Startup Engineering Management by Piaw Na


My holidays were very relaxed and the idleness of it has given me a chance to read some interesting books. One of the books that I've read was Startup Engineering Management by Piaw Na. Since this blog is about engineering management in startups and this is the only book I know of that talks explicitly about this subject, I'm sure you'll appreciate a short review of it. The strongest feature of the book is its view point. Piaw Na is first an engineer, and only secondly a manager. This makes the book especially relevant to engineers who are contemplating to become managers. In that regard Piaw defines the following as the most important reason why an engineer would like to become a manager

If you don’t do it, the company will most likely have to hire (or promote) someone else to do the job.

It is evident already from this line, that Piaw considers engineering superior over management. I'm pretty sure he acquired this doctrine at Google, which is a well known for bashing of managers and where Piaw spent the better part of his career. Unfortunately, his underappreciation of management is evident also in the book, which is quite shallow in describing management principles, tools and techniques that a newly minted engineering manager should understand or has at his disposal. I've got the impression that Piaw's management approach pretty much follows what he has been instructed to do by his various mentors, while he didn't make an effort to fully understand underlying principles of engineering management.

Piaw Na is a very smart person and his book contains a lot of good advices for an engineer turned manager. Still I would recommend to read this book only to experienced engineering managers. To them the book will give an interesting additional view on the subject. But for the newly minted engineering managers, the book is too narrow in its exposition and will not give them good enough understanding of management principles and tools, to be successful at their new role.