What it’s like to be an Engineering Manager at AMBOSS
Engineering managers are the lifeblood of the Engineering team. They’re people leaders, technical experts and all-round fantastic individuals who are here to support the development of the entire team.
We couldn’t have said it better than one of our own Engineering Managers at a recent internal talk; “Growing your people is one of the most important tasks.”
Created in 2020, this is a relatively new role at AMBOSS. This means that Engineering Managers can have a large impact in shaping the future of the role within the organization as it grows.
The Engineering Manager is the orchestrator between the product management and engineering teams, and has full ownership over their team’s impact, as well as technical excellence. Engineering Managers work collaboratively within the organization to drive product initiatives from solution discovery to release and maintenance, and define the standards for Engineering Management at AMBOSS.
It’s a fundamental role that involves a lot of responsibility, but comes with a ton of autonomy. Engineering Managers have the opportunity to shape, together with the team, what they need in order to be successful. This involves following the Engineering Management best practices AMBOSS provides through frameworks and guidelines, and combining those best practices with their prior experience.
We’re now looking for an Engineering Manager to join AMBOSS to work on the company’s growth initiatives. You’ll lead your own team of engineers, working collaboratively with product managers, designers, and researchers to bring the AMBOSS products to medical students and physicians worldwide.
We reached out to four of the incredible Engineering Managers at AMBOSS to find out what the job entails, what a typical work week looks like for them, flexibility in the time of a global pandemic, and how the Engineering Managers collaborate.
Leading and developing the team
“Being an Engineering Manager involves a lot of coordination, driving alignment, attending Engineering Management meetings, and making your team’s voices heard. You’ll be able to guide your team towards a shared goal, while developing them on the way.” — Franziska Ströbel, Engineering Manager
All of the Engineering Managers we spoke to explained that the majority of the work they do involves being available for their team members on a daily basis. This includes having regular one-on-ones to support the development and engagement of their team.
Other tasks include pair programming, teamwork and decision making, sometimes through the facilitation of agile rituals.
“You’re also in charge of facilitating decision making and making sure the process is continuously improved.” — Stefanie Tinder, Engineering Manager
An Engineering Manager also spends a lot of time during the week aligning the team, external stakeholders, setting sprints or agile workflows, and providing feedback. Some of the types of meetings you might run include standups, planning meetings, grooming and retrospectives.
AMBOSS provides a number of frameworks based on industry best practices, but there is autonomy in how you can put them into practice. You’ll also be responsible for making sure the team delivers on their objectives and goals.
“Part of the role is being dynamic and keeping stakeholders up to date on what’s going on or in progress, meeting deadlines, dealing with dependencies, or helping remove blockers for members of the team.” — Eric Webster, Engineering Manager
“I might be providing feedback, and trying to support the team in finding their best workflow.” — Cornelius Horstmann, Engineering Manager
Outside of team meetings, Engineering Managers also lead or take part in Guild and Chapter meetings based on their technical expertise. Guilds and Chapters are cross-functional groups who meet to share knowledge and ideas on a particular topic or technology, such as Agile, DevOps, or Design.
“Every other Monday we have Guild meetings. All of the major alignment and cross functional work that we do usually gets kicked off in these meetings.” — Franziska Ströbel
There are also meetings only for Engineering Managers where issues, concerns, challenges, or opportunities are discussed, and there’s an opportunity for knowledge sharing and peer mentoring.
“We discuss issues we have where we haven’t found a solution yet, and maybe other Engineering Managers have seen something similar. That’s extremely helpful.” — Stefanie Tinder
“I’ve recently started a buddy system with another Engineering Manager at AMBOSS. We have a weekly chat where we talk about our challenges.” — Cornelius Horstmann
To increase the amount of internal information and knowledge sharing within the engineering team, we’ve created Limbic System Talks. Just like how the Limbic System impacts motivation, recognition, learning, collaboration, and production within humans, leaders have the same impact within AMBOSS.
These leadership rounds provide the space for people leaders to learn and discuss the topics and tools that can help them continue to improve their leadership skills. The interactive rounds allow for collaborative learning, idea sharing and accountability, and cover an array of leadership topics.
Flexible working for when you need it
AMBOSS has a flexible work from home policy. During national lockdowns, we’ve all had to adjust to working and living at home. Especially when daycares are closed or children are learning from home, we understand people need more flexibility to perform at their best.
The office remains open for those who wish to use it, but collaboration and meetings take place online to ensure everyone stays safe.
“In every one-on-one I have with members of my team, I always remind them it’s isolation, it’s hard for everybody.” — Eric Webster
Align the role to your personal and professional goals
The role can be an incredibly rewarding experience for those who are dedicated to managing and developing people. There’s a huge support network within AMBOSS for Engineering Managers, and a huge opportunity to build deep connections with colleagues and your team.
Figuring out how the role relates to your own personal goals and motivations can help you succeed in the long term. A lot of the rewards revolve around helping the team achieve incredible things and deliver fantastic results together.
“As an Engineering Manager, you have the delivery responsibility and the team responsibility. This is well aligned to my personal goal of being excited about getting things done.” — Stefanie Tinder
It also comes with challenges. Sometimes that might be providing difficult feedback, other times it might involve balancing shifting priorities and workloads, and during the feedback cycles, there can be a lot of information coming your way that needs to be delivered to your direct reports.
“The challenge is being confident enough about your experience and your approach, while staying open for things to not work out.” — Cornelius Horstmann
AMBOSS and women in leadership
50% of people in leadership roles are women across all teams at AMBOSS. Achieving gender parity in management positions is something we take seriously and dedicate resources to. We are aware, however, a lot of work needs to be done in engineering, since only one third of Engineering Managers identify as women. This is something that we’re actively addressing in the immediate future through internal initiatives and assessing our hiring practices.
Other initiatives we are running to increase gender equality within AMBOSS include an annual gender pay gap analysis, unconscious bias training, and the facilitation of a diversity and inclusion guild which develops initiatives on the topic.
Advice for succeeding in the Engineering Manager role
Moving into a new role is always exciting, but never easy. All of the Engineering Managers suggested that applicants build strong relationships with their peers within the first few weeks. These relationships will help you succeed in the first few months, help you find your bearings within the company and succeed.
“If you move into this new role, make sure that you really invest in the relationships with your peers.” — Stefanie Tinder