Understanding the Difference: Engineering Manager vs Technical Lead Roles in Tech Companies

Understanding the Difference: Engineering Manager vs Technical Lead Roles in Tech Companies
What is the difference between Eng Manager and Tech Lead?

In an ever-evolving technical landscape and growing organizations, it becomes rather pertinent to understand the core differences between pivotal roles such as Engineering Manager and Technical Lead. As companies scale, the intricacies of roles and career paths become more defined and critical to the smooth operation of the organization.

Scaling Your Organization and Designing New Roles

As your organization begins to expand, a key aspect of this growth journey involves creating new roles and defining clear career tracks. This process is essential in establishing structure and paving the way for further development and success.

Technical and Managerial Tracks

In my experience, having two distinct career tracks - technical and managerial, is a strategic approach. This fosters a balanced ecosystem within the organization, enabling individuals to choose a path that best aligns with their skills, aspirations, and career goals.

Senior Engineer to Tech Lead or Eng Manager

Once your organization houses up to 30 engineers, I've found it effective to have two advancement tracks post the Senior Engineer role: Tech Lead and Engineering Manager. But, what truly distinguishes a Tech Lead from an Engineering Manager?

Differentiating Tech Lead and Eng Manager

A simplistic way to differentiate the two roles is by looking at their focus areas. An Engineering Manager spends approximately 80% of his time on management aspects and 20% on technical elements. Conversely, a Tech Lead dedicates roughly 80% of his time to technical tasks, with the remaining 20% towards managerial duties.

Collaborative Leadership

While their core focus areas may differ, a Tech Lead and Engineering Manager often work in tandem to guide the engineering team, creating a harmonious blend of technical and managerial expertise.

Responsibilities of an Eng Manager

An Engineering Manager's role is expansive, involving responsibilities such as bridging gaps, motivating team members, overseeing the hiring process, managing the overall tech process, ensuring timely delivery of projects, and working closely with team members and Product Managers.

Responsibilities of a Tech Lead

On the other hand, a Tech Lead is heavily vested in the technical realm, with responsibilities including system design, architecture, performance, deciding on programming languages, managing tech stack, and other tech-related tasks. This encapsulates the primary difference between an Engineering Manager and Tech Lead, each bringing unique skills and contributions to the table.