Do the stuff nobody else is doing

I became an engineering manager about eight months ago and immediately had no idea what I should be doing. Writing code? Architectural vision? Roadmap planning? What even is this job?

Then I met with someone who gave me some sage wisdom: when in doubt, do the stuff nobody else is doing. I manage a team of brilliant senior engineers; I don’t need to write code or drive technical vision. I work with a brilliant product manager; I don’t need to own the roadmap. They’ve got that stuff handled.

It seems obvious, but it wasn’t. I felt a responsibility to help with those things, and I felt guilty for staying out of it. But in retrospect, helping would have been micromanaging at best.

Sticking to the work no one else was doing brought me clarity. For me, that meant people management/mentoring/sponsorship, identifying and dealing with process issues, fixing cross-team relationships, making sure people are having fun, fixing a lack of trust in senior leadership, and other cultural things.

What does it mean for you? Where’s the work nobody else is doing?

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