• Mariane Bekker

Leadership Roles in Engineering Explained

Updated: Apr 27

There is no universal standard for leadership roles and titles, especially in engineering. Titles can mean different things at different companies. However, some patterns do exist. Below are some expectations and differences between the different roles.


Engineering Manager

  • Managing 1 team of direct reports.

  • Usually reporting to either a senior engineering manager or a director of engineering.

  • Coding Expectations: 20-40% of the time.


Senior Engineering Manager

  • Managing 2+ teams of direct reports.

  • Reporting to a director of engineering.

  • Coding Expectations: 0-20%.


Director of Engineering / Head of Engineering

  • Managing engineering managers and multiple teams.

  • Usually reporting to CTO, VP of engineering, or CEO (in smaller startups).

  • Managing the recruitment pipeline and processes within the teams.

  • Coding Expectations: 0-10%, usually limited to code reviews.


VP of Engineering

  • Building and setting the culture of the engineering teams.

  • Likely reporting directly to the CEO and part of the executive team setting the company's short-term and long-term vision.

  • Managing engineering managers or/and directors of engineering.

  • Managing budgeting, vendor relations, OKR frameworks, recruitment pipelines, recruitment processes, and career leveling frameworks.

  • Usually, removed from the codebase and technology discussions.


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