Advice/Do's and Don'ts for onboarding a new Engineering Manager


#1

My first question I would love to get thoughts on, is what are some tips/advice for onboarding a new Engineering Manager? Any definite things to do, or to avoid, in those first days?

I’m creating an onboarding plan for an EM right now, and I’d love to hear other perspectives and also from engineers who have had a new manager join in to work with them. Anything you’d wish your manager’s manager had done differently? :pray:t3:


#2

I find on-boarding depends on the style of the organization and amount of process (size of the company). But here is what I’d chime in as important things that come to my mind. Some can be applied to any role in a company.

Do’s

  • Make sure the relevant people for 1-1s or introduction meetings are available at the right time for the first week. It’s annoying to join and find out that you won’t be able to meet X who is important. It might even make sense to have the schedule already planned. It’s also a little frustrating to be asked to arrange a time with X, could be smoother to pre-arranged.
  • What is your playbook? If you have a well written engineering playbook (docs essentially), then point them to where they are. If not, I would suggest spending time to write up what your engineering principles are. This could be as granular as coding practises, but think more about values and approaches to how your engineering team works. Here is what we started at Brewhouse - https://github.com/BrewhouseTeam/engineering.
  • Allow flexibility and review of the on-boarding process itself. As this is a manger, they might want to move around elements that were outlined for them. The review is making sure that they further evolve the on-boarding process. At Brewhouse we had every new person review the process and suggest improvements.
  • Similar to the engineering point, what is your leadership and management style? Is there a playbook for that? As a manager in previous teams, companies have different approaches, so it would be great to see the style that will work best for the culture and not cause friction.
  • Managers are different in many companies. So outlining the type of manager (if it hasn’t already been done) would be useful. The best way I like this is having clear KPIs, OKRs that can help the on-boarding discussions but also setting the area of focus. Trying to reverse engineer this during the first couple of weeks makes it hard.
  • Feeling accomplishment. With any role, I like making sure that on day 1 someone actually contributes something. This is harder to do with leadership roles as primarily the first couple of weeks is information gathering. Perhaps being invited along to standup’s, planning helps them feel integrated, help with some administration, I’m sure you can think of relevant tasks that relate to your team.

Don’t

  • Skip any of the Do’s :slight_smile:
  • Overloading can be an issue for me. Might not for others, but having time to digest, make notes, think helps. It’s always difficult to have back to back meetings and content.
  • (Don’t) Leave them alone. During the first week or two, regular checkins should be carried out with a fellow exec or whoever is accountable for them. It’s frustrating when your senior is really busy and you can’t access them. This doesn’t have to be a meeting, could be permission to ping them on Slack/Email, etc. But the person being pinged has to be aware to make time for them.
  • (Don’t) by Shy. Randical Candor from their managers. The best thing I’ve ever heard from someone when starting to work with their company is “Hey Kalv, we don’t really work that way”, it’s great to learn that at the start and be able to do something about it.

Related to some of the above, check out the Basecamp handbook, I find it’s a great example of outlining playbook style information for their company without being too large and hard to digest - https://github.com/basecamp/handbook.

Oops I wrote way more than I thought :joy: - Super interesting topic, thanks for asking. I’m interested to hear what others share.


#3

@kalv this is AWESOME. Thank you so much! I have literally populated my Todoist project for this with action steps, so thankful for this! And yes, eager to hear all thoughts too, it’s a wide ranging one and I bet a lot of folks hear have experiences (good and bad) to share :smiley: