How to Bag Top Engineering Roles at MAANG

Want to play in the big leagues? See what it takes to make it as an Engineering Manager, Technical Lead, and Product Manager in MAANG and other top-tier companies.

How to Bag Top Engineering Roles at MAANG


Did you know Sundar Pichai led Google's product management and innovation efforts before becoming a CEO? And Satya Nadella started as an engineer (in Sun Microsystems) before becoming the CEO of Microsoft?

What do they have in common? They have what it takes to succeed in leading enterprises like Google, Netflix, and Microsoft. But what exactly is “it”? You’ll find out in this article!

We've done the heavy lifting for you, diving deep into the heart of what makes a successful Engineering Manager, Technical Lead, or Product Manager in these high-profile tech environments. From dissecting the critical skills to uncovering the hidden traits, we've analyzed and decoded the essentials for cracking it in top leading companies. Let’s get started!

Engineering Manager

Engineering managers constantly juggle various responsibilities. To thrive as an engineering manager at top tech companies, you need a hands-on problem-solving approach and a horde of exceptional skills. Here are some of them:

Strong Technical Expertise


You can take the coder out of the code, but you can't take the code out of the coder.

While your responsibilities as an engineering manager will have less to do with coding, regardless, it’s essential to be highly proficient in languages like Java, Python, C++, and JavaScript is often required. EMs at MAANG and leading companies should be familiar with these languages and deeply understand their use in large-scale applications.

Additionally, if you want to make it as an EM, expertise in areas like AI/ML, big data (e.g., Hadoop, Spark), and cloud computing platforms are becoming increasingly important. EMs should be comfortable working with these technologies and understand how they can be applied contextually in a business.

Leadership and People Management

For EMs, experience in leading and motivating software engineering teams is crucial. This includes setting clear goals, resolving conflicts, and creating an environment where team members can thrive.

💡
An approach to working through a tough conversation in relationships or at work that I’ve had success with:

1. Actively listen: restate the ask or concern someone approaches you within your own words. Ensure you 110% understand their ask and rationale.

2. Sympathize: with the other person and try to state why you think you can understand the other person’s point.

3. Anchor on what you agree on: establish the bare minimum points of agreement.

4. Discuss trade-offs: do you or the other person understand the trade-offs of decision x or y? Many seem to only look at one or the other which can result in a poor decision.

5. Divide up the next steps: can the next steps be acted upon in an incremental step-by-step manner?

- Nick Manning, Engineering Manager at Google 

EMs need to be approachable and invested in their employees' success. That’s why it’s essential to provide guidance and support for career development, technical skills, and personal growth of team members.

Strategic Thinking and Vision

You need to think out of the box to succeed as an EM at companies like Uber, Amazon, and Google. You should be able to contribute to the direction of the product, understand market trends and customer needs, and align the team's work with the company's strategic goals.

Moreover, it’s up to you to communicate your vision to the team. Clearly articulating the team's direction and ensuring all members understand how their work contributes to the broader company objectives is a significant part of being an EM.

Problem-Solving and Innovation:


One critical skill in your toolkit as an EM is your knack for problem-solving. It's not just about solving problems; it's about dissecting complex issues into bite-sized chunks and developing the most effective solutions. It’ll be up to you to untangle those knotty tech dilemmas.

What sets companies like Netflix and Apple apart from others? They are all about staying ahead of the curve, and that's where your innovative mindset comes into play. You won’t just keep an eye on industry trends; you'll also have to bring fresh ideas to the table. Plus, it’s your responsibility to create an environment where your team feels encouraged to be creative and innovative.

Collaboration and Communication

Pick up a book on “Being a Manager 101,” and you’ll find “communication” written on the book's first page. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are essential to become an EM. You should also be able to work effectively with other teams and departments, understand their needs and constraints, and find ways to collaborate towards shared goals. Doing so involves consistent 1:1s, so you know how your devs are doing and tracking relevant metrics to ensure your team works like a well-oiled machine.

Operational Excellence and Product Ownership

To be a manager is to take ownership of your team. To crack it as an EM for a tech giant, you’ll need to take full responsibility for delivering projects from inception to deployment and ensuring they align with the company’s strategic direction. You're also the guardian of standards, making sure that what your team delivers isn't just good but outstanding.

Recruitment and Development

When you become an EM, your contribution to hiring will change dramatically. You'll need to be skilled at finding and attracting top talent.


But it's not just about hiring; you must also invest in your team's growth. As a successful EM in a top company, you should help your team members learn and develop.

Technical Lead

Eyeing that Tech Lead position? To be a tech lead, you'll need a specific set of skills that go beyond coding. Let's see what they are:

Advanced Technical Expertise

A tech lead needs extensive knowledge of programming languages. This includes writing code and understanding nuances, optimizations, and best practices in languages like Python, Java, C++, and JavaScript.

For tech leads, specialized knowledge in computer vision, distributed systems, AI, or cloud computing sets them apart. It is not just bookish knowledge; to join the elite tech lead club at MAANG, you must also have practical experience in implementing complex systems in these domains.

Leadership and Team Management

There’s “lead” in “tech lead” for a reason. To step into the shoes of a tech lead, you'll have to have leadership skills to guide the entire expedition of a project - from initiation to deployment.

Another vital part of being a tech lead is team development. It's not just about leading your team; you must also nurture them. As a tech lead, you’ll need to mentor them, help them hone their skills, and grow.

Strategic and Innovative Thinking

The role of a tech lead involves diving deep into the product's technical direction. You’ll have to monitor market trends and customer needs.  Like a sailor in uncharted waters, a tech lead must steer the product in the right direction, blending technical expertise with market insights.

But to make it in leading orgs like Netflix or Uber, it's not just about knowing the current technologies and methods—it's about constantly seeking out the new and unexplored. You must evaluate and assess how these innovations can fit into your current projects. It's about thinking outside the box, bringing in fresh, innovative solutions that boost the capabilities of your offering.

Problem-solving and Analytical Skills

In the tech lead role, tackling complex problems is a key part of the job. Diving into the technical challenges, understanding every part of the system, and figuring out the best solutions will be a part of your day-to-day work.

An analytical approach is also crucial. That means using data to guide your decisions, improve how things work, and make the system run better. You set up metrics, look at the results, and base your recommendations on solid evidence. It's a mix of being a strategist and a data whiz, ensuring every decision is backed by facts.

An overview of Reports in DevDynamics


You can leverage engineering analytics solutions like DevDynamics to get answers to common engineering problems. We help you identify bottlenecks in your software development cycle to ensure you ship faster and better quality software.

Quality and Detail Orientation

As a tech lead aiming for the top in companies like MAANG, setting high standards for quality is crucial. This entails ensuring everything, from the code to the user experience, is top-notch. You must use best practices like thorough code reviews and rigorous testing.

Attention to detail is equally important. In these roles, it's not just the big picture but the finer points of system design and implementation that counts. You'll need to focus on ensuring the system's security, scalability, and maintainability.

Continuous Learning

“In the ever-evolving landscape…” Snooze, right? While the phrase might be overused, it does stand true for software development. Changes are happening in the domain faster than you can say your name (unless you have a two-letter name!).

So, a tech lead must stay on top of your game by continuously learning and adapting. You must constantly update your skills with the latest tech advancements and trends. It's a mix of self-study, joining conferences, and being active in professional networks.

Product Manager

As a Product Manager, you'll be the mastermind behind shaping and delivering products that customers love. But it's not just about ideas; it's also about possessing a unique skill set that combines strategy, communication, and a deep understanding of user needs. Let's explore what it means to be a standout Product Manager:

Strategic Vision and Execution

Developing and executing product roadmaps is at the heart of what you do as a Product Manager. It's about crafting a strategic plan outlining the product development journey. You must set clear goals and make sure they're achieved effectively. A PM is like a visionary, always looking ahead to define the product's future.

As a Product Manager, you need a deep understanding of the company's mission and what the customers need. You must ensure that every part of your product follows the company's overall goals. This alignment makes your role as a Product Manager crucial in steering the company towards success.

Leadership and Collaboration

Leading cross-functional teams is a central responsibility in the Product Manager role. You're at the helm of a diverse team, including engineers, marketers, designers, and data scientists. It’s up to you to guide these varied experts toward a shared goal.

In a collaborative environment where stakeholders come from different backgrounds and have varied interests, reaching a common ground is vital. And you, as a Product Manager, must be adept at influencing and aligning these diverse groups. You’ll have to skillfully navigate different viewpoints to find a harmonious solution that benefits everyone. This ability to build consensus makes a Product Manager invaluable, especially in top-tier companies.

Customer-Centric Product Development

The ethos of product management is integrating customer needs and market trends into the product. As a Product Manager, you dive deep into understanding what customers want and closely monitor the evolving market. This deep insight enables you to develop products that genuinely resonate with users, enhancing their satisfaction.

Then, there's the aspect of enhancing user satisfaction and engagement. As a successful Product Manager, your focus isn't just meeting customer needs; it's about engaging users meaningfully. This could be improving usability, adding compelling features, or elevating the overall user experience. It's about crafting products that don't just satisfy but also delight users.

Innovative Thinking

What sets industry giants like Amazon and Uber apart from others? They’re constantly innovating. So, if you want to be a PM in these leading organizations,  you're expected to think creatively, constantly brainstorming new ideas to make your products stand out in the market. You’ll need to constantly search for that unique angle or feature that sets your product apart.

Analytical and Data-Driven Decision-Making

In product management, leveraging data and analytics is a part and parcel of your roles as a PM. You’ll need to rely heavily on data-driven decision-making. This means using data and analytics not just to support your instincts but as a primary tool to inform your product strategies and decisions. You must be a data wizard, where empirical evidence guides your way forward.

Defining and then monitoring key metrics is also a critical part of your role. You're responsible for identifying and tracking the key performance indicators that measure the success of your product. These metrics can differ based on what your product is and what it aims to achieve. This blend of leveraging data and defining key metrics makes a Product Manager effective and essential, especially in top-tier organizations.

An overview of engineering metrics in DevDynamics

DevDynamics empowers PMs by enabling them to track key metrics like DORA and SPACE. Monitoring these metrics allows you to enhance efficiency and ensure faster product deliveries.

Technical Proficiency

For a Product Manager, understanding technical aspects is incredibly valuable. A good grasp of technical details enables you to collaborate effectively with engineering teams. A PM is like a bridge between the technical and non-technical worlds, facilitating meaningful discussions around technology decisions and ensuring everyone's on the same page.

Experience with emerging technologies is also crucial. Companies at the forefront of tech innovation, like Google, often look for Product Managers who have a deeper understanding of specific technologies, like cloud platforms and SaaS. This deeper technical background allows you to understand and contribute significantly to discussions about the latest technological advancements. This combination of technical understanding and experience with emerging technologies sets a Product Manager apart in the highly competitive landscape of top tech companies.

Communication

Strong communication skills are a must-have for any Product Manager. You must clearly articulate your product's vision, strategy, and value propositions. Conveying complex ideas in a way that's easy to understand for everyone, whether they're tech experts or not, is an indispensable skill.

In matrixed organizations, Product Managers frequently find themselves needing to guide teams and individuals, even without having formal authority over them. This requires a blend of persuasive communication and subtle leadership. You're not just a manager but also a strategist, skillfully navigating through the organization to bring people together toward a common goal. This ability to influence and lead, coupled with effective communication, makes a Product Manager stand out.

Adaptability and Resilience

The landscape in companies like Google, Amazon, and their peers is dynamic and fast-paced, and as a Product Manager, being adaptable and comfortable in such environments is essential.

Because the tech world is fluid, and plans can change quickly, PMs need to be open to change and adjust strategies and plans based on new information or shifting market conditions.

Conclusion

So, there you have it – the roadmap to making it (and thriving) as an Engineering Manager, Team Lead, or Product Manager in top companies of the tech world. Whether it's steering engineering teams to greatness, leading the charge on groundbreaking tech projects, or shaping products that redefine user experience, these roles are about much more than technical skills. They demand a blend of strategic thinking, an innovative mindset, and the ability to inspire and lead.


Excelling in these roles, particularly at top companies like MAANG, isn't just about what you know but how you apply it, adapt, and lead. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to spruce up your resume!

Colored Box with Buttons

Ready to drive engineering success?