Engineering Management Books

Sun, Dec 6, 2020 5-minute read

We live in the world where there are so many offerings of information in all possible formats: podcasts, videos, blogs, etc. But reading a good book is something that you’ll never regret.

In the following list I’d like to cover some books that helped me personally at becoming a better engineer and manager.

Note: I have used some links to Amazon and it’s not affiliated.

An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Eng Management.

Will Larson’s An Elegant Puzzle orients around the particular challenges of engineering management–from sizing teams to technical debt to succession planning–and provides a path to the good solutions. Drawing from his experience at Digg, Uber, and Stripe, Will Larson has developed a thoughtful approach to engineering management that leaders of all levels at companies of all sizes can apply. An Elegant Puzzle balances structured principles and human-centric thinking to help any leader create more effective and rewarding organizations for engineers to thrive in.

Radical Candor

I learned a lot from this book on the topic of 1:1s and being a good manager.

Radical Candor offers a guide to those bewildered or exhausted by management, written for bosses and those who manage bosses. Taken from years of the author’s experience, and distilled clearly giving actionable lessons to the reader; it shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.

Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager

This book is so much fun to read!

Read hilarious stories with serious lessons that Michael Lopp extracts from his varied and sometimes bizarre experiences as a manager at Apple, Pinterest, Palantir, Netscape, Symantec, Slack, and Borland. Many of the stories first appeared in primitive form in Lopp’s perennially popular blog, Rands in Repose.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

Bill, an IT manager at Parts Unlimited, has been tasked with taking on a project critical to the future of the business, code named Phoenix Project. But the project is massively over budget and behind schedule. The CEO demands Bill must fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill’s entire department will be outsourced.

With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with a manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize work flow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited.

In a fast-paced and entertaining style, three luminaries of the DevOps movement deliver a story that anyone who works in IT will recognize. Readers will not only learn how to improve their own IT organizations, they’ll never view IT the same way again.

The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data

Another book by Gene Kim on a Phoenix Project and the Three Ways of DevOps (better to read after reading The Phoenix Project).

Not that much about management itself, but it reveals a good story on howto make engineers productive and motivated.

In The Unicorn Project, we follow Maxine, a senior lead developer and architect, as she is exiled to the Phoenix Project, to the horror of her friends and colleagues, as punishment for contributing to a payroll outage. She tries to survive in what feels like a heartless and uncaring bureaucracy and to work within a system where no one can get anything done without endless committees, paperwork, and approvals.

The Mythical Man-Month

Good old book, first published in 1975. It’s funny that Brook uses a lot of examples from his experience working at IBM somewhere in 70s, but all topics are still valuable and can be applied today.

Debugging Teams: Better Productivity through Collaboration

The authors share their insights on how to lead a team effectively, navigate an organization, and build a healthy relationship with the users of your software. This is valuable information from two respected software engineers whose popular series of talks—including “Working with Poisonous People”—has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers.

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded

Will help new engineering managers to start their new endeavor.

Whether you’re starting a new job, being promoted from within, embarking on an overseas assignment, or being tapped as CEO, how you manage your transition will determine whether you succeed or fail. Use this book as your trusted guide.

The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change

In this book, author Camille Fournier takes you through the stages of technical management, from mentoring interns to working with the senior staff. You’ll get actionable advice for approaching various obstacles in your path, whether you’re a new manager, a mentor, or a more experienced leader looking for fresh advice.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

Peopleware shows you how to cultivate teams that are healthy and productive. The answers aren’t easy.

That would be it for now, I am sure there are many more incredible resources. Feel free to reply in the comments what are the bbooks that helped you grow as an engineering manager.