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A Comprehensive Guide to the Engineering Manager Role

Posted on 
August 17, 2021
|
by 
Team Interview Kickstart

The most difficult problems for engineering managers are not technical but rather personal. Your duties as an individual contributor are quite well-defined. You arrive at work on time, are given duties, and are expected to do them quickly and successfully. That will change when you become an engineering manager; your responsibilities will no longer be defined and independent. 

Your day-to-day life will change, and your duties will grow significantly. That being said, you will have a larger opportunity to influence your team's culture and work with other teams to achieve key business objectives.

Not only will your job duties alter, but your whole personality will too. This guide will give you an all-around idea of how the engineering manager role will be for you. Here’s everything you will find in this article:

  • Who Is an Engineering Manager?
  • Engineering Manager vs. Project Manager
  • What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of an Engineering Manager?
  • Engineering Managers at FAANG vs. Other Tech Companies 
  • How to Become an Engineering Manager?
  • 5 Important Skills Required for an Engineering Manager
  • Average Salary Range of an Engineering Manager in Big Tech Companies
  • Engineering Manager Interview Process
  • How to Prepare for an Engineering Manager Interview?
  • Engineering Manager FAQs

Who Is an Engineering Manager?

Engineering managers oversee a team of engineers that design and build computer hardware, medical equipment, software, and electrical gadgets. Engineering managers are in charge of project management, new product development, and issue resolution. They are responsible for planning, directing, organizing, and managing an organization's technical and engineering activities.

Engineering managers fall in the subset of management that refers to either project management or functional management. It requires expertise and training in the relevant technical field, as well as general management skills. An engineering manager's career path is both difficult and exciting since it entails leading teams and completing projects on time and within a budget. Being an engineering manager is a continuous balancing act between these two sides of the coin.

Engineering Manager vs. Project Manager 

The word "manager" is employed alongside various other phrases, yet it may imply quite different things depending on the situation. When it comes to a company's engineering department, there are two types of management. Project managers are in charge of managing a project's work and content, while engineering managers are in charge of managing the personnel in their department. Let’s see the differences between the two.

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of an Engineering Manager?  

Balancing between the interests of team members, the team, the company, and the clients is the primary role and responsibility in engineering manager jobs. Here is the list of roles and responsibilities of an Engineering Manager.

  • Consulting with customers on project requirements.
  • Creating comprehensive cost estimates and project timelines.
  • Setting scientific and technological objectives in collaboration with top management and customers.
  • Directing, analyzing, and approving product design and modifications.
  • Assigning, directing, and evaluating technical tasks.
  • Managing and monitoring the performance and professional growth of individual contributors.
  • Overseeing the growth and upkeep of engineering personnel competency.
  • Creating and managing the refinery capital budgeting process.
  • Assisting plant objectives.
  • Providing engineering design services.
  • Managing the technical aspects of Process Safety Management and Environmental Compliance.
  • Establishing and maintaining plant engineering standards.
  • Assisting other department workers in their professional growth.

Engineering Manager at FAANG vs. Other Tech Companies 

An engineering manager at one of the FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google), will  earn a fat paycheck and have access to a large developer network to learn from. If you’re an engineering manager in a FAANG company, you will be regarded as an asset and valued because you contribute to the bottom line. 

What Can You Expect From Non-FAANG Companies?

This is not always the case with a non-FAANG tech company. You are most likely to be treated the same as any other company vertical. 

A business outside of the software sector will most certainly pay less for engineering manager jobs. You may be working with temporary employees or contractors, as companies often seek to incorporate software into their operations but cannot afford a full-time developer. They will then employ temporary staff for a period of six to twelve months. Temporary employees may cause a variety of problems. 

When they depart, you may find yourself having to spend additional time deciphering the code they left behind. But you'll have more chances to contribute value, thanks partly to the fact that there aren't as many developers. If you wind up working in a non-FAANG company, you will encounter less assistance from non-technical employees, but you will have many opportunities to offer enormous value.

You may also provide value by automating processes for the rest of the business. You'll have an open door to get started, whether it's reporting or machine learning. Management may recognize you and promote you more quickly than if you worked for a FAANG company.

How to Become an Engineering Manager? 

Experience and the appropriate degrees and certifications are required to attain and succeed at engineering manager jobs.

This section will walk you through the process of becoming an engineering manager, step by step. The stages are mentioned with the average time each step takes to complete.

  • Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering or engineering management (4 years)
  • Step 2: Get practical experience in the field (1-4 years)
  • Step 3: Earn a master’s degree in engineering management (2 years)
  • Step 4: Establish state licensure (timeline varies)
  • Step 5: Become a professional engineer (at least 4 years)
  • Step 6: Consider board and professional engineering management certifications (8 years or more)

5 Important Skills Required for an Engineering Manager

Many elements promote the growth of a great engineering manager. Good managers can identify and capitalize on what makes each of their team members special. These are some of the top engineering management abilities/skills you should possess to succeed at your engineering manager job.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Empathy may not be one of an engineer's more apparent characteristics. However, it is critical to empathize with people who may be affected by your work, whether they are team members, customers, or end-users. Being able to actually listen to team members will help identify their individual motivations and align everyone’s needs with the goals of the team and the organization. 

Communication

For individuals who are not natural leaders, transitioning from an engineering job to a managerial one may be difficult. Engineering managers must communicate with their team, clients, executives, and employees of other departments who may have a less technical background. Clear communication within the team is important to make sure the team is working towards the same goals.

Considering the Big Picture

It is easy to get too focused on the job at hand or the management challenge of the day. Big-picture thinking requires you to see beyond today's problems to understand how your choices and solutions will affect the business as a whole in the long run. 

Making a Decision

Managerial jobs often involve judgment decisions, in contrast to many technical occupations that offer obvious, tangible solutions to daily issues. Learning how to evaluate circumstances with no obvious right or wrong solution is critical for successful team leaders.

Ability to Adjust to New Situations

Continuous change is required for companies to develop and succeed. If you resist change, it can stonewall a team, a department, or the whole organization. Adapting to change is an essential soft talent to have today.

Leading by Example

The best way to inspire your team is to be a good role model. Though everyone's leadership style is different, being a hands-on technical leader will help create an environment where every member feels safe enough to speak up, share ideas, learn, and grow. 

Average Salary Range of an Engineering Manager in Big Tech Companies

The average software engineering manager salary in the US is $141,036 per year, while the engineering project manager’s salary is $97,376 per year. Now, let’s see the average salary range of an engineering manager in the world’s biggest tech companies.


  • Facebook: An Engineering Manager’s salary at Facebook is on an average of $238,140 annually. 
  • Amazon: An Engineering Manager’s salary is on an average of $233,823 annually, including a base salary of $156,053 with a $77,770 bonus.
  • Apple:  An Engineering Manager’s salary at Apple is on an average of $228,616 annually.
  • Netflix:  An Engineering Manager’s salary at Netflix is on an average of $305,130 annually.
  • Google: An Engineering Manager’s salary is on an average of $231,326 annually, including a base salary of $171,697 with a $59,629 bonus. 
  • Microsoft: An Engineering Manager’s salary is on an average of $215,603 annually, including a base salary of $197,056 with an $18,547 bonus.

Engineering Manager Interview Process

Most organizations conduct the Engineering Manager interview process in the following stages:

Recruiter Screen

During this 30-45 minute interview, you will be asked questions about your resume, light technical questions to evaluate your subject expertise, and behavioral questions to analyze your personality and working style. In general, try to be honest and genuine while also demonstrating that you've done your homework about the company and are truly eager to work there. Consider looking up your interviewer on LinkedIn to get a better understanding of them.

Technical Screen

During this interview, you will discuss your technical abilities and subject expertise with the recruiting manager. Expect to be asked why you're the best candidate for the position and how you'd benefit the company.

On-site Interview

Typically, you should expect the interview to last 3-5 hours altogether, with a lunch break in the middle. You'll go through many rounds, each lasting 30 to 60 minutes. You may be given a technical screen or coding challenge, as well as 1-2 rounds of people management interviews and system design questions. 

While there is a generally uniform framework of the interview process of the Facebook engineering manager interview and Google engineering manager interview, the interview phases may change across businesses. To get an idea, look at some of the interview stages at major tech firms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

How to Prepare For an Engineering Manager Interview?

Aside from the technical part of your software engineering manager interview preparation, be prepared to answer managing teams and projects. The project management interview will include hypothetical practical questions on successfully managing end-to-end projects. Interviews go into how you would assist and develop your team, addressing topics such as:

  • Leadership: Prepare examples of how you've dealt with difficult circumstances in your software engineering manager interview preparation. You may also be asked some hypothetical questions, so be ready to discuss how you would influence, solve issues, and drive changes. 
  • Working with people and teams: Consider how you will grow and retain team members.  Prepare to discuss how you would assist a team in navigating difficult challenges and transitions. Consider how to lead successfully in a non-hierarchical team setting, as well as your leadership style. 

  • Using a proper framework: Be able to debate and evaluate various project management methods and note their respective advantages in your software engineering manager interview preparation.

Ace Your Engineering Manager Interview

If you need help with your prep, join Interview Kickstart’s Engineering Manager Interview Masterclass — the first-of-its-kind, domain-specific tech interview prep program designed specifically for Engineering Managers. The programs include a comprehensive curriculum, unmatched teaching methods, FAANG+ instructors, and career coaching to help you nail your next tech interview. 

Sign up for our FREE webinar to uplevel your career!

Engineering Manager FAQs

1. What subjects should I focus on when preparing for an engineering management interview?

  • Accounting for engineers
  • Business statistics
  • Decision engineering
  • Engineering mathematics
  • Engineering statistics
  • Management science
  • Operations management

2. Is an engineering manager a good role?

There is a lot of scope for creativity, and a career in this field can help you think logically and solve problems. An engineering manager role will help you in intellectual development as engineering managers have an important impact on the productivity and job satisfaction of the teams they manage. 

3. Should engineering managers code?

Being an effective engineering manager will always require coding to be a part of your role. 

4. What is the relationship between the engineering manager and tech lead?

Although there is some overlap between the two positions, the objective is different. A tech lead manages the system, while the engineering manager manages people. 

5. What should I expect from an engineering manager interview?

Engineering manager interviews usually address your people leadership experience, business leadership experience, track record of producing outcomes, motivations and values, problem-solving and coding abilities, and technical domain knowledge.

Recommended Reading:

Coding Interview Cheat Sheet for Software Engineers and Engineering Managers
How to Get Your Dream Job at a FAANG Company
Behavioral Interview Questions for Software Developers

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