When I started my first management job, I had to go through new manager training. I thought it would answer give me everything I needed to succeed.
I left with more questions than answers.
These questions led me to seek out the great managers of our industry. The leaders that made an impact.
The best training I found for leaders came from books, podcasts, blogs, and more.
Now I want to share the most impactful resources I’ve found with you.
Disclosure: This article includes affiliate links to any books I reference. I may receive compensation when you click on links to these products.
The Engineering Manager Career
Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager by Jamies Stanier
Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager is for people transitioning into management. It’s the best book I’ve found that explains the day to day expectations of the job.
Check this out if you want to become a manager one day or recently became one.
An Elegant Puzzle by Will Larson
An Elegant Puzzle is a tremendous resource that explains the advanced areas of managing a department. Topics include sizing teams, leading a reorg, and strategic thinking.
This book is targeted at experienced managers – think directors and above. It assumes you understand the basic skills of management (like giving feedback).
The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier
The Manager’s Path is the definitive breakdown of the engineering management career path. Starting at Tech Lead and ending at CTO, this book explains the expectations at each level.
It’s a short read and a great breakdown of the management career path.
The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam
Humans understand pictures MUCH faster than words.
The Back of the Napkin explains why this is the case and how you can leverage pictures to express your ideas.
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
Crucial Conversations teaches you how to navigate the most difficult conversations in your life. One of my favorite anecdotes of the book is a low level employee giving feedback to the CEO. When asked, she says that titles don’t matter to her, everyone needs feedback to improve.
Check this out for guidance on how to talk about hard topics with anyone.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Never Split the Difference is the definitive book on negotiating. Written by a former FBI hostage negotiator, you will learn techniques that have saved lives.
Over the course of doubling the number people in my organization, I’ve only had two people say no to me. I attribute that high close rate to this book.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I recommend Quiet all the time.
I’ve always struggled with connecting to the quieter people in my life. Their silence on topics led to me feeling uncomfortable.
Quiet helped me understand why. It explains how introverts communicate and the value they bring to their teams. Read this book to learn how to connect to the quiet people in your life or how your can leverage your communication style.
Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull
Modern business is based on creative problem solving. One of the most creative companies in the world is Pixar. Might as well learn from the best.
This book nailed what life is like in a high performing creative environment. I found this breakdown of Pixar to be applicable to the many great software teams I’ve been a part of.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M Lencioni
An allegory explaining how a group of people becomes a team.
I recommend this book for anyone leading a brand new team. Especially if you’re in a dysfunctional phase of miscommunication. Learn to recognize what’s wrong and how to move past it.
Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz
One of my favorite non-fiction books. Gene Kranz tells the story of his career in Mission Control. Gene’s story explains the early days of NASA’s Apollo program and how his team navigated its biggest challenges.
While not the best writing you’ll read, I love this story. It showed me the how having high standards and consistent practice is critical to success.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
What makes a truly great company?
Many companies achieve success…for a period of time. The great ones do something special that make them endure.
A classic amongst business books with lessons that can be applied to teams of all sizes.
Agile Project Management with Kanban by Eric Brechner
If you feel like Agile Scrum doesn’t work for your team, check out this book.
My team at Sprout Social was using Scrum and sprints were always disrupted. Support tickets and ad-hoc requests kept hitting our older product line.
This book explains how to mix the best of agile and kanban together. The result is a more stable environment for your team to succeed.
Creating Great Teams: How Self-Selection Lets People Excel by Sandy Mamoli, David Mole
I loved the idea of self-selection for years. When I finally put it into practice, I turned to this book.
Creating Great Teams outlines how self-selecting teams work, why people like it, and how to resolve the problems with the process.
Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal
Team of Teams explains how the U.S. Army re-organized itself to fight Al Qaeda.
If you want to learn how to empower your team to make better decisions, this is a great book. I learned why senior leaders are rarely the most informed decision makers and how they should approach communicating ideas.
Advice for a New Executive by Lara Hogan
I love this article for this one point:
If you and the VP of Product are on the same page at all times, your life will be a lot easier.
If you work in a product-focused company, the relationship between Engineering and Product is critical.
Lara’s advice can be applied to a leader of any level, so I frequently recommend this article.
Your Job Should Change Every Six Months
This article taught me how to discover the most impactful problems to work on in my organization. Every six months I ask people around my organization:
What are the top three problems on your mind right now?
Asking this to your bosses will uncover opportunities. Asking your team about their problems will reveal new ways you can support them.
Better Allies: 5 Ally Actions
As leaders, we have a TON of influence over the work lives of the people on our teams. The actions we take have impact.
Which is why it’s important for us to understand our biases, the nuances of diversity, and the importance of allyship.
Subscribe to Better Allies for weekly tips on how to create a more inclusive environment for your team.
Software Lead Weekly
Software Lead Weekly was key in helping me start my engineering management career. This newsletter helped me get my first management job.
Every week, you will receive a list of links exploring all aspects of being a leader in an engineering organization.
Understanding the experiences of underrepresented demographics will make us better leaders and allies.
Code Switch is an amazing podcast that explores how race influences all aspects of society. This show has helped me better understand the history of race, how it affects my daily life, and how I can help.
The Critical Path
One of my favorite podcasts that analyzes the Theory of Disruption through the lens of Apple.
If you are looking to understand the strategic thinking and unique aspects of Apple, check this podcast out.
One of my favorite topics was the Jobs to Be Done theory. Check out episodes 9, 134, and 146 to learn more.
The Knowledge Project
The Knowledge Project is a meaty podcast. Most episodes clock in at two hours and are worth multiple listens.
The host, Shane Parish, is on a mission to understand how some of the top leaders of our age make decisions. One of my favorite episodes is Getting Better at Being Wrong, where Shane interviews professional poker player, Annie Duke.
I’ve found that learning about how parts of the business work makes me a more effective leader.
SaaStr exposes you to life outside of engineering. How do business leaders think? How do you create a sales organization? What KPIs to executives look at for a SaaS company?
SaaStr explores all of these topics and more.
A wonderful resource with MANY more links than what you see here. I frequently turn to this site for ideas on new books to read.