Chapter 85. To Code or Not to Code

Ben Edmunds

If you’ve been an engineering manager for more than a few minutes, you’ve likely received the advice, “Stop coding!” You’re a manager now, the value you bring to your team isn’t in the code you produce. Or maybe you’ve received the exact opposite advice, “Always be coding!” You’re a manager now, you don’t want to lose your technical chops. Neither of these work well in my experience. Let me begin by explaining my own journey.

Early in my management career I subscribed to the idea that you should continue coding. I was as active as ever, shipping as often as I did before, and trying to keep the same personal measures of success. This led to me working nonstop. I was attempting to fulfill my management duties during the day, then code all night. This caused alternating resentments. Either I would resent managing because it was interfering with coding, or I would resent coding because I had something I needed to handle on the management side. This was a horrible disservice to my team and to myself. I was a burned-out engineer and a horrible manager.

From here I swung to the other side. I attempted to stop coding. When I was coding, I saw it as a failure. It was a sign of my inability to delegate or plan well. This led to a constant state of frustration in myself and even more pressure on my team. I also started to see the effects of ...

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