to the table:
- Self-driven problem solving
- Dev Lifecycle Knowledge
- A Passion for Optimizing Code
- An Appreciation for Business Goals
- Intensive People Skills
- Security Awareness
- An Understanding of Common Productivity Methods
As we mentioned earlier, you can't rely on your job to lay everything out for you in a straightforward way. You'll need to identify new solutions to problems that might be hard to pin down – meaning you'll also need to get a handle on what your organization lacks.
Even if your boss is lenient about schedules, this work carries an inherent time frame. You must root out inefficiencies before they cost too much money, so you're working against a deadline by default. If you're not self-motivated to investigate and test novel solutions to problems, you'll be in for a tough time.
Productivity engineering solutions aren't always obvious. For instance, imagine your developers spent excessive time fixing e-commerce customer support tickets. After some doing, you uncover the root of the problem: The devs have to use an outdated support ticket-tracking system.
Great! You upgrade the system ... and the whole website dies. You made a rookie mistake – applying a patch to live code – and now you've got to look for another job.
Although you can't be afraid to break things that don't perform the way they should, you also need to know how to do so in a controlled fashion. Going back to the previous example, this might entail using a version-control system to make an independent copy of the e-commerce software stack before experimenting with it.
You should strive to minimize the disruptions your changes cause. This means you'll need to understand each software ecosystem before you start fiddling with the knobs.
Knowing what makes good code effective is vital to productivity. Remember that you're not just trying to improve how the humans at your company work – You also need to enhance the tools they create. Being able to spot coding anti-patterns and debug properly are must-have skills.
Also, remember that enhancing productivity is about more than just increasing the rate at which your developers perform tasks. Time is only one of the elements that should drive you – Public relations, revenue streams, sustainability, and other corporate mission factors are equally important.
Fortunately, this is one area where you can look to your employer for helpful inspiration. Companies are usually forthcoming about what they want their productivity management staff to achieve, even if those goals can be a bit open-ended.
On the flip side, this isn't a skill that you can permanently master through employment experience – Business goals evolve. You'll need to be proactive about keeping up. This might mean anything from sitting in on shareholder meetings and working with marketing teams to having exploratory one-on-ones with CEOs, CTOs, team leaders, and other staff.
When it comes to its objectives, every organization speaks a unique language. Learning to communicate in kind will improve your personal productivity by making things less of an uphill battle. For example, if you know which performance indicators your leadership team considers important, you can leverage them to convince decision-makers that your ideas have merit.
Resistance to change is one of the biggest challenges you might face as an engineering productivity manager. No matter how well-intentioned your guidance may be, the IT teams that have to implement it might not react as positively as you'd hoped. For instance, it's not uncommon to come up against feelings of wariness or even active resentment when you suggest improvements.
Succeeding in your role will be far easier if you take the time to cultivate your emotional intelligence. Be aware that your seemingly innocent pointers might come across as threatening – particularly to those responsible for the systems and code you're trying to refactor! If your approach is too rough or overbearing, you might even make people feel worried about their job security, which nobody enjoys.
Many of the tasks you take on will involve making changes to in-use software, including mission-critical business apps. Depending on what your company does, you might also have to adhere to strict security practices. You'll need to understand the broader scope of information security as well as the specific best practices you must observe, especially for cloud-native jobs.
Being aware of productivity best practices is vital. Even if you constantly devise original genius solutions, you'll need an arsenal of unique skills to implement them effectively – we'll share some in the toolkit below. Being familiar with well-known efficiency strategies can set you up for success.
Be aware that this doesn't just mean knowing how to put new tools or systems into practice. The follow-up is just as critical because you'll need to measure the results and verify your methodology. Managing performance can be a long-term affair.
You may gain some headway by studying how other companies have handled engineering productivity. Learn the successes, study the "whys" behind the failure stories, and take the pulse of the field.
This skill – like all of the others we've covered – demands you to be familiar with various performance analysis techniques. You don't need a degree in statistics or data science, although it wouldn't hurt to know the basics of both when trying to communicate the need for change.
Where should I apply for jobs as an engineering productivity manager?
One nice thing about this job is that you can find positions almost anywhere. As we mentioned at the beginning, businesses have bought into IT en masse, opening up new roles that didn't exist just a few years ago. It's not just FAANG companies.
There are many good places to find engineering productivity manager jobs. Don't limit yourself to traditional boards and listings. You can use them, but maybe not exclusively.
Many roles in this field arise at organizations that are making related changes. For example, imagine that a charity wanted to squeeze its budget further during an economic downturn. It might be open to interviewing candidates whose technical leadership could help it manage its in-house software more cost-effectively.
LinkedIn and other professional networking hubs are also good places to find jobs, but not only the positions that companies post. For instance, you might follow a CTO's blog posts or other social media accounts. Both are good ways to check out what kinds of technologies are in-demand and discover new angles for selling your skills.
Exploring alternative inroads could help you get your foot in the door. If your dream company routinely posted about its latest AI or ML projects, you'd do well to highlight those talents in your resume. Or, you could look for other opportunities to build these skills and hopefully make a lateral career move later.
Companies that already have engineering productivity management staff on board might also be surprisingly good places to apply. For instance, a business that hires productivity managers is obviously concerned about efficiency, meaning it already sees the value of building a skilled team. If such a business announced a growth initiative or successful investment funding round, it couldn't hurt to ask a hiring manager if you could apply.
Google carrers as an engineer productivity manager
GlassDoor engineering productivity manager positions.
Indeed engineering productivity manager positions.
The Basic Engineering Productivity Manager's Toolkit
There's no universal rule for engineering productivity management career success, but these tools might just help:
If you're considering this role, then you most likely have some kind of IT degree. If you started by earning a traditional computer science degree, then you might explore some continued professional education. For instance, you could get certified in management, one of the many industrial project management systems that have crept into the IT world, or network security, to name a few.
An employment track record full of engineering productivity roles does more than merely help you look good. It can also make it easier to zero in on the kinds of problems that crop up in the wild.
Many managers start on some kind of junior developer track. If you've been at that for a while and want to shift to engineering productivity, you might begin by branching out to managerial roles and other positions of greater responsibility.
Hands-on coding skills
Some roles won't outright demand that you possess language-specific programming skills. This may be more noticeable with big companies that use larger technology stacks and thus accept diverse talent. In most cases, knowing about good DevOps is a must.
Keeping Things in Perspective:
Remember that an engineering productivity manager exists to smooth out rough edges. The trouble is that you don't know where the problems might crop up, so the best option is to be comfortable in numerous areas.
If all goes well, your company will rely on you to promote more sustainable (from an operational standpoint) workflows and practices. You'll become the go-to person for highlighting software inefficiencies, and delivering data insights. Any talents that help you explore and solve these problems proactively will ultimately ease your career journey.
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Gitlab handbook on engineering productivity
How to keep engineers engaged by Gabor Zold
9 Engineering Productivity Tools To Improve Your Team￼by LinearB