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Engineering Management: Just a Detour? - Charity Majors, CTO at Honeycomb

Rob Ocel interviews Charity Majors, CTO at Honeycomb on engineering leadership. Engineering management was once thought of as an inevitable destination for engineers who sought advancement in their careers, but now engineers have more options than ever. Many engineering managers are becoming engineers again, and the role of manager requires a significant amount of emotional labor. Should anyone want to be an engineering manager?

Charity shares her journey of becoming an accidental CTO and founder, despite never aspiring to be a manager. She talks about the importance of engineering managers, and how they help teams outperform those without one, but acknowledges the role is challenging and not always enjoyable.

Charity and Rob discuss how good managers can transform a company. They are compared to the nervous system of a company, routing information and ensuring everyone has what they need to succeed.

Charity highlights the difficulty engineers face when transitioning from a ticket system to a more autonomous work environment. This shift can be challenging, as engineers may struggle with the newfound freedom and responsibility. It can take years to fully make the transition, so leaders looking to promote engineers to management need to be committed to and patient with the transition.

Both Charity and Rob agree that a strong social support system for engineering managers is necessary as the role can be isolating, and having a network of peers who understand the challenges can be invaluable.

Charity Majors' experiences and perspectives shed light on the challenges and rewards of the role, and when engineers should and should not pursue this career path.