The Seven Areas Of Software Management

In a former post I talked about that to grow as a software engineering manager you need to move your time and focus away from the tactical and to the strategic — spending them acting to get ahead of misses rather than reacting to them as they occur. However that raises: what does that mean in terms of tangible acts? In my experience it comes to two things:

  1. Raising your consciousness level up to longer term strategic concerns.

But even that is amorphous. Thus to understand both the conscious concerns and action, I use a framework where I split software engineering management up into 7 areas:

In my experience, this is where all your time goes. (Although as you move to managing larger organizations you move away from a bias at the top, and towards a bias at the bottom.)

The next 7 posts will look at each area as follows:

  1. Introduction of what the area encompasses.

Most of the fourth are accompanied by goals. So a small caveat about goals. I am not particularly goal driven, in fact I have tweeted, “Be wary of those who always meet their goals; they have shown themselves willing to always trade off the unseen and valuable for the nominal but rewarded.” Still I think manager goals are often useful. Since time and focus is limited, they function as an upfront agreement between a manager and their manager on where they should be spent. If a strategic area costs 2–4 weeks of engagement across a year (2 hours a week), then it is a struggle to deliver 5, while also dealing with tactical work. Thus, I cover all 7 management areas with 1–2 goals, but being thoughtful whether a goal is tactical (sometimes no more than “continue the good work”), or whether it is expected to need the manager’s focussed engagement to succeed.

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SVP Core Engineering@ Datadog. Formerly SVP @ Two Sigma, and creator of Nitro @ AWS EC2.

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Ian Nowland

SVP Core Engineering@ Datadog. Formerly SVP @ Two Sigma, and creator of Nitro @ AWS EC2.