Recommended Reading for New Agile Engineering Managers

It’s a common situation. You’re a kick-ass Engineer and you have just been tapped on the shoulder for a promotion to an Engineering Manager, an “EM”. It means your VP has recognised the great work you’ve delivered, the contribution you’ve made. Congratulations!

At this stage you are probably a bit overwhelmed with questions from team members, the training sessions from HR, and dealing with upcoming performance reviews. Perhaps you’re just trying to get software out the door.

Well we want to get you up to speed quickly, and to help you start getting the maximum velocity from your agile team. So VelocityCounts has put together a list of blogs and books that you should take a weekend to read through. No doubt you’re really busy at present, being a new EM and all. Trust us, taking the time to read over this material is going to pay dividends over the coming months.

If you’re in the situation where you are preparing to become an EM this is a great list to give you some insight. However, don’t be afraid to say no to a promotion – some of the greatest Engineers make the worst EM’s, conversely some of the best EM’s are terrible Engineers. Remember, for every agile team we’re trying to work to peoples strengths. If being an EM isn’t for you let your boss know that you would prefer to go back to coding – it’s okay, they will understand ((The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong)).

Managing Humans – Michael Lopp

Michael Lopp has had Engineering Manager stints at Netscape, Apple and Symantec. Exposure to a broad range of companies in Silicon Valley and beyond have given him plenty of insight into how to manage humans, more specifically, engineers. Get a taste for Managing Humans by reading one of Lopp’s earlier blogs, Managing Nerds.

These are fun to read in the morning – you’ll arrive at the office with a fresh perspective, and a smile.

Scrum Roles and Responsibilities – Agile Developer Notes

You’re now heading up an agile team. You are an Engineering Manager. Where does that place you? Are you a ScrumMaster, or more of a Product Owner? Perhaps today you are wearing both hats – ideally, that should stop.

Have a read of this and help your team identify the various roles and ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities. It will make your life a whole lot easier!

The Principles of Product Development Flow – Don Reinersten

Still regarded as the original and the best when it comes to flow based software development. Recommended by Dave Thomas of Bedarra Research Labs every time I see him at any Agile event – Dave is a fanboy and so am I.

Flow details the approach commonly referred to as Kanban. An approach to software delivery based on the flow of work through the value stream, as opposed to timeboxed delivery as in Scrum. A great read and useful for Scrum teams too – you’ll pick up some gems and become a ‘Scrumban’ team.

What is this DevOps thing, anyway? – Patrick Debois

Patrick is the father of the DevOps movement, having kicked off the first DevOps Days back in 2009. DevOps is a movement to bring people closer together, to encourage collaboration between Engineers and their counterparts in Operations. You can’t deliver software without the folks in Operations so it makes sense for them to understand you, and for you to understand them. This also leads to an extension of the ‘Definition of Done’ to delivery to customers – no more checked in to master, on to the next task.

Read about DevOps, and recognise that it has evolved significantly since these early days, but that the premise remains the same – get out of your seat, use your two feet, and collaborate with others. Works wonders for interacting with other teams too!

Scaling Software Agility – Dean Leffingwell

Dean guides Enterprises in their adoption of agile practices. While this may not be of interest to you right now it will come in handy as your company grows.


Know of a great blog or book we’ve missed? Let us know.

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