Matt Davies Stockton Looks at Why Engineering Managers Still Want to Write Code


According to Matt Davies Stockton, transitioning from being a software developer to a manager may be difficult and overwhelming. Producing code does not remain your primary objective. Despite that, a lot of engineering managers still want to write code. Let’s figure out why that happens. 

The Details

  1. They think it’s important to maintain sharp coding skills – Engineering managers need to understand the challenges faced by their team on a technical level. That means, they need to keep their own technical skills polished. A fair share of engineering managers uses this as an excuse to heavily contribute as developers. 

However, the same can be done by keeping your tech debt clean, hunting and fixing bugs, building tools to make your team’s everyday work easier, and polishing your coding skills outside of work. Maintaining technical sharpness does not need to come at the expense of being primarily a code contributor instead of a manager. 

  1. They think they have more context and can do it faster – Your time at the company may provide you with more historical context about the domain compared to your team and your team may have a significantly high number of junior developers. While you’re an engineering manager, you are a former developer and that means you’ll have a more comfortable time settling into a role that everyone depends on to do things “the right way”. 

However, this method of management is not scalable or sustainable. This sidelines your managerial responsibilities while you develop a “hero culture” where everyone relies on you more often than not. Instead, it’s better to bridge the knowledge gaps in your team by conducting knowledge deep dives and recording them for future members. You can also build a development wiki that team members can refer to. 

If your team needs to amp up their developmental skills, provide them with better resources and encourage them to add learning blocks to their schedule every week. Investing in your team’s growth will pay dividends in the future. If they keep relying on you, you’re going to get overwhelmed and exhausted at some point. 

  1. They assume that writing code is necessary to maintain credibility with the team – Building trust and gathering context by writing code is very important if you’re a new manager who has joined an existing team in a new company. However, your recruitment in that role is adequate evidence of your technical competency. 

You don’t need to prove it every week to your team. Instead, you should focus on enabling your team to deliver their best performance. You can continue to do pair programming, code reviews, and other such activities to stay connected with your team. But that should not be the priority.   


Matt Davies Stockton suggests that each engineering manager’s contributions differ depending on the team, technical domain, and other such factors. You’ll need to adjust your responsibilities and align them with the team’s output. Management is not easy and relying heavily on coding can’t be a sustainable way to avoid difficult tasks.