Managers can code on whatever keeps them off the critical path

Should engineering managers write code?:

Spending time in meetings and working through complex team relationship issues leaves you feeling more drained than energized most days. You look longingly at your team and feel a slight tinge of envy. You want to code again.

The good news is that you can! The bad news is that you shouldn’t. At least not directly on your team’s codebase and not on any critical path work.

Good ideas therein! Let me emphasize one I’m particularly fond of.

In my first engineering management role, I had the opportunity to go completely hands off. For a while, I found it a little off-putting. I really like solving problems with code! (I later realized leadership and management are solving problems with people, but that’s for another time.)

I felt a lot better about engineering management once I figured out it gave me license to code on impractical things. When you’re an EM (the hands-off variety, not the sitting-on-the-fence variety), you have the opportunity to code on whatever draws your interest, knowing it won’t block your team.

That’s a pretty rad opportunity for someone like me who’s a bit of an esoteric tinkerer.

If you’re less of a tinkerer and more of a shipper or solver, even the highest functioning teams have some pile of ambitions and ideas they aren’t actively pursuing. An engineering manager can explore the frontiers on these ideas. Maybe a plan is made, research is noted, or its found the idea isn’t all that great after all. Still a win!

As long as your code doesn’t create challenges or blockers for your organization: dive into it, have fun, explore the space!

Adam Keys @therealadam