What do Engineering Managers do at Gousto?

Ryan Greenhall
May 12 · 4 min read

Gousto is one of the UKs fastest growing tech companies having recently achieved “unicorn” status. We have a clear vision for online grocery and are experiencing hyper growth having:

  • Doubled revenues in 2020 to £189m, with 53m meals sold
  • Increased customer demand continues into Q1 2021, with 25m meals sold, which equates to more than three meals a second!
  • We doubled our workforce last year to 1,000 people and will double it again this year, with a focus on tech hiring.
  • Engineering has grown from 40 to 100+ in the last 18 months and we are looking for a number of Engineering Managers to help us scale.

This article outlines the EM role at Gousto, the problems the role solves and how we expect EMs to progress in their careers as we continue to rapidly grow our engineering organisation over the next several years.

The rise of the Engineering Manager

The Engineering Manager (EM) role has risen in popularity over the last decade, especially within high growth scale ups. The EM role is perhaps the most variable role in tech with every company adopting a particular flavour. This has led to confusion with many people asking what is an engineering manager and what do they do?!

Pat Kua’s The 5 Engineering Manager Archetypes provides a much needed model for how we can represent the various flavours of EM. We will lean on these definitions as we outline the role of EM here at Gousto and how the role may evolve in future.

Our EMs follow the “Lead of Leads EM” archetype and are accountable for people, process and platform across multiple cross functional product oriented teams. Our EMs typically look after 2 teams and support up to 15–20 engineers (not all directly).

Managagement Structure

What are we solving for?

Specific roles emerge in response to specific organisational challenges at a moment in time. At Gousto our EMs solve for:

People

  • Ensuring a great people management experience and growing our engineers. Our tech leads are typically not experienced people managers (yet). Our scale up context of high delivery expectations, uncertainty and rapid organisational change requires a strong focus on people.

Process

  • Rapid Team scaling. We have seen our engineering team double in the last 12 months. EMs have been a key enabler of this supporting multiple teams and where necessary filling in for tech lead gaps.
  • Support high quality delivery management. Our EMs will have a toolkit of delivery techniques that can be applied based on the situation and actively coach their teams on what good delivery looks like.

Platform

  • Headspace for longer term platform strategy. Our tech leads typically operate on a quarterly time horizon. Many of our applications and services will need to evolve over the next several years in response to increased customer demand. Our EMs are able to take a longer term strategic view of our platforms and ensure we are investing to ensure we can handle significant increase in customer demand over the coming years

In addition to the above our EMs form an Engineering Management Team to drive initiatives such as: career mapping, promotions, hiring and leadership development to name a few.

How might EM evolve in the future?

To support further scaling of our teams and people growth we are likely to see the emergence of the “Tech Lead EM” archetype. We have a number of Lead engineers that wish to pursue the management path. Taking on the “Tech Lead EM” role will allow them to be actively involved in both technical leadership and people management within a single team. In fact many of our lead engineers currently line manage 1–2 engineers as a way to develop their people management skills and help inform if they wish to pursue our management or technical career paths. This archetype will be key for EMs to scale themselves across a growing number of teams.

We acknowledge that it can be a challenging role to cover people, process and platform within a single team, especially for first time team/tech leads. With this in mind we are developing a technical career path. This will allow early stage tech leads to be supported by either experienced seniors or a Principal Engineer (in addition to an EM).

What does career growth look like for EMs?

Our EM role offers a broad range of experience and in terms of responsibilities and scale it is the equivalent of Head of Engineering for a smaller organisation, say 20–30 engineers. The role is therefore a perfect training ground for managing and leading at a bigger scale. Going from leading a number of teams to leading an organisation (or Tribe in Spotify’s parlance).

Here is our management path:

Our engineering organisation is likely to grow 4x over the next several years. As such there will be opportunities for engineering managers to grow their span of leadership and level up. For example, it’s completely feasible for a Senior Engineering Manager to develop into a Head level position over the next couple of years.

Ready to join the rocket ship?

We are looking for a number of experienced engineering managers to help us scale and become the nation’s favourite way to eat dinner. If you like our flavour of EM (excuse the pun), want the challenge of working in a scale up then we would love to hear from you. We are hiring!.

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