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I am a 46 year old engineering manager, with 20 years of experience in the software industry, for a team of 8 people (who are mostly automation engineers in a product-based company) for the last year. Most of my team works on different products and contributes to software automation. They are part of different agile teams and work is allocated to them based on each sprint, which I am not a party to. I spend my day mostly doing few code reviews, but most of the time I get confused, as my role is ambiguous.

I have spoken to my manager and he is always like:

You have to bring up good ideas to the team.

But from time to time, I get demotivated and I still don't understand what my role is, or how I can really create an impact. E.g - By writing good code for some project or creating a framework/tool/something else. Hope I will get a practical answer, which will help me definitely. My Manager does not have clear idea - He is banking on me.

My team is doing quite well and the respective sprint team are happy with their performance and also getting promoted.

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  • 2
    Why not ask the manager what they mean?
    – Kilisi
    May 25 at 6:25
  • 1
    And how is the team doing? Are they doing exceptionally well, there is no improvement points and all of the team members are up for promotion soon, or happy in their current role?
    – Helena
    May 25 at 7:07
  • 1
    Ask yourself what do you want to do? People management is a separate thing, so is project / program management, and also technical contribution. Some roles are divided into multiple responsibilities, some roles are focused on particular roles and responsibilities. Choose the role according to your preference. May 25 at 7:38
  • At this point, decisively do what it takes to make the most possible money. Think clearly about it and do that. If that means changing jobs, don't waste a month.
    – Fattie
    May 25 at 11:22
  • Why are you doing the code review? Why isn't the team doing the code review? May 29 at 11:31
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If I understand you correctly, you are managing a team of 8 people, and you are unsure of your role and what you should/could contribute.

Your main role would be not to "contribute new content". Your main role is to enable your team to do so.

At the moment, this task seems easy: Everyone is happy and you even have time to do some code-review (which seems to be a task you do enjoy). Use some of your time to prepare for times when it will not be so easy:

  • Build relationships to management and gain more understanding about company politics. A change in management and/or politics may require you to shield and protect your team so it can do it's work.
  • Prepare plans for any bus-factor: if one or several members of your team quit/get ill/whatever, can they be replaced without too much hassle?
  • Use these good-weather days to prepare your code-base/project for stormy days. Find technical debts and direct the efforts to refactor those.
  • Learn more about mediating inter-personal conflicts. Everyone is doing well now, but conflicts do occur, and as a team-lead you will need the skills to handle them.

Other than that, ask the following questions:

  • What would you want from a person in your position?
  • What do the members of your team want (and what are they happy with, compared to former team-leads)?
  • What are you already doing right without noticing?

Overall, you seem to be doing fine, and you are actively working on doing even better. Your company and team is lucky to have you!

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Congratulations!
Your team seems to do a great job. Probably they have the time they need to complete their tasks as required.

What if you came up with why don't we try this, why don't we do that, why not change things that run well simply to do something new?
Be happy you don't do that.
You only have to convince your manager that constantly distracting people doesn't make them faster.

(Yes it pays to learn new things now and then. But keep it reasonable!)

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