Defining the Engineering Manager Role at ASOS

Gareth Waterhouse
Oct 19 · 6 min read

Our mission at ASOS is to give people the confidence to be whoever they want to be. That holds true for all our people too. We believe that when you have an equal chance to discover all the amazing things you’re capable of, we’ll achieve amazing things as a company.

The Engineering Manager (EM) role within ASOS is a relatively new role; it came about in September 2020 with the aim of creating a role that focuses 100% on the personal development and growth of our engineers.

We wanted to make sure that every person in Tech at ASOS would be provided with a single person who would work with them to help identify career aspirations, guide them on their development journey, and most importantly make sure they are happy at ASOS. For that person to be successful, they would need to foster long-term relationships — not just with the Engineers, but with stakeholders across the business too.

One of the things that appealed to me (and helped me decide to come back to ASOS ) was the idea that the role was a new one, meaning I could help shape what the EM would be to really benefit the Engineers and ASOS Tech. I’ve been in the role for eight months now and it’s been a fantastic journey so far.

Shaping the role and ways of working

Engineering management as a community of practice is relatively new. And that meant that each of our 13 EMs were all doing slightly different things, across different areas, with varying degrees of success.

To help solve this, the EMs got together to create an EM community — to identify what the role was all about, and what our responsibilities should be, with the idea of creating a framework for measuring our success and development as EMs in ASOS Tech. And enable us to continually improve and identify other opportunities to explore further opportunities for our own growth and development.

We ran a workshop where we listed all of our responsibilities, breaking them down into 4 separate categories:

  • People 🧑🧑🏾— The things we do based solely on an individual basis. They can be things like One to Ones, Objective setting, wellbeing, clerical admin and things like that.
  • Team 👩‍👩‍👦‍👦👨‍👨‍👧‍👧— Things that we do focused on the team(s) that we work with. They can be things like attending or supporting typical agile ceremonies (such as retrospectives, stand-ups and refinements).
  • Tech Wide💻💻 — Initiatives that we may be driving or working on that impact the wider Tech department outside of our immediate team responsibilities.
  • Other ❓❔— Anything that didn’t fit into the above!

We then colour coded the activities as follows:

  • Green 🟢 — We strongly believe this is a part of the role as we see it.
  • Amber 🟠 — We’re not really sure about this.
  • Red 🔴— This shouldn’t be a part of our role.

Once this process was complete, we talked through each of the tasks and our thinking behind each colour-classification. This sparked some interesting discussions around certain things that we shouldn’t be doing, and why we shouldn’t be doing them.

We then grouped similar tasks and responsibilities together, so that we had a more consolidated list (sounds like a familiar retrospective method right!?). We broke it down in to the following main areas:

  • New Starters 🦄 — All about onboarding new engineers to the team, helping them feel settled, with the right equipment and access.
  • Objective Setting ✔ — Working with all the engineers we manage, helping them have relevant objectives that help them grow and that ladder up to the overarching ASOS Tech objectives too.
  • Training and Development Opportunities 📑 — Working within our teams to help our engineers identify any training and development opportunities, understanding how our Engineers like to learn, and, of course, what they need to learn.
  • Wellbeing of Engineers 🤗 — This can include regular catch ups with our Engineers, structuring them in such a way that brings value, while also making ourselves available ad-hoc for conversations when people need them.
  • Career Development ⬆ — Working with our Engineers, through things like catch ups, to help them identify what options are open to them for their career. Careers are no longer a straight vertical trajectory, there’s a concept around squiggly careers and horizontal T-Shaped engineers, and we’re strong believers in that.
  • Feedback Sessions 💬 — Running feedback sessions with engineers, creating processes and models for people to give feedback regularly that helps everyone grow and develop.
  • Recruitment 🔍 — Working with our Talent team to review profiles and interview candidates to help our teams grow and deliver.
  • Team Ceremonies 🤝🏽 — Attending these are an important way of seeing the people we manage in team settings, we can then use this to provide feedback and help people ask the right questions.
  • Coaching and Mentoring 🤵🏽 — Using our experience and skills to work with our Engineers and others across Tech to either coach or mentor depending on the relationship and individual needs.
  • EM Community Initiatives 👍🏻 — This can be within our teams, or across the wider ASOS Tech. As an example, one thing we’re looking at is around Career Paths, and making sure that people are aware of what is available to them, perhaps more importantly just how to go about reaching where they want to be.
  • Team Mobility 🚗 — Helping ensure we have the right people in the right teams for ASOS to deliver new features to our customers. This will mean having conversations around moving people to new teams, but we make sure that they are supported and open to the challenge.
  • External Brand 👀 — Helping others outside of ASOS appreciate just how awesome ASOS Tech is, through encouraging Engineers to speak, or making ourselves available to talk about ASOS Tech at meetups or one to one sessions when people reach out on LinkedIn.

It’s important to note: with it being a relatively new role, the above is effectively version 1.0 of the EM role. There are other things that we discussed as part of the workshop, around what else the role should entail as we develop the function. Covering things like:

  • Knowledge sharing across ASOS Tech 📚— Currently we have a number of knowledge sharing sessions happening locally, within teams and platforms. These are great, but we would absolutely love to harness these and have a platform where Engineers can share across the entire ASOS Tech landscape.
  • ASOS Tech Podcast 🎧 — As part of our Tech Brand, this would give us another avenue to share what we’re doing outside of this Tech Blog and LinkedIn.
  • Tech Companies 🤝🏻 — Build great relationships with other Tech companies, so we can identify what other companies are doing, and share what we’re doing with them as well.
  • Hackathons 👩🏻‍💻— Organise and facilitate hackathons to give our Engineers the opportunity to drive innovation even more, work with people internally (and externally) to build relationships and build something amazing together.
  • Communities 💗— We’re big on communities at ASOS, but there’s far more that we can do in this space, especially as we move towards Dynamic Working (more on this another time), communities that are remote bring new challenges and require different solutions to really thrive.
  • Standardising ✅— Clearly everyone learns differently and wants to be managed differently, but there are things we can look at around objective setting, gathering feedback, having standard approaches in place that people can use, where appropriate to ensure that people have the same awesome (and consistent) experience across ASOS Tech.

What’s next?

We want the experience of our people to be like no other — an experience that ASOSers love, where they learn, where they collaborate, where they embrace change and where they can be authentic, brave, creative and disciplined in everything they do.

As EMs, now that we’ve identified the types of things we are doing, and what we should be doing, our next step will be to create that framework to enable us to grow and develop ourselves, while growing and developing our teams too.

So watch this space 👀, we’ll be sure to share what happens next as we evolve towards EM Version 2.0.

Did you know that ASOS are hiring across a range of roles in Tech (including Engineering Managers)? See our open positions here.

The ASOS Tech Blog

A collective effort from ASOS's Tech Team, driven and…

The ASOS Tech Blog

A collective effort from ASOS's Tech Team, driven and directed by our writers. Learn about our engineering, our culture, and anything else that's on our mind.

Gareth Waterhouse

Written by

I mostly write about work and testing. I occasionally write about Sunderland AFC.

The ASOS Tech Blog

A collective effort from ASOS's Tech Team, driven and directed by our writers. Learn about our engineering, our culture, and anything else that's on our mind.