Episode 05

“Engineering Management” with Marcus Blankenship

I started working in management roles without having any kind of formal management training. I even find it hard to define what management is, after almost 10 years in multiple teamlead and manager roles. Yes, there are formal definitions, but for one I can’t bring myself to memorize them and even if in those circumstances I think of them, they leave me with a lacking feeling, as though they don’t really capture what management is about.

However, over the last 5+ years, I never really lost the impression, that the widespread understanding of what management in the context of software teams (aka Engineering Management) is, changed drastically. On the one hand, this might be a no-brainer, because the working mode of software teams has changed drastically over this period of times, with such concepts as DevOps and Continuous Delivery, to name only two of the more prominent ones. And the practice of management must adapt to such changes in it’s environment. On the other hand Agile has been around for a very long time now, and in some environments it helped shift a focus towards people and their interactions that comprise software teams. Most likely though, there are even more forces at work that all influence the change in how management understands itself and how it’s performed.

I’m very happy that Marcus Blankenship, long-time management and leadership coach, agreed to join me for a chat about this topic. About “management as a profession and leadership as a skill” (see ~10min in the podast) and to discuss the shift in Engineering Management, what this new or not-so-new kind of Engineering Management is, what it’s practices are and some opinions and pointers where it’s coming from.

Talking to Marcus was therefore not only a great pleasure for me, because we got to touch on a subject that’s been on the back of my mind for quite some time now. It was also very inspiring, as Marcus dropped some gem quotes (such as “The 1on1 is your primary practice to build a strong, professional, bidirectional trust relationship”, around ~20min) and closed the conversation with a nod towards an equally interesting leadership theory.

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cto.coffee - Episode 05 - “Engineering Management” with Marcus Blankenship

Show Notes

You can find Marcus on Twitter as @justzeros and at his own site.

~11min - Jo Freeman’s essay “Tyranny of Structurelessness”. Wikipedia has a (very) high level synopsis.

~15min - “27 Challenges Managers Face” by Bruce Tulgan

~21min - “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott

~29min - Software Lead Weekly Newsletter and lesson two “Code Review” Your Management Decisions from the book Leading Snowflakes by Oren Ellenbogen.

~32min - Leader-member exchange theory

The intro/outro music in the podcast was made with Sonic Pi from this code.