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Building your Engineering Management Craft in the Community

Shawn Axsom - Director of Engineering at Docker
Shawn Axsom - Director of Engineering at Docker
Building your Engineering Management Craft in the Community

The State of Affairs of Engineering Management
Engineering Management is ripe for growth as a craft.
After a decade of leadership, I’ve felt mostly alone.
For such a people-focused profession, it’s a surprise that I see more community engagement from software developers than from those that lead people.
I see little share of voice from Engineering Managers and their craft.
While some of this may be in part from there being less managers in organizations than devs, and that social media augments the loudest (most numerous) voices, I’ve seen enough to believe Engineering Management is a craft many are less compelled to discuss. When I made a Twitter List of 2000+ Engineering Managers, I couldn’t have guessed the profession based on the tweets.
And this matches the amount of resources I find for Engineering Management. I recently created a The Big List of Engineering Management Resources, with quite a few resources, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s quite small for such an important profession.
So I thought I’d write about my experiences in the community, what I’ve gotten out of it, what I’m doing to support it, and where I would like to see the craft go.
Before jumping into discussion below, I’d like to highlight resources for getting involved.
I previously shared a large list of books, blogs, and more:
Here are particular community-based resources for Engineering Managers:
Twitter Communities:
Other resources:
  • Here To Help - Find coffee chatters
  • 100Devs - Learn more about the remote coding bootcamp that has pushed coffee chats among the Tech Twitter community
Now, onto some discussion!
A short overview of my recent virtual community involvement
My journey started in 2021, where I first saw the value.
I had 300 followers mid 2021 (now 6000). I was mostly just lurking.
But after spending considerable effort trying to find engineers in Mexico (where Docker was expanding hiring into), my former Director tweeted once and had 10 applicants overnight, 10 more the next day.
Alvaro Lopez Ortega
Docker is growing and now it's hiring in new countries, including Mexico, Portugal, and Spain! — Apply here:
- Sr. Software Dev:
- Infra/Cloud Eng:
- Sr. Frontend Dev:
#jobopening #hiring #share
So I started tweeting and enjoying it.
I then formed Here To Help. After helping others on Twitter with resumes, portfolios, mock interviews, I found others willing and wanting to do the same.
This year, I started Coffee Chats. I jumped in feet first with a tweet that resulted in 56 scheduled coffee chats within hours.
The majority of those have been with the 100Devs cohort. I’ve since shared that I’d also love to engage with other Engineering Managers, and I’ve had a few of those.
Finally, I’ve created a Practically Leading Discord channel to spur some more real-time Engineering Manager discussions.
About Coffee Chats - my latest obsession
“Coffee chats” are en vogue, yet still unfamiliar to many.
While it originated as a term in more professional settings, like an informal interview (I believe), it’s become more casual.
Coffee chats, for me, are 15 minute chats scheduled on my Calendly, where I get to meet you and answer any questions you might have.
I’ve been doing coffee chats (and “office hours” – 5-person coffee chats) for over a month now. Yesterday I spoke about the experience in a Twitter Space.
I most often field questions like “How did you get your start?”, or “What do Directors of Engineering do?”, or “What is it like to work at Docker?”.
But I’ve also had some deeper conversations, such as partnership opportunities, brainstorming how a new developer could apply her skills to her former profession, medical research, and more.
Coming with the right questions makes all the difference. One developer, Saira, had some of the best questions from a new developer, I’ve shared some of them in a tweet here:
Shawn 🐳💛
- Does being an introvert get easier?
- How should I get started at a new company?
- Dealing with the frustration of changing projects mid-project
- Do you recommend cold emails, how often do you get them, and how should I do them?
- How do you deal with rejection?

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Shawn Axsom - Director of Engineering at Docker
Shawn Axsom - Director of Engineering at Docker @shawnaxsom

Engineering Management and Leadership

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