The Manager’s Path
by Camille Fournier
Finished reading on January 4, 2019
Management isn’t something that can be readily learned through books, and there aren’t too many management books out there worth reading. “The Manager’s Path” is one of the few exceptions. If you – like me – are already a software engineering manager, or are considering getting into the gig, give it a shot.
This book often comes as a recommended as a must-read for those new to engineering management, and for good reason: it’s one of the few books out there that covers the entire arc of the engineering career, from individual contributor to CTO. If you’re seeking to better understand the difference between a tech lead and a manager, or how a CTO might differ from a VP of Engineering, or what a Director of Engineering actually does all day, this is the book for you.
Fournier illuminates the path through the management career ladder using her own life’s experience in a way that feels transparent, unvarnished, authentic. There are the usual mistakes made, lessons learned, tips and tricks and advice worth heeding, but the best part about this book is that it doesn’t feel overly prescriptive in the way that some management books can and do feel. Fournier shares what has worked for her, but never elevates it to the level of the “one true way.”
I gleaned the most value from this book from the later chapters, particularly diving into the roles, responsibilities, and challenges faced by those in positions at the director-level or above. (See Chapter 6, “Managing Multiple Teams” and onward.) In fact, I almost gave up on the book after the first two chapters because they were comprised mostly of information I already knew. I’m glad I pushed through. The second-half chapters provided me with new perspective (and empathy!) about difficult decisions or situations faced by my own managers and peers, and even gave me some new ideas on how to better “manage up.”
I really wish I had been able to read this book much earlier in my career, as I would have had a better picture of the day-to-day experience of being a manager before I actually became one. Would it have dissuaded me? Not at all. Would it have encouraged me? I’m not sure about that either. But at least I would have gone into things much more well informed and with eyes wide open.