The Cushy Job of an Engineering Leader

What does an engineering lead/manager actually do? Is it all just fake work to make a nicely colored calendar? Is it a cushy and lucrative gig? Are they overworked? Or perhaps it’s just the right amount of responsibility? Here’s an inside scoop on what engineering leaders are actually doing. (Spoiler alert: …never mind, I don’t want to spoil it… you’ll have to read the post). Read on to find out:

With some types of work, there is a simple linear flow to work. Just follow the steps in order, and you’re doing your job just right. With other types of work, it’s much more non-linear. There are many ways to accomplish work and generate value. The more different non-linear types of work a person has to do, the higher the complexity is that job, and the longer the time investment needed for mastery.

Engineering leaders engage in mostly non-linear job tasks, but at least there aren’t very many of them.

Here are the various types of job responsibilities we task our engineering leaders within the modern software development environment:

Cushy High-Paid Job of an Engineering Leader

Technical Leadership

Engineering leaders usually have the final say for their teams’ software technology, cultural, and architectural decisions. This feels fairly natural for most engineering leaders since a vast majority of them have up through the programmer ranks earlier in their careers. They are the de facto project architect.

Software Operations

An engineering leader in the post-DevOps revolution world is responsible for ensuring their team’s software is operational. Most modern software must have extremely high uptime (5 9’s), and have very low error rates.


When there is a software outage or major bug, the responsibility rests on the leader’s shoulders to remedy the situation. The buck stops with them. This responsibility exists independent of any on-call systems and schedules.

Software Operations Supervision

When not directly handling the software operations, the leader is expected to orchestrate his team’s handling of operations, including setting up on-call schedules, methods, triage playbooks, and providing feedback on incident handling.

Incident On-Call Escalation

When a delegated team member is on-call, the leader serves as the top-level escalation engineer and needs to be available around the clock to address any escalated issues, whenever they might occur.

Labor Supervision

Leaders are expected to ensure that all of their reports are performing well and delivering value to the company. They are responsible for tracking the team calendar, approving time-off requests, monitoring sick time, and holding sufficient meetings to ensure that everyone is sufficiently engaged and productive.

Employee Reviews

In accordance with the company review cycle, leaders are additionally expected to provide in-depth writeups on how their reports are doing and provide guidance on raises, promotions, transfers, improvement plans, etc.

Team Morale Leadership

The leader is responsible for the morale of his team. They must monitor the energy and emotional state of each team member, and actively feed more energy into the team by aligning with their individual motivations and struggles.

Product Design

An engineering leader is expected to have deep domain knowledge of the business problems their software solves. They are expected to proactively provide new ideas and directions for the product.

Product Planning

Leaders are expected to collaborate with other stakeholders and product personnel to provide actual scheduled plans and roadmaps for the evolution of the software. These plans are expected to be realistic, practical, achievable, and well-communicated.

Product Documentation

Leaders are also responsible for ensuring that the product and software documentation (usage/onboarding/FAQs/SLAs/etc) are all existent, organized, accessible, and up-to-date. This documentation should be comprehensive and include both technical and non-technical documentation.

Regular Product Communications

Responsibility for sharing product features, changes, major deployments, and product roadmap rests on the leader’s shoulders. These have to be positively provided and not just served up as ambient or passive information.

Business Analysis & Value Prioritization

While faced with a variety of various corporate and engineering initiatives, projects, migrations, and mandates, an engineering leader is expected to effectively prioritize these and ensure that the most urgent and important ones are prioritized, communicated, and assigned.


In the modern tech world, leaders are expected to empower their reports not only to effectively perform their current job tasks but also to help them in their long-term career trajectory.

Code Reviews

Many engineering leaders engage directly in the code review and pull request approval processes, which keeps them in sync with the team patterns and practices, as well as the product evolution.


While not always a job requirement (sometimes even mildly discouraged), most engineering leaders have a love for coding and software implementation. If it’s required, the leader is expected to be coding regularly, and when it’s not, most leaders naturally gravitate to do some amount of coding to stay engaged and in touch with the team experience.

Policy Documentation

Leaders are responsible for writing and maintaining the team and work process policy documentation for their teams. They are also responsible for ensuring that all their reports are familiar with all of these policies as they carry out their work.

Leadership Meetings

Leaders are expected to attend and participate in a cadre of meeting related to leadership training, leadership priority synchronization, leadership planning meetings, leadership strategy meetings, and potentially a variety of technical leadership group meetings.

Real-Time Inquiry Handling and Routing

Most engineering leaders also field countless ad-hoc requests and inquiries from customers, or internal software clients and users. While the leader can often delegate the actual investigations or replying, they typically serve as the de facto frontperson for the team and are expected to respond promptly to all inquiries, often even outside of work hours.


Engineering leaders are responsible for giving job interviews to candidates who may join their team or nearby teams in the organization. They are expected to be skilled at assessing the technical and cultural fit and clearly communicating their assessments to others in the company.

Those are just the core job duties. I didn’t list any of the many possible extra-curriculars and tasks needed to get ahead at the company or in one’s industry. These are just the key job tasks needed to handle the core job responsibilities.

The Cushiest Job

Being an engineering leader is a pretty cushy gig! You get fantastic pay, it’s salaried with no fixed hour requirements, you get to delegate all the work, and you get to tell your team how to work. Meanwhile, you only have to actually perform these simple 20 core job duties.

Not bad, eh?

What did I miss? Tell me in the comments below. I know you have the time since if you know something I missed, you too must have a very cushy gig.