First Time Manager’s Reading List
A basic reading list for the first time engineering manager
During the past few years, I had the opportunity to mentor several new engineering managers as they were taking their first steps in their new roles.
One of the biggest challenges in the transition from engineering (or any individual contributor position) to a managerial position is that not only do you not know anything about being a manager, but you also don’t know how to learn to become one, either.
I see many new managers promoted to their new roles without any training or preparation, and then left to their own devices with almost no support or guidance. It’s a tough situation to be in, I know this from my own experience, and it happens way too often.
I have compiled this reading list for new managers in order to give them at least starting point, from which they can start learning. I wish I had such a list when I got my first managerial position.
This reading list is made out of different resources in different formats, such as articles, podcasts, books, newsletters, and videos. Try them, find what works for you and continue exploring and learning.
Note that this is a live list, and I will keep updating it with time, so it might be worth revisiting.
Not all material is for everyone. While reading, listening or watching stuff, you will find out that there is stuff that works for you and stuff that just doesn’t.
If you don’t like something, skip it. There are enough resources out there. Eventually you will find what work for you.
Theory vs. Practice
The vast majority of learning material out there (including the links here) is about theory. Theory is good, but in the real world there is also practice.
When you start a managerial position most likely you have a manager of your own. It is critical that you talk to them — find out what they need from you, what are their expectations and needs from you.
You can read all the books in the world, but if you don’t know what’s expected from you, you will have much less chance to succeed.
The transition from Engineer to Manager
As a first-time manager, the first thing you need to do is to realize that you are no longer an engineer. This sounds much easier than it actually is. Here are some links that may help you understand your new role:
- It’s not a promotion — it’s a career change / Lindsay Holmwood
- The New Manager Death Spiral / Rands in Repose
- Advice for new managers / Scott Berkun
Books for Beginners
Getting a book about management is a fair way to start. The web is filled with lists of books for the first-time manager. However, it’s hard to choose which one to read, and since reading a book requires substantial time, it’s a tough decision to make.
The books I recommend below were written by engineering managers, and from my experience, software engineers tend to like them.
- Managing Humans / Michael Lopp
- The Engineering Manager Handbook / Oren Ellenbogen
- The Manager’s Path — Camille Fournier
As a busy engineering manager, I formed a time-saving habit: before reading a new book about management, I look up the author’s name on YouTube. In many cases, an interview or a talk about the book are available, and can help you decide whether to invest more time in reading it.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Patrick Lencioni — The 5 dysfunctions of a team
- Kate Heddleston — 3 Favorite Rules of Management
- Liz Wiseman of Multipliers and Rookie Smarts
Of course, there are Videos of lectures that are not necessarily related to books. TED is a great source for such, but you can find many more on YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources:
- Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action
- Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors
- Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
- No: Insubordination in Service of Resiliency and Safety
What kind of manager do you want to be? What will your team look like? As a manager, it’s important that have a vision for your team and for yourself as a manager. These articles may help you create that vision:
- What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
- 8 Habits Of Highly Effective Google Managers — Business Insider
- Facebook’s best managers exhibit these 7 behaviors — Business Insider
- The Top 10 Reasons Companies Fail at Promoting from Within
Google proves to be as useful for you, as a manager, as it used to be when you were an engineer. Strangely, when we become managers, we seem to forget about Google completely. I can’t count the times in which new managers have come to ask me questions before they even tried to Google them.
Always remember: you can still google any question, dilemma or idea you have regarding management. Here are a few examples:
Following blogs is always a good way to learn; the trick is finding the right ones. These are the ones that work for me.
Newsletters are like meta-blogs. The advantage of newsletters is that they cover different sources and topics each week.
- SoftwareLeadWeekly: A free weekly email, for busy people who care about people, culture and leadership.
- Harvard Business Review
The great advantage of podcasts is that you can listen to them while doing something else. Knowing how busy an engineering manager’s life can be, this is a very efficient way to learn.
- Radical Candor
A great podcast that covers almost everything in small and practical casts.
- Manager Tools, The Basics
This cast has been going on for years and they have a cast about everything you can imagine. Since there are so many casts sometimes it hard to find the right one. Just start from the basics.
I collect and curate reading material in my blog. Although it’s in Hebrew, most resources I share are in English, so have a look in any case.
I added a couple of other reading lists (but haven’t tried them):
- Reading List for Managers / Shai Kfir (me)
- GitHub — LappleApple /awesome-leading-and-managing
Awesome List of resources on leading people and being a manager. Geared toward tech, but potentially useful to anyone.
- GitHub — ryanburgess /engineer-manager: A list of engineering manager resource links.
My Social Channels
I share more stuff I find interesting on my social channels.
Why don’t you follow me there and get more from all those mailing lists, blogs and whatever ( a small warning — some of them are in Hebrew).
You are welcome to contact me on any of those channels, or by email. If you know more good resources that are not on the list, feel free to send them my way — I would really love that.