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 role.

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, you don’t know how to learn to become one, either.

I see many new managers promoted to their new role 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.


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:

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.

I’m adding another book which I have not yet read, but I got strong recommendations about:

Videos

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:

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:

Must-Read Articles

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:

Google

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:

Blogs

Following blogs is always a good way to learn; the trick is finding the right ones. These are the ones which work for me.

Newsletters

Newsletter are like meta-blogs. The advantage in newsletters is that they cover different sources and topics each week.

PodCasts

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.

Reading List

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.

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.

Shai Kfir

shai.kfir@gmail.com


Special thanks to my amazing Brother and Sister for helping me out with this post.