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Are you taking the leap into management? Here are 10 of the best books to help you make that career shift.

Those first few steps into management will always be amongst the most daunting in your career as an engineer. One of the best ways to ease that transition is to be as prepared as possible, so we have collated 10 of the most useful books to help guide you through this important transition, written by the best engineering leaders in the business. 

Whether you’re assessing if the management track is right for you, or you’re looking to sharpen your skills to be the most effective manager you can be, we have you covered. In no particular order, here are 10 books you’re going to want to read as a new engineering manager.

1. Will Larson, An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management

Will Larson draws on his wealth of engineering management experience at Uber, Stripe, and Carta to let you in on all the do’s and don'ts of being a leader. 

This book is your guide to solving the “elegant puzzle” of leadership by balancing structured principles and human-centric thinking. Whether that’s sizing teamsdealing with tech debt, or improving efficiency, Larson focuses on a set of guiding concepts behind the most common management issues in a way that leaves enough space for you to make them your own. 

2. Lara Hogan, Resilient Management

In just 105 pages, Lara Hogan, founder of Wherewithall, shares her tenets for being a resilient manager. “Managers are facing things we’ve never seen before…it’s about learning how to navigate that in a way that works for you,” she said.

Packed with coaching tips, Hogan aims to help you build trust in a team, have those uncomfortable conversations that can help propel your team to greatness, and learn what fires you just need to let burn.

3. Camille Fournier, 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know

Two years after Camille Fournier came out with seminal The Manager’s Path, she published 97 pieces of bite-sized wisdom that answer that question everyone wants to know the answer to: if you got to do it all over again, what do you wish you knew?

4. Julie Zhuo, The Making of a Manager: What to do When Everyone Looks to You

Julie Zhuo, a former vice president of product design at Facebook and now co-founder at Sundial, addresses that terrifying moment when your team first turns to you for guidance. This book covers a wide range of themes including when you should look past an awkward interview and hire someone anyway, alongside how to build trust with your reports through not being a boss. “Your role as a manager is not to do the work yourself, even if you are the best at it…[it’s] to improve the purpose, people, and process of your team to get as high a multiplier effect on your collective outcome as you can,” she writes.

5. Sarah Drasner, Engineering Management for the Rest of Us

In this excellent book, Sarah Drasner, VP of developer experience at Netlify, delves into all the things that people may not have prepared you for in this complex role, especially if you’re someone who didn’t go into engineering with the distinct wish of becoming a leader. In Sarah’s words, “This book isn’t for the ‘born leaders,’ it’s for the rest of us.” 

6. Michael D. Watkins, The First 90 Days

The first ninety days of your management role are absolutely crucial. In this practical book, Michael Watkins, professor of leadership and organizational change at IMD, covers themes such as promoting yourself, achieving alignment, and accelerating your learning. “To be successful, you need to mobilize the energy of many others in your organization. If you do the right things, then your vision, your expertise, and your drive can propel you forward,” he writes.

7. James Stanier, Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager

If you’re a developer with your heart set on becoming a manager, this is the book for you. Shopify’s director of engineering, James Stanier brings tons of practical advice on how to manage the shift from individual contributor to manager. From running your first 1:1s, to building your team, and managing failures, this book will give you everything you need to start your management journey with confidence. 

8. Kim Scott, Radical Candor 

An essential read for managers in any industry, this book will help you develop leadership approaches that prioritize the human element of management, while also getting results for you and your team. Kim Scott draws on her rich history of being a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, and X (formally Twitter), as well as a leadership stint at Google, to write about being a “kickass boss, without losing your humanity.” Delve into Scott’s world and learn about skip-level meetings, feedback, and building a culture of compassionate candor.

9. Kerry Patterson et. al, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Difficult conversations are part and parcel of being a manager, but navigating them doesn’t come naturally to many. If you’re looking to polish up your conflict management skills in scenarios where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions are running hot, look no further. “People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool – even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs,” this book reveals.

10. Loren B. Belker et. al, The First-time Manager

An oldie, but a goodie. This management classic is great for anyone new to management. Being an excellent software developer does not guarantee that you’ll take to engineering management quickly, and this book will help you understand the crucial elements to nail before making the jump. From leading meetings to overcoming resistance from others, this will help you become more confident as you’re dealing with the demands of this change of role.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, this provides you with a good reading list ahead of your new and exciting career path. Whatever you choose to pick up, remember to adapt the advice you hear to your own management style and organization, as there is no textbook for truly great leadership.

If you’re itching to read more books about engineering leadership, we’ve got all the resources you need via our Bookmarked sessions, where you can learn more from the authors themselves.