A Day In The Life Of An Engineering Manager

As a software developer, avoiding meetings is generally a good call because they interrupt flow and often don’t really need you to be there, and meetings aren’t really getting work done. One of the weirdest things about becoming a manager is how much more meaningful meetings seem to become, and how many more of them appear on the calendar.

So, what is it that you do here?

I’ve been an engineering manager at Salesforce for about a year, and have 11 people in my program currently. (I’m looking for one more engineer with 2+ years of experience if you are looking!) We have pretty good rhythms, and while my calendar is full, it’s a good full. Here is what a pretty typical day looks like for me:

  • 7:15 am - Wake up, brush teeth, use my phone to get through Chatter Daily Digests ‘need to know’ things and archive away. It is almost guaranteed that there are several things in the inbox to deal with at work.
  • 7:45 am - Leave home for the train.
  • 7:54 am - MARTA is usually on time, get some reading in (currently reading: Three Musketeers)
  • 8:15 am - Change trains at Five Points, oh look, a co-worker! We both get to good stopping places in our books and talk some shop for the rest of the ride.
  • 8:32 am - Get to office and walk upstairs and grab some breakfast. (Chic-fil-a day is pretty solid.) Walk to desk and say hello to the crazy people on my team that have been here for an hour or two already.
  • 8:45 am - Sign into computer and our SSO/2FA portal ‘aloha’ , and pull up my TODO list and calendar for the day, sign into HipChat and reply to messages from late yesterday.
  • 8:55 am - Competency Based Interview with a developer on my team for a new Software Developer (they are always early and looking lonely in the lobby).
  • 10:00 am - Meeting with my team and a team in another part of Engineering to discuss some performance-at-scale danger around some work we are doing. Massive tables in MySQL and queries that do joins and full table scans are scary.
  • 10:30 am - Team Standup #1 - The Fighting Mongooses, working currently on Multi-scoring and Multi-grading in Pardot.
  • 10:45 am - Standups are quick so I get a few minutes to quickly catch up on email/hipchat/chatter.
  • 11:00 am - A 1:1 with an engineer on my team, this one is about next steps for them in their career and we spend some time reviewing our career ladder.
  • 11:30 am - A ‘hello’ conversation with Employee Services Business Partner about bonuses/performance reviews/performance management.
  • 12:00 pm - Lunch with an engineering manager in a different program to talk about all kinds of random things, I try and do this with each other manager once a month. We walked over to the Lenox Mall food court, and this one is mostly about the types of people we should be hiring and some implications of growth.
  • 1:00 pm - Listening in on a Tech Talk on using Git. Andy does a great job as usual.
  • 2:00 pm - Another 1:1 with another person on my team, this one with someone that’s a little unhappy about some things and we work together on a draft of a plan to fix them.
  • 2:30 pm - Team Standup #2 - Tigerzord - They’re working on reporting in Pardot.
  • 2:45 pm - Second actual quick email/hipchat/chatter break of the day.
  • 3:00 pm - Call with people in San Francisco about using Confluence. They are testing it out and we’ve been using it for a while, so we both have lots of information to share.
  • 3:30 pm - Interview debrief on yesterdays IC interview. Feedback was mixed, and we have to walk out of the room with a decision to hire or not hire.
  • 4:00 pm - Agile Working Group - A cross-functional group of people get together once a month to talk about how we build software, what is working and not working, and what to change. This talk is about how being a scrummaster or product owner affects the career path of engineers.
  • 5:00 pm - Back on MARTA to head in the direction of home, and there is an engineer from another team leaving at the same time so we chat on the train for a few minutes about what they’re up to.
  • 6:00 pm - Meet someone I met on Tech404 over a beer, to talk about what working at Salesforce is like and to see if I should encourage them to apply.
  • 7:00 pm - Walk home for dinner, maybe a bike ride or some Diablo 3.

For everything on the schedule, there are probably an equal number of 5 minute conversations that happen between meetings with everyone from people in Sales to Product Managers, to Software Engineers on my team. Every day of the week starts at the same time, sometimes things clear out and I leave early, and some days an interview gets scheduled for 5 or 6 pm and it gets pretty long. I don’t let meetings go over, and every time they end early (which is most of the time), I get a few minutes to stay on top of interruptions. My laptop is usually closed in meetings, so things can pile up on busier days and this sometimes means spending 15-30 minutes on the VPN from home to clean things up for the next day.

Sometimes I work remotely, and I try to move things around so that those days are planning, calls, and things that aren’t with people that would be in the same office as me so that I can have as many in-person things as possible.

It’s also worth mentioning that the engineers on my team have much simpler schedules and spend most of their time actually working on the Pardot product.

Every Week

Team Standups happen every day, and I have a 1:1 with everyone on my team (direct reports and functional reports) every week. Depending on the day of the week there are a few other recurring things:

  • Mondays: We get together to watch Knight Rider over lunch because Knight Rider is pretty terrible and entertaining. There are also a few recurring Tactical meetings for things like “Technology Services” as well as bi-weekly Sprint Planning and Retrospective meetings for each of my Scrum teams.
  • Tuesday: We’re trying out #nomeetingtuesdays with my direct team, its going pretty well so far! This means I have bigger blocks of time to do strategic planning and bigger things with people on other teams.
  • Thursday: All the engineering hiring managers spend 30 minutes covering all of our open positions and people in the hiring pipeline in our Weekly Hiring Standup, all the engineering managers cover a mix of tactical and strategic things in the Weekly Engineering Managers Meeting, and I have a 1:1 with my manager: the Senior Director Software Engineering at Pardot.
  • Friday: As part of Scrum, each team (every other week) has Grooming and Estimating sessions to get ready for the next sprint to start, and 4pm Friday means a beer and demos to all of Engineering from the entire team.

Every Now And Then

Plenty of things don’t need to happen every week or two, but there is usually one or two of these sprinkled in every week:

  • All Hands: For an hour or two, either just my program of 12 people, all of Pardot Tech & Product (~100), all of Pardot, all of Salesforce Tech & Product, or all of Salesforce (~17000 people)
  • Design Sprints: Working with the design team for several days on figuring out how the next big thing we are building is going to function and look.
  • Calls with California: Pardot is part of Salesforce, but we’re not fully integrated. For everything we do here there are people in San Francisco that do similar things, and we do a lot of comparing notes.
  • Volunteering: Sometimes we volunteer at an animal shelter, sometimes we make 400 sandwiches at the office for the United Way to distribute to the homeless.
  • Offsite evening events: Release parties for big releases, baseball games, beer brewing and drinking, etc.
  • Recruiting events: Quarterly events where we invite a bunch of technical people to talk about technical things and hopefully hire a few of them.
  • Leadership Offsite: Quarterly the Pardot T&P team goes offsite for a day and works on long term organization and product strategy.
  • Fly in all the remote people for a week: we volunteer, do fun things, eat food, and have more in-person interactions than is possible on an average week.
  • Hack Days: We shut down product work for a few days and let engineers scratch itches and work on crazy ideas in the Pardot product.
  • T&P Summit week: We shut down product work for a whole week and run an internal conference, with several talk tracks featuring internal speakers talking about everything from the origins of coffee, to sending e-mail at scale.

It’s also worth noting I keep thinking of more things to add, so this list should be taken as woefully incomplete.

Whew, that’s a lot.

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