The Engineering Executive's Primer

Book description

As an engineering manager, you almost always have someone in your company to turn to for advice: a peer on another team, your manager, or even the head of engineering. But who do you turn to if you're the head of engineering? Engineering executives have a challenging learning curve, and many folks excitedly start their first executive role only to leave frustrated within the first 18 months.

In this book, author Will Larson shows you ways to obtain your first executive job and quickly ramp up to meet the challenges you may not have encountered in non-executive roles: measuring engineering for both engineers and the CEO, company-scoped headcount planning, communicating successfully across a growing organization, and figuring out what people actually mean when they keep asking for a "technology strategy."

This book explains how to:

  • Get an engineering executive job, negotiate the contract, and onboard at your new company
  • Run an engineering planning process and communicate effectively with the organization
  • Direct the core meetings necessary to operate an effective engineering organization
  • Hire, onboard, and run performance management
  • Manage yourself and remain effective through many challenges
  • Leave the job when the time is right

Will Larson was the chief technology officer at Calm and the author of An Elegant Puzzle and Staff Engineer. He's also a prolific writer on his blog, Irrational Exuberance.

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Table of contents

  1. Preface
    1. Who This Book is For
    2. What This Book is Not
    3. Navigating This Book
    4. Clarifying Terms
  2. 1. Writing Your Engineering Strategy
    1. Defining Strategy
    2. Example Strategy
      1. Diagnosis
      2. Guiding Policies
      3. Coherent Actions
    3. Writing Process
    4. When to Write the Strategy
    5. Dealing with Missing Company Strategies
    6. Establishing the Diagnosis
    7. Structuring Your Guiding Policies
    8. Maintaining Your Guiding Policies’ Altitude
    9. Selecting Coherent Actions
    10. Shouldn’t Strategy Be Bottoms-up?
    11. Summary
  3. 2. How to Plan
    1. The Default Planning Process
    2. Planning’s Three Discrete Phases
    3. Phase 1: Establishing Your Financial Plan
      1. Reasoning About Engineering’s Role in the Financial Plan
      2. Why Should Financial Planning be an Annual Process?
      3. Attributing Costs to Business Units
      4. Why Can Financial Planning be so Contentious?
      5. Should Engineering Headcount Growth Limit Company Headcount Growth?
      6. Informing Organizational Structure
      7. Aligning Hiring Plan and Recruiting Bandwidth
    4. Phase 2: Determining Your Functional Portfolio Allocation
      1. Why Do We Need a Functional Portfolio Allocation?
      2. Keep the Allocation Fairly Steady
      3. Be Mindful of Allocation Granularity
      4. Don’t Over Index on Early Results
    5. Phase 3: Agreeing on the Roadmap
      1. Roadmapping with Disconnected Planners
      2. Roadmapping Unscoped Qork
      3. Roadmapping in Too Much Detail
    6. Pitfalls to Avoid
      1. Planning as Ticking Checkboxes
      2. Planning as Inefficient Resource Allocator
      3. Planning as Rewarding Shiny Projects
      4. Planning as Diminishing Ownership
    7. Summary
  4. 3. Creating Useful Organizational Values
    1. What problems do values solve?
    2. Should engineering orgs have values?
    3. What makes a value useful?
    4. How are Engineering values distinct from a technology strategy?
    5. When and how to rollout values
    6. Some values I’ve found useful
    7. Summary
  5. 4. Measuring Engineering Organizations
    1. Measuring for yourself
    2. Measuring for stakeholders
    3. Sequencing your approach
    4. Antipatterns
    5. Summary
  6. 5. Participating in Merges and Acquisitions
    1. Complex Incentives
    2. Strategy, Thesis, and Evaluation
      1. Business Strategy
      2. Acquisition Thesis
      3. Engineering Evaluation
    3. Integration Decisions
      1. Technology Integration Decisions
      2. Team Integration Decisions
      3. Leadership Integration Decisions
    4. Dissent: Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
    5. Being Acquired
    6. Summary
  7. About the Author

Product information

  • Title: The Engineering Executive's Primer
  • Author(s): Will Larson
  • Release date: June 2024
  • Publisher(s): O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  • ISBN: 9781098149482