The Engineering Manager Workshop

Aaron Suggs
Jun 26, 2018 · 3 min read

Becoming an engineering manager can be a daunting role change with unfamiliar routines and responsibilities for many technical contributors.

We can more quickly gain experience in the art and craft of people management by learning from each other’s struggles and successes.

I wanted to share an easy technique that’s helped our team at Glossier better support new managers; and foster collaborative, effective tech leadership in the process.

It’s a biweekly meeting we call the Engineering Manager Workshop (EMW).

The EMW is a casual, safe, judgement-free space to discuss real management challenges through coaching and advice from peers.

Format

As a participant, come with some practical questions or challenges in your work. Take turns presenting an issue, and take 5–15 minutes to discuss as a group. Clarify if you’re interested in coaching (open questions to help you figure out an answer), advice, support, or some combination. A facilitator keeps the discussion on track and ensures everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

At Glossier, it’s open to folks in the people leadership career track (Managers, Directors, etc). I encourage choosing participants such that no participant’s direct manager is in the same meeting. That removes power dynamics, and lets participants more comfortably discuss mistakes and uncertainties. For larger organizations, have multiple EMW sections so more managers can participate while ensuring their reports aren’t in the same section.

Rules

There are some important ground rules for participants that make EMW work.

  1. EMW is a safe, judgement-free space. No one will be graded for the kinds of questions they ask or advice they give in EMW. Be considerate and respectful of everyone’s questions, perspective, and experience. Of course, managers are accountable for how they apply ideas from the EMW in the rest of their work.

Examples of good questions to bring to the EMW:

  • How can I help a particular employee get a particular project unstuck?

Anti-examples of things we don’t discuss in EMW:

  • Gossip or venting. Specifically, sharing information and opinions that’s not clearly about helping the team and being a more effective manager.

If you notice a discussion sliding into an anti-example; politely point it out, and ask to get back on track.


I’ve found the EMW to be a great tool to build a “first team” of collaborative peer leaders with strong cross-functional relationships.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are what some colleagues say:

Brainstorming with my peers truly gave me great ideas to bring back to my teams. But most importantly, knowing that I have a support network gives me a biweekly boost in confidence.

Hugo Bastien

The great thing about EMW is it provides a safe space that is structured and recurring so opportunities to discuss management challenges are more frequent and shared for every to learn. This is genuinely my favorite meeting.

Thoren Palacio

Would a Managers Workshop help your organization’s managers be more effective? I encourage you to try it and find out.

If you’re interested in joining Glossier’s Tech team, we’re hiring.

Special thanks to Jeremy Salfen and Lara Hogan for inspiration and advice for the EMW.

Glossier

Into the tech

Thanks to Christopher Wright

Aaron Suggs

Written by

Engineering Director at @Glossier.

Glossier

Glossier

Into the tech

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