5 Ways to Be Hands-on as an Engineering Manager | by Sadhana Narendran | Jan, 2022

Right now, I am in a new role where the tech stack is entirely new to me. However, I am keen to explore the tech landscape to understand the opportunities and pain points. I found pair programming a good way to get to know the system better, while slowly working my way in.

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Technical documentation can take many forms and shapes. They could be ‘readme’ files attached to code repositories to effective mini-sites to full-blown wikis consisting of code snippets, architectural diagrams, installation manuals, and FAQ fora.

Automating some of your or your team’s routine tasks such as marking backlog items as stale, improving the developer experience on the build or release pipeline or simply automating your own tasks to give you some hands-off breathing time is a fun, low-effort, and non-blocking way to keep your hands in the game.

Participate in technical design discussions which will oftentimes give you the bird’s-eye view of the different systems, services and layers and the transport protocol between these. If you spend some time in the system, you could ask intuitive questions pointed towards oft-forgotten areas like performance, security, or data logging which could help guide teams to shift left on these requirements and build them early into the system. For you, this would be a terrific way to help the team while using the breadth of your technical design experience.

If you are leading a team of more than 5 direct reports, chances are that you will have lesser time than you’d like to spend on coding features. Code reviews are great pointers to many things. They give you an idea about the code architecture, but also certain subtle hints on the quality of the code being produced, the effort being made to keep technical debt in check, and the thought process of the developer.

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