Category: Engineering, Gender Balance, Female Engineers, Female Engineering Manager
Claire Reckless, Engineering Manager MSMG
At the beginning of July this year I made the move from a Test Lead role, to the role of Engineering Manager (EM). I’ll share some insights into what the move has been like, the reasons behind it, and some of my challenges.
What’s my background ?
I’ve worked in tech since 2002, when I started in an internal IT support role, then moved into software support. In 2007 I moved into Software Testing and got some great experience working at a few companies creating enterprise software before starting at MoneySuperMarket in June 2018 as a Test Lead.
Why become an Engineering Manager ?
I’d been looking for the next place to go with my career and MoneySuperMarket had recently introduced the Engineering Manager position. The focus on working with and supporting the development of our people and looking after teams at MSMG really appealed to me, after resisting moving into any kind of line management for a really long time I actually found it was the part of my Test Lead role I enjoyed the most.
Over the last few years I’ve also been involved in a number of wider tech community activities, blog writing, helping run workshops, and speaking at meetups and conferences, so I’m excited to be able to help people get more involved in these things and share their ideas (as well as their challenges) if it’s something they are interested in, as well as sharing what we’re doing at MoneySuperMarket.
As with all new roles, a hefty dose of imposter syndrome kicks in. However, I’m lucky to be working as part of an awesome Engineering Manager team, with three of us new to the role and all from a range of backgrounds, Front End development, Back End development, and Testing. We’re all bringing our different experiences and views, which means we’ve got our own community and are able to support each other, talk through problems we’re having, and share ideas and suggestions. Importantly, I don’t feel like I’m doing this all by myself. I’ve also reached out to others in different companies who have made a similar move into Engineering Management with the aim of supporting and learning from each other.
What does being an Engineering Manager involve ?
It’s my role to look after our engineers, that includes Tech Leads, Developers, Test Leads and Testers. This could mean identifying where people are ready to progress to the next step in their career and providing support with that, facilitating opportunities for them to build their skills and knowledge, or understanding where people might be struggling or need additional support.
We also need to ensure teams have the right people to be able to deliver what the business and our customers need. Do we have enough people ? Do we need to move people around so we have the right blend of skills in a team?
Alongside this we could be doing any number of things around recruitment, community activities, or anything else that’s thrown at us.
What have we been up to ?
First things first, we had to define our ways of working as an EM collective, which meant agreeing how we’d engage with various stakeholders, as well as each other. We scheduled our regular standups and longer weekly sessions to discuss current issues in more depth, as well as creating documentation and reporting to help others easily find out information relating to the EM’s and what we’ve been working on.
One of our main priorities was to move all of our Developers, Tech Leads, Testers and Tech Leads to the EM who would be responsible for their line management. This meant having conversations with existing line managers and setting up one to one sessions with every engineer to get to know them, finding out about their goals, challenges, and starting to get a sense of what we can do to support them.
We’ve been tasked with recruiting for a number of the open roles we’ve currently got at MSMG, including two other EM’s. As part of our core recruitment team, we’ve been heavily involved and it’s been great to find some fantastic people who have either already started in our squads or are due to start soon. We’ve got more work to do here to fill the rest of our roles, so this will continue into the next quarter.
Have there been any challenges ?
In our initial conversations about line management, we wanted to ensure we were breaking down silos by managing people across multiple teams, however we felt that in order to support people in the way we wanted to, it was important we limit the number of teams across which we managed. Our concern was that an EM would have too many contexts to keep track of, so we eventually decided that each EM would only manage people across teams which fell under their assigned Tech Director.
It’s challenging going from being an Individual Contributor, to a Management role, and something of a culture shock. The largest number of people I’d previously managed was around five, and I’m now looking after eighteen people (this number will reduce slightly as we recruit additional EM’s). I’m used to managing my own workload, but a lot of my experience has still been working within teams and within a reasonably structured framework to deliver software. Now I find things much more freeform, truly needing to prioritise the most important things, and making sure I’m looking after the people I manage as well as not overloading myself. Since I returned from maternity leave at the start of last year, I’ve worked 4 days a week, and I‘m also studying for a qualification as part of our Leadership programme, so I really need to make sure I’m making the best use of my time. Do I really need to attend that meeting ? Is this something I can say no to ? Could someone else take this on ? All questions I’m asking myself more often.
What’s next ?
We’ve got some ambitious goals in some exciting areas which we’ll be focusing on for the rest of the year and into 2022, like improving how we onboard people into the company, improving our tech community engagement, driving our internal communities forward, making sure our people have all the support they need, and of course ensuring our teams can deliver what our customers need to keep saving them money!
Interested in working for MoneySuperMarket?
We’re recruiting for a number of roles in our Engineering teams as well as the wider business. If you’re interested, take a look at our Vercida profile page.