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30-60-90 Day Plan For Engineering Managers

Here's a blueprint of a 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers to kickstart their journey. This is a step-by-step guide for EM to understand goals, prioritize work, and set themselves up for success.
30-60-90 Day Plan For Engineering Managers

Have you recently transitioned from a tech lead to an engineering manager (EM)? Or did you move to a new organization taking up a role of an engineering manager handling new challenges and a team?

Regardless, you need to stand up to the expectations of your employers. You must build credibility and win the team’s trust, including the leadership. But this doesn't come easy. The 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers is a step by step guide to set yourself up for success by understanding and delivering what’s expected. It serves as your roadmap and the guiding light to help you smoothly navigate the challenges that accompany a new engineering manager.

Read this insight if you’re preparing a 30-60-90 day plan for an engineering manager.

Why Do You Need a 30-60-90 Day Plan to Succeed as an Engineering Manager?

In an interview, the host asked the guest who transitioned from a data engineer to a data engineering manager, “Did you do anything to make this transition smooth, or what did you do?” The speaker said “I did not jot out any plan … I think I could have done better planning, like the 30-60-90 days plan or something like that. Then it would have been a much smoother journey.” 

Well, a 30-60-90 day plan is a good place for engineering manager to start from.

You do not need to learn everything the hard way by trial and error. Many new engineering managers tend to not go the systematic way, instead they rely on the natural flow. Nothing against the natural flow, but systems put you in better control of where you steer your team, your organization, and yourself. Systems infuse predictability into your processes. More importantly, it saves you from drifting into avoidable circumstances and wasting time and resources.

On a high level, a 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers helps you-

  • Ensure alignment
  • Stay focused
  • Adapt quickly to the new work ecosystem
  • Score quick wins
  • Build rapport
  • Avoid bloopers

However, your plan must be thorough and precise for it to be useful. So, a crucial question is “What goes into the 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers?”

What Should You Put in Your 30-60-90 Day Plan for an Engineering Manager?

When you transition from being an individual contributor (IC) to an engineering manager’s role, things change a lot. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by incoming requests, make blunders, or succumb to pressure. But that’s avoidable if you have clarity around what to focus on in your early days, and what to ignore. Accordingly, you can design an effective 30-60-90 day plan. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive list of tasks that should be in your 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers. You may extend/modify this to suit your specific case.

1. Goals & Priorities- Get Aligned to The Purpose

What is the immediate responsibility you have been shouldered with? 

Are you joining a startup, a scale-up, an enterprise, or an MNC? The responsibilities may vary depending on the environment and the health of your organization. For example-

  • At a startup in a growth stage, you might be required to accelerate things up. Or if you’re hired on a sinking ship, you could be expected to be the superhero who will turnaround the business by resolving the tech woes.
  • At scale-ups, you may be needed to sustain the pace of growth or build systems for higher reliability, security, performance, and scalability.
  • At enterprises, a new engineering manager may get shouldered with responsibilities to make the elephant dance i.e., infuse agility into teams, innovate faster, modernize the infrastructure, and lead the team through tech resurgence. 

From leading your engineering team while they solve intricate tech puzzles, to breathing new life into the engineering workforce by stitching together a high-performance team, the stakeholders can have varying expectations from you. So, be clear on the goals and priorities of your organization, and the role you’re expected to play in achieving those goals as an engineering manager.

For a better understanding of the goals and priorities, the 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers must be aimed at finding the answers to these questions-

  • Where does the org want to go?
  • What’s needed to get there?
  • What do you need to do?
  • How do you measure if you’re headed right?

2. Know Your Organization In and Out

Once the goals & priorities are clear, you must get acquainted with your organization’s infrastructure and key players. The better you know your company, the better decisions you’ll make. You would be more effective & swift in decision-making if you know the organization well. 

The 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers must be designed to make the EM thoroughly familiar with the organization’s-

  • Tech stack & overall infrastructure 
  • Stakeholders, decision-makers, influencers, and top leadership 
  • Peer engineering managers
  • VPs of engineering, esp the one whom you report to

In the first 90 days, you must learn the intricacies of the tech infrastructure at your organization. 

Dive into the documentation, and project reports, and jump on 1-to-1 meetings with those who can fill you in on the details about the organization. Know the what, the why, and the how behind the present tech infrastructure. 

Get to know the people with whom you would be working often.

Learn as much as possible about their working style, their overall personality, their alignment with the organization, and the challenges & opportunities they see.

Try to understand the cultural aspects of the organization, any nuances, and how the culture has evolved. 

Ask the top leadership about the existing culture, observe their views, and how they want to shape it going forward.

The goal is to know your organization like the back of your hand.

3. Know Your Engineering Team Dynamics 

As an engineering manager, you’ll spend much time juggling reports, stakeholder calls, client meetings, and sales calls. But your true leadership will be tested based on how well you drive results from your engineering team(s). And that depends on how well you know your team, and how good you’re at equipping them with the resources they need to perform their best, to be their best.

In the 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers, add tasks that could help you establish strong bonds with your team, and understand the team dynamics i.e., how individuals collaborate, communicate, and coordinate to deliver projects-

  • Again, nothing better than 1-to-1 meetings with each one of your team members (tech leads and engineers).

    This need not be too formal, and shouldn’t be very informal either. You know exactly where the thin line lies. Establishing a personal connection with your teammates is a good way to merge well into the ecosystem.

    Try to understand each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, working style, personality traits, views about the org and the projects they are working on, the challenges they face, and the aspects of work they enjoy the most.

Note: It’s very important to establish personal rapport with remote and hybrid teams. 

  • Also, get on a 1-1 with external vendors, and other cross-collaboration teams within your org who you have to work with (sales, product marketing, finance, other engineering teams working on the same project, etc.).

4. Know What’s on Your Plate

In large enterprises, engineering managers may get the buffer time to gel in. But at startups & scale-ups, you’ll get only a few weeks or a month at max. Worse, only a few days. In such cases, you are expected to deliver and start making an impact early on. So, while you’re getting along with the 30-60-90 days onboarding plan, you must not lose sight of the project responsibilities assigned to you. 

It’s a good idea to keep the 30-60-90 days plan for engineering managers a bit flexible to accommodate such responsibilities (if any).

For example, 

  • Are you supposed to hire a few engineers to build a complete team for an upcoming project? If yes, your 30-60-90 day plan should include that too. 
  • Are you required to revamp a product’s tech stack, of which you’ve zero experience?

    Let’s say, you’ve no experience handling ETL pipelines or streaming data in real-time from IoT devices. However, you are assigned to lead a project that streams healthcare data from wearable devices, processes it, and generates reports. How would you go about it? Of course, you need to beef up your skills. And that’s going to eat your time. The point is to keep your 30-60-90 day plan as flexible as possible. Always strive for a foresight of the responsibilities that might be coming your way.

5. Upskill, be a learning machine

An effective 30-60-90 day plan for an engineering manager will always have items attributed to upskilling. You must expand your arsenal when needed, sharpen the axe if the project requires so, and bridge any skill gaps that you may have identified in yourself if that could be critical for you and/or your team’s success.

At times, you get elevated from a tech lead or a senior engineer to an engineering manager when the higher management observes leadership qualities in you. It could be having business acumen, industry foresight, empathizing nature, going the extra mile to keep the stakeholders delighted, etcetera. But it’s a rare case where someone who has been promoted ticks all the boxes. Normally, you need to identify and work on the missing pieces. Maybe, it’s communication skills & storytelling, people skills (handy in hiring & people management), or something as simple as trusting and delegating responsibilities.

6. Know Engineering & Operational Processes, and Identify Bottlenecks

This is part of knowing your organization, your team, and the projects you’re accountable for. You do not need to know the processes of every project or department, but only the ones that are crucial for the success of your teams & projects.

For example, thoroughly examine the software development lifecycle & practices-

  • Are you using Agile methodologies for software development? Waterfall? SaFE?
  • Do your engineers write unit test cases? How does the software release process look like? Do releases get tested enough before deployment?
  • What are the systems in place to tackle escalations or deployment challenges?
  • What are the tools developers use for coding, CI/CD, code reviews, bug tracking & resolution, productivity analytics, infrastructure observability, and monitoring, etc.
  • Are the organization's processes & products well documented?

As an engineering manager,

  • You must optimize processes for the best outcomes. The SDLC processes should be designed for better security, stability, availability, scalability, performance, and cost.
  • You are not only a technical leader but also a people leader, you need to take care of the employee experience as well as the client experience.
  • You need to be at the top of your game managing escalations (technical outages, conflict between individuals, high attrition). You may sometimes even need to eliminate processes, projects, and weak links.

The intricacies of every project and team may differ, but in general, a 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers should have enough time dedicated to understanding-

  • Tech stack
  • Development processes
  • Development tools & resources
  • Hiring processes
  • Employee experience activities
  • Project kick-off and project closure processes

7. Strategy, execution, iteration

What’s a plan without execution? A useless plan. After you have a holistic understanding of the organization, your team, and your responsibilities, you need to communicate your findings to whom you report to, and to the higher leadership team. 

  • Discuss things with the leaders in detail.
  • Get their nod, and work on possible solutions you would want to implement. 
  • Get the buy-in from the stakeholders. 
  • Gather the resources. 
  • Execute. 
  • Analyze. 
  • Iterate.

That’s your recipe for a successful first 90 days as an engineering manager. 

Now, let’s spin up a sample template of a 30-60-90 day plan for engineering managers-

Setting up high level objectives for an Engineering Manager under his 30-60-90 Day Plan.

30-60-90 day plan template for engineering managers:

A Detailed 30-60-90 Day Plan for an Engineering Manager

Summing it up!

As an engineering manager, roles and responsibilities could vary depending on the organization, and so will the 30-60-90 day plan. However, some responsibilities remain common across organizations- process optimization, product improvements, and helping people unlock their best version. The 30-60-90 plan for an engineering manager is a good start to deliver on these responsibilities and to gain momentum early on in your job. 

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Table of Contents
  • Why Do You Need a 30-60-90 Day Plan to Succeed as an Engineering Manager?
  • What Should You Put in Your 30-60-90 Day Plan for an Engineering Manager?
  • 1. Goals & Priorities- Get Aligned to The Purpose
  • 2. Know Your Organization In and Out
  • 3. Know Your Engineering Team Dynamics 
  • 4. Know What’s on Your Plate
  • 5. Upskill, be a learning machine
  • 6. Know Engineering & Operational Processes, and Identify Bottlenecks
  • 7. Strategy, execution, iteration
  • Summing it up!

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