As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, I went from an individual contributor (IC) role to tech & team lead over the last few years. Most technical and team leadership growth comes from learning by doing and experiencing challenging situations for the first time, dealing with them with the help of the people around you, and coming out wiser at the other end. Then you run into the next thing and the cycle repeats itself.
Nevertheless, there were a handful of books and resources that helped (and that continue to help) me along the way. A few of those I would like to recommend in this post. Disclaimer: my experience leading technical teams focuses on cross-functional teams with a considerable focus on machine learning and data science. The books below focus on software engineering in general and should apply widely, though.
I hope the list below is helpful. As always, let me know if I am missing anything.
An overview of what tech leadership in tech is about: “The Manager’s Path” by Camille Fournier
This is a great place to start for anyone thinking about transitioning from an IC role to a leadership role or already going through the transition. Camille Fournier nicely illustrates the path from individual contributor, to tech lead, tech lead manager, engineering manager, and to CTO. I first read this book about four years ago and still find myself coming back to it frequently.
Blog by the author: https://www.elidedbranches.com
A go-to reference for engineering managers: “An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Eng Management.” by Will Larson
I recommend this book as a go-to resource for building functional and productive engineering teams. Some topics are more geared towards VP-level readers, e.g. designing a re-org as a manager of managers, but that makes it even more valuable as an engineering management compendium.
Blog by the author: https://lethain.com
Designing engineering organizations, teams and interfaces: “Team Topologies: Organizing business and technology teams for fast flow” by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais
The book is centered around creating awareness for Conways’s Law and using the Inverse Conway Maneuver to design teams and organizations making software. For example, it distinguishes enabler, platform, complicated subsystem, and business-stream aligned teams as the core team archetypes and defines how these teams should interface.
Day-to-day practical leadership trips: “The Art of Leadership: Small things, done well” by Michael Lopp
From running 1:1s to effectively communicating change, this book contains short lessons that are easy to try, modify, and adapt as part of your daily work as a manager.
Blog by the author: https://randsinrepose.com
Bonus: Staff engineering career books
There is plenty of room for growth in technology roles outside the management tracks (this could be a good topic for a future post). For people interested in this, I recommend these two books to get started.
- “Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track”, also by Will Larson. https://staffeng.com/book
- “The Staff Engineer’s Path” by Tanya Reilly. https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/the-staff-engineers/9781098118723/