VP of Delivery

A question I hear a lot is what does a VP of Engineering do?

I think part of the confusion comes from the title itself: VP of Engineering.

It doesn’t convey much, does it? The combination of ‘VP’ (Vice President? wait, reports to the President? I didn’t know we had one!) and ‘engineering’ confuses even the sharpest engineers. And they too, when one joins their company — usually as their new boss — often wonder whether they need one at all.

It is made more confusing by the other Technology leadership title in startups: Chief Technology Officer.

This one is clearer for engineers and non-engineers alike (clearly, the Chief of Technology must be the Chief of all Technology thingies!) However, it doesn’t help the case of the VP of Engineering title.

This is because “Technology” is a big word under which many things can fall, including people, organisation and process, areas where often a VP of Engineering can make the difference.

When I joined CARTO in 2016 it was as VP of Engineering. Folks were understandably confused: “sounds important! what does it mean?”. At the time, my go-to soundbite to explain my job simply was: “the CTO makes the technical calls, I look after the people and the processes”

That’s not how I define it anymore.

As important people are within an organisation and as effective as the right processes can be, they are not why CEOs hire VP of Engineers.

CEOs hire VP of Engineers for three reasons, often in this order:

It is on the 3rd point where the “people and processes” bit falls squarely in.

Everybody wants the technical team to be happy and motivated, to have great sourcing and recruiting processes in place, great test coverage, great laptops to work on, career paths; but none of that matters unless it contributes to your developers being more effective at doing important, purposeful work that gets used by an increasing number of customers.

To put it differently, rather than trying to bend the world around developers to make them happier, bend it to make them more effective, because that will make them happier.

At the end of the day and as time goes by, if that team is not delivering product consistently and successfully, no one will be happy: not the CEO, not the CPO, not the Sales organisation, not even your technical team for which you may have so conscientiously setup career paths.

So when someone asks me nowadays “what do VPs of Engineering do?” my answer is now “They make sure shit gets done quickly, predictably and well. They are the VPs of Delivery”

DISCLAIMER! Nothing in this post is meant to imply that career paths, time to work on side-projects or go to conferences, learning resources, technical chats, or many other things are not important: they absolutely can be. It implies that none of that will matter in the long run unless it contributes to making them more productive and effective.

If you are starting out as a manager, you might find these other posts useful:



I move my hands convincingly when I talk. Co-founder @Tinybirdco, teaching at @somostramontana. Ex-CDO @Carto. Co-founded @Bebanjo.

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Jorge Gómez Sancha

I move my hands convincingly when I talk. Co-founder @Tinybirdco, teaching at @somostramontana. Ex-CDO @Carto. Co-founded @Bebanjo.