Amritansh Raghav Says Tech Engineering Managers Need Strong Partnerships To Thrive

In the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley, and increasingly in other tech hubs, where innovation reigns supreme, the pressure to succeed is immense. For engineering managers, the path to the top isn’t paved with just code commits and bug fixes. It’s a complex landscape demanding a diverse skill set, and according to Amritansh Raghav, a veteran tech leader, one crucial element is often overlooked: partnership building.

“There’s a misconception that engineering managers simply need to be technical wizards,” Raghav said in a recent LinkedIn post. “The reality is, as you progress in your career, the ability to forge strong relationships with your counterparts across different departments becomes paramount.”

Anyone familiar with the “Peter Principle” or who has lived it can testify that different jobs require different skill sets.

The Peter Principle advocates: “People in a hierarchy tend to rise to a level of respective incompetence: Employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another.”

Nice, right? To think that many of those in senior leadership, regardless of organization or field, were placed there on the success they had in a different role, likely requiring a different set of attributes and skills to do well in that role.

If they don’t have the skills to do well in their new job, they will either leave it or be stuck there.

That is where Raghav’s advice comes into play: How does one avoid that fate?

Big Picture

Amritansh Raghav, who has extensive experience scaling engineering teams, emphasizes the importance of collaboration at every level. He outlines a clear progression for aspiring engineering leaders: “The transition from front-line manager to middle manager hinges on grasping product and business strategy,” he wrote on LinkedIn. “Building a strong rapport with your product manager and design counterpart is essential at this stage.”

Following that progression, let’s assume a talented engineer does his work well and is offered promotion opportunities because of this. For many, this will be the first time their work will encompass a larger dynamic, which requires a more detailed comprehension of the big picture, not simply their own day-to-day.

So how should said manager avoid the pitfalls of the Peter Principle?

“To build strong workplace relationships as an engineer, I recommend initially engaging with the product and UX design specs and providing feedback,” says Raghav. “This helps get you into that collaborative role. After that, delve into customer data by talking to the data science, business analysts, customer support, and operations teams. But at the senior level, it’s crucial to build relationships with the marketing and sales teams. By that point, you are definitely ready to navigate interactions with senior management and drive strategic impact across the organization.”

By actively seeking out these diverse viewpoints, engineering managers become well equipped to translate business goals into actionable technical solutions. That isn’t as “easy” as it may seem.

The needs of marketing and sales, or at least what they prioritize, are likely somewhat different from what product development deems paramount, which could differ from what the art and creative departments want. All are important, but it is the job of the middle manager to understand how those pieces fit and, perhaps more importantly, the people who own those deliverables.

Moving On Up

This newfound understanding lays the groundwork for the next step: senior management.

“The jump to senior management requires not just product and resource allocation expertise, but also the ability to establish robust systems for execution,” Raghav said.  That’s where partnering with HR and finance departments takes center stage. Understanding goal-setting processes, like OKRs (objectives and key results), and establishing clear check-in mechanisms are crucial for effective team management, he added. “It’s a balance of people-related processes and budgets.”

Raghav went on to say that accepting assistance from HR and other departments that might be in a position to assist a senior manager’s goals is both a practical and strategic move by said managers.

“Most managers appreciate help with scaling their teams,” Raghav states. “By taking initiative in areas like performance reviews, partnering with HR demonstrates a valuable skill set and sets you apart.”

This collaborative approach extends beyond the immediate engineering team. As Raghav explained, “The path to becoming a head of discipline necessitates strong relationships with HR and finance. These partnerships equip managers with budgeting and head count planning skills, critical for strategic decision-making.”

There are two interesting points here. The first is the idea that the personnel decisions now on the table are more impactful. While all managers exercise some degree of control over their teams, the higher up one ascends, the more impactful those decisions are. All personnel losses, either via the company’s decisions or the workers, come at a cost. However, the cost of replacing a junior engineer is much lower than replacing a senior manager or director-level employee. The pressure, and the stakes, are higher. And as Amritansh Raghav states, having resources at the senior manager’s disposal to assist in those decisions is key.

The other is budgeting and head count. While informed guesses, they are still predictions. How much money will we need to allocate to this project that hasn’t even started yet? How many man-hours? At what rate and skill set? These are difficult and complex decisions involving a lot of moving parts and (unsurprisingly) competing interests. The path to leadership requires more than just technical prowess, says Raghav. It demands a broader understanding of the organization’s goals, strategies, and processes. And those who get that sooner than later,  will be better equipped to navigate the complexities of leadership and drive sustainable success.