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How to Become an Accomplished VP of Engineering: All you need to know, from job description to responsibilities

November 8th, 2022
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What Is a VP of Engineering?

A Vice President (VP) of engineering is a high-level executive that manages a software engineering department. This may include members such as software engineering directors, managers, and development teams. A VP of engineering is considered an executive-level professional and usually reports directly to a CTO (Chief Technology Officer). 

When having this job, you are required to stay on top of everything your team is doing and how the project is evolving. You need to be a leader that knows how to delegate tasks and problem-solve any roadblocks that appear along the way. 

Acquiring specialized management tools can help you maximize your efforts. Waydev brings you a platform that will push your organization to the next level and provide you with crucial metrics for in-depth reports. The sophisticated features will allow you to plan budgets, allocate resources and tasks, and have a generalized vision of your team’s workflow. 

The Main Responsibilities of a VP of Engineering

A VP of engineering is in charge of different teams according to each organization’s specific structure and hierarchy system. Typically this includes engineering managers, technical leads, and the development team of engineers. In an enterprise-level organization, this may translate to engineering directors as well.

 As a VP, you must take the company’s technical vision and ensure it is developed and implemented by the technical staff. This entails a lot of responsibilities and being able to multitask and maintain a balance between managing teams and keeping the focus on the end goals and OKRs. Here is a listing of your primary responsibilities as a VP of engineering. 

Planning and Implementing Technological Development

The first step of technological innovation within an organization lies in the hands of the Chief technology officer (CTO). He is in charge of researching and adopting new software technology by following industry trends and novelty. 

The VP then comes in and, together with the CTO, develops a tactical strategy on how these new technologies will be included in daily workflows. This strategy will help set a clear path of how to get to the finished product. The process begins with a technical roadmap that supports the company’s technical vision. A technical roadmap includes specific metrics, custom dashboards, and step-by-step objectives that need to be met. The goal is to transform this technological vision into software and hardware products for customers. 

Depending on the specific product you are trying to develop, these milestones may consist of individual steps of code writing your team must do (for software).

In order to build a technical roadmap, you should set up main goals, break them up into specific themes for your technical team to execute, assign specific tasks to team members, and use specific tools to measure that goals are met. You can also organize sprints that represent small pieces of work completed in a short timeframe.  

Custom dashboards can help you get a comprehensive image of the bigger picture by using DORA metrics. You can always come back to it to see if you need to readjust or go back on track. Having a carefully planned strategy will also help you stay on track in terms of budget and time (deadlines). 

white board

Preparing and Managing Budgets 

The VP is in charge of planning the annual budget for the software engineering department. This plan has to consider how many departments and headcount you will need or if outside collaborators are necessary for this specific project. Other key points are prototype costs, patents, or development stages. 

Having a clear budget in mind in a specific time frame for each project helps you ensure that you stay on track. After establishing a budget plan, you will have to run it past senior executives for approval. You are also responsible for keeping track of this budget throughout the project duration and making adjustments if changes, contingencies, or unplanned work occur. You also need to establish KPIs for each specific project and monitor that they are met. 

Keeping your budget in mind at each process step is key for a successful project. You want to anticipate unplanned work and setbacks as much as you can so you stick to your original budget or exceed it in certain limits. Finding the right management tools that can help you plan your budget carefully and have an overall vision of it is paramount. 

The Waydev resource planning feature can help better establish and keep track of your budget. This will give you a clear report of where your resources are allocated and if that contributes to your overall goals. These metrics can also show you if adjustments are necessary to increase your team’s efficiency. Using it will reduce unplanned work by up to 21% by always keeping you informed. Unplanned work that arises along the way can impact your budget significantly, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum. 
Keeping track of your project costs at all times is a key element to your overall success, and it gives you metrics to create comprehensive reports for high-level executives.

Dashboard

Participate in the Hiring Process

A manager, in the general sense, is only as good as his team. No matter how accomplished your leadership and organizational skills are, you need a capable team behind you to ensure the quality of your deliverables. This doesn’t just happen by default, but rather, you need to make it happen by building a great team. 

One of your responsibilities as a VP is to have an excellent knowledge of the skills that are required as an engineer. It’s about having the right technical skills for completing the tasks but also being able to function properly within a team. These notions will help you identify the right engineers or developers for the jobs and create a strong team. This is paramount for the successful completion of each project and, ultimately, for the general success of your organization. 

More specifically, a VP of engineering needs a great overall vision of his projects and the intricate skills in order to complete them. This will help you create an avatar for each future member of your team. To make this process smoother, try answering the following questions: what capabilities do you need each engineer to have, considering the individual tasks assigned to them? How will these members complete each other in order to deliver each piece of the puzzle that creates an accomplished finished product? 

You have to consider all of these factors within the hiring process. Using this framework of qualities needed and your experience will get you the best possible results when building a team of engineers and developers. 

Following Your Team’s Progress Throughout the Duration of the Project

No matter how well a VP plans a technical strategy and communicates specific tasks to team members, roadblocks or delays may appear along the way. This is why it’s crucial to always keep track of your team’s progress, struggles, and successes. You need to understand your team’s strong points, their pain points, why setbacks appear, and what areas you can improve. 

Waydev can help you have a great general vision of where your team is at all times. You can also keep track of the code review and the stage it’s in. For example, the team progress feature gives you performance indicators that allow comparison between specific repositories in a chosen time frame. Metrics such as Total PRs, Total PRs Reviews, Avg. Time to First Comment and many more can give you a better analysis of how your team functions. 

Waydev Team Progress report

Other comprehensive reports allow you to see what your individual teams or team members are doing in day-to-day work. This is crucial to understand better their strong points and where there is room for growth. The feature helps you see roadblocks and what specific tasks your team may be stuck on, which impacts general progress. 

When it comes to having a general vision of your engineering team’s output, team performance metrics are very useful. They provide an overview of your team’s productivity by using different filters. These will give you specific metrics to analyze the efficiency of the code written. You can later pull this data into a custom report and use it to keep executives informed on the general performance of your technical teams. 

Establishing Internal Procedures and Recommendations for a Better Workflow

As a VP of engineering, you can observe where your team needs help and where procedures can be improved. The main goal is to promote a healthy workflow that will keep a good pace of the project until all of the goals are met. 

This is where a platform such as Waydev comes into play, as this will help you better manage your team of professionals. Waydev is a development analytics platform that drives metadata directly from reports and transforms this data into metrics. 

Deciding to integrate a useful management tool into your activity can have immense benefits to the workflow, to meet your goals, and ultimately to the entire organization.

Communicate With Stakeholders

A great VP is able to communicate with the main stakeholders about the company’s goals and overall vision. This means providing relevant data to the board of directors, CTO, managers, or other department heads about how your strategies are serving overall goals. 

Keeping a good communication line with stakeholders is very important because this keeps your project aligned with the company’s technical vision, goals, and sales efforts. This may imply frequent meetings with the stakeholders, having communication groups, and pulling stats or reports. The latter can demonstrate the efficiency of your team efforts and the milestones your project has reached at a point in time. 

Tracking development project can be very useful for seeing your team’s progress, and our platforms enable you to do so by gathering the data directly from the repos without any manual input from your engineers. At the same time, you can pull management stats for comprehensive data regarding repository reports.

Ensuring the Project’s Success

After carefully planning a strategy and budget that will align with the technical vision, it’s crucial that you stay hands-on to complete the project. Many roadblocks, delays, or issues may emerge with any product development, so keeping track of the workflow issues has to be a priority. 

Project timeline metrics can give you a clear image of your team’s performance over time. Using a specific timeframe, you can analyze data such as Commits per Active Day or Commits Volume – these will show you the number of commits a team/ a member creates in a day.  

You can also check Repository stats to understand how your team performs from a repository point of view. This will help you see data like new code that has been written, the amount re-written, or how much of the code is productive.

Job Requirements

All VPs of engineering have strong technical backgrounds, so they can understand the job requirements of those they manage. Most of them have worked previously as engineers. As with any job, especially technical-oriented ones, you need to have a strong basis of knowledge for that field. This way, you can better understand the day-to-day aspects of the job, roadblocks, and struggles your team may run into. 

In order to be on top of your game as a VP of engineering, you need a series of qualities and professional skills. These range from technical to organizational and leadership skills, and the right combination of them will promote your team’s success. Here is a list of the main job requirements you need as a VP of engineering:

Having a Degree in Engineering 

In order to become a VP, you need to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in engineering. This is generally a four-year college degree program that entails following a technical university or a general one that has a technical department. In the course of these four years, you can study general engineering or specialize in a certain area, such as computer and software engineering, electrical, or telecommunication engineering. 

Some VPs of engineering have a general Bachelor’s Degree in Computer science. But having a Master’s Degree in Business Administration or Management will generally set you apart. Remember that a VP is not just a reformed engineer with the right technical skills but also a leader capable of driving his team forward. This requires management capabilities that will help the VP motivate the team, plan budgets and strategies to ensure the success of the projects, as well as crisis management. 

Having a Strong Background in Software Engineering

Being a good VP of engineering entails you to have strong skills in engineering. This will help you understand job requirements in the hiring process and whether an engineer is able to perform the tasks necessary for this position. 

When starting a new project, you must fully understand each process step. This way, you can explain tasks and requirements to your team members tasks and requirements, and set benchmarks to complete the project successfully. 

monitors with code

Delegating the Right Tasks to the Right People

A VP understands the importance of delegating tasks and explaining them in concrete detail to each member of the team. The process will run smoothly when everyone knows exactly what they have to do and how that integrates with the bigger picture. 

But sometimes, it’s not just about assigning tasks but also about noticing someone’s potential. You need to be able to drive your team forward – and this also means stimulating each team member to challenge their limits. DORA Metrics came from seven years’ worth of research originally conducted by Google Cloud’s DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) team. The result was a better understanding of how a sum of capabilities can lead to better software delivery and performance. 

The four DORA metrics give valuable insight into DevOps, allowing you to improve and get an edge over the competition. Put in context, this data helps you understand whether your team can and will deliver quality results in a timely manner. More specifically, DORA metrics will provide the following information:  

team of developers

Having High Standards for Delivering Measurable Results

A great VP should always be results-oriented and keep his focus on the deliverables. This entails measuring short, medium, and long-term goals for delivering a quality end product. It means establishing clear goals that meet the company’s technical direction and ensuring they are properly implemented until the final results are reached. 

This is not always a straightforward process, as there are many different concepts to juggle with. But a good VP needs to be driven and always strive to finish the project within the established time frame and budget. He must keep in mind the quality of said product every step of the way, making sure to implement the necessary adjustments along the way. 

Strong Leadership Skills That Will Drive Your Team Forward

It’s not just about knowing the technical aspects of the job and elaborating strategies and budgets when you’re a VP of engineering. Having solid leadership skills and being able to make decisions under pressure in a fast-paced environment is another key point of the job description. 

These leadership capabilities will ensure you can manage your job’s different aspects and navigate problems that arise. Having an analytical and technically-oriented mind can prepare you for this job, but it’s the management skills and assertiveness that will set you apart. 

Vp meeting

What is the difference between a VP of engineering and a CTO?

Sometimes a VP of engineering and a CTO (Chief technology officer) are considered one and the same within an organization. Although both terms describe high-level executive positions, the two jobs are usually separate and on different levels in terms of hierarchy and responsibilities. 

Here are a few key points regarding the main distinctions between a VP of engineering and a CTO:

One of the main focuses of the VP of engineering is people management – how to get these people to work together in well-rounded teams and improve the work environment constantly. This will help developers reach their full potential and be more dedicated and loyal to the company. 

The CTO’s main goal is to stay on top of the newest technological advancements and translate them into the company’s vision. He also has to do constant research to develop prototypes and obtain patents for them. 

The CTO is the highest-level position from a technological standpoint and reports only to the CEO (Chief executive officer) of the company. He is responsible for developing new software using cutting-edge technology. The CTO works directly with the CEO, VPs, and other high-level management. 

A VP, on the other hand, will report directly to the CTO and manage teams of developers and engineers. His main focus will be on implementing the approved technologies, planning budgets, and delivering the finished product to customers. 

The CTO is in charge of developing new technology considering the organization’s profile. He also has to be on top of trends in the industry in order to keep said organization competitive. 

This CTO will then communicate with the VP so that the latter can find ways to implement those technologies. The VP will plan a strategy to develop the company products in line with the general vision. 

A CTO needs a strong background in computer science or related fields. This way, he can understand the intricate details necessary to develop new technologies and an overall technological vision for the organization. 

A VP needs the same strong technological notions in order to create strategies and implement this vision. But he also requires great management skills to delegate tasks, problem solve and lead his team to success. So a VP may want to pursue a degree in Management or Business Administration so he can develop the necessary leadership skills. 

What Makes a Great VP of Engineering?

We’ve covered the main responsibilities and must-haves in order to be a successful VP of engineering. But what are those particular qualities that will set you apart from the crowd? Here are a few ideas of what makes a great VP.

Remember that your main goal is to drive forward your team’s performance and, ultimately, your organization. It is never about the success of one individual but about the accomplishments of the team and the entire organization, working in synergy. A great VP of engineering will have the following qualities: 

Waydev can help you reach your full professional potential while ensuring your team’s and the organization’s success. It can raise your organizational and management skills to a higher level, giving you a chance to focus on the overall vision and goals of the company. 

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