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Roles and Responsibilities of a VP of Engineering
2022-02-14 /

What Does a VP of Engineering Do?

What does a VP of Engineering do exactly? Let’s discover why this executive position is critical to ensuring that engineering teams are consistent with the organization’s technical goals.

At the heart of every technology-driven company is engineering. Any organization that designs or innovates things relies on it to solve problems and advance the human condition. In fact, engineering is the key driver in promoting technological innovations in the country. 

From CTOs to solution architects, the tech world is teeming with leaders who are major proponents of the engineering discipline. Another such leader worth mentioning is the VP of Engineering. 

The Vice President of Engineering is more than just a fancy title in a typical corporate hierarchy. It’s a senior-level role in charge of leading the company’s engineering and development teams. Below we will detail what they do and the skills needed to become one. 

Related Video: The Art & Science of Leadership

Who is a VP of Engineering?

A Vice President or VP of Engineering is a senior tech leader who supervises a team of engineers and developers within an organization. They ensure that the daily engineering operations are running smoothly. Moreover, they see to it that team members are working on projects with optimum efficiency. 

The VPs of Engineering typically work for companies that design products or execute engineering projects. A good example is businesses that build software products that answer common consumer problems.

Mostly, a VP of Engineering handles their department’s budget, procurement of resources, assessment of technical requirements, and recruitment of engineers. They report directly to a CEO but may sometimes work under a CTO

VP of Engineering: Roles and Responsibilities

In essence, the VP of Engineering is the captain of an engineering team that ensures that they meet the predetermined requirements of a company. To break it down, the following are their core responsibilities:

  • Co-develops the technical vision and strategy with the CTO
  • Oversees the fulfillment of the product vision through excellence in team planning and execution 
  • Makes sure that engineers are working at manageable efficiency (not overworked or understaffed) 
  • Manages the engineering department’s budget (equipment costs, training and development, recruitment, etc.)
  • Handles the interview, recruitment, and onboarding of new engineers
  • Facilitates regular education and training of team members
  • Supervises the Research and Development programs 
  • Procures the raw materials, equipment, tools, and systems needed by the team
  • Monitors product testing and reviews
  • Serves as part of the senior executive staff and works with peers (VP of Business Development, VP of Marketing, etc.)
  • Reports directly to the CEO 

CTO vs. VP of Engineering

The CTO and the VP of Engineering are arguably two of the most oft-confused titles in a tech company. Their job roles are almost similar; hence, the confusion that exists between the two. But, let’s clarify the distinct nuances between these roles. 

It’s common knowledge that the Chief Technical Officer is the company’s de facto technical visionary. CTOs dedicate their time and energy to the product vision and how it solves the customers’ needs. So, their focus is on the product’s technical direction; creating strategies that best align with the company’s product goals. 

In contrast, the VPE heads a large team of engineers and engineering managers. Their job is to create a productive engineering culture. They monitor all engineering projects, ensuring that members work their best to deliver high-quality products. The VPs of Engineering are, of course, great engineers themselves who are also skilled communicators, strategists, and managers. 

In its early stages, software startups may bring a CTO on board as one of their co-founders. This person functions as the principal tech visionary and leader in the first few stages. However, CTOs will eventually move on to other roles as the engineering team evolves. 

At some point in time, a startup may scale up by adding more members to the team (around 15-20 engineers). If so, the ability to execute the tech strategy while managing a growing team will be overwhelming. 

When that happens, responsibilities will splinter into two roles. This often happens in large companies with growing responsibilities. In this case, startups might need to hire a VP of Engineering. 

How to Become a VP of Engineering

Now that we know what a VP of Engineering does, let’s see how a tech professional can qualify for this position. 

Technical Qualifications 

Most employers require, at the very least, a Bachelor’s degree for this senior post. An aspiring VP of Engineering is likely to major in Computer Engineering or Computer Science, with minors in Business Administration. 

During an undergraduate study, potential candidates may specialize in specific engineering fields. Examples of these are Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering. Of course, it will depend on the kind of industry they want to work for. 

Considering that this is an executive-level position, some employers prefer those with a Master’s degree. Having an MBA degree focusing on leadership and management will be valuable for those who want to be the next VPE. 

Professional Experience 

Most employers will require VPEs to have several years of experience in this field. The ideal candidate may advance in this position if they have worked as engineers, architects, or software developers in the past. 

Most importantly, having worked as Senior Engineers and Engineering Managers should prepare them well as the future VP of Engineering. Given the complexity of their responsibilities, a solid background working on challenging projects gives them an edge. Thus, those with prior experience in solving complex problems and managing people are great candidates for this post. 

Soft Skills

Aside from their technical qualifications, a VP of Engineering should have leadership abilities to lead a team or department. Here’s a list of the soft skills necessary to be successful in this role:

  1. Management skills – the majority of their work entails delegating tasks to managers and team members. They ensure that they hire the right people for the job and provide them with the adequate resources to succeed. 
  2. Communication skills –  the VPE will benefit from having superb communication skills. This allows them to share directions clearly and maintain transparency with everyone in the team.  
  3. Organizational skills – Tracking multiple projects or products requires a great deal of meticulous planning and organizing. Therefore, having a high-level organizational skill is definitely a must-have. 
  4. Analytical skills – Most of today’s modern companies are dependent on big data and analytics. Extrapolating important insights from a wealth of information demands a natural affinity for data analysis. Hence, VPEs should be able to understand information and spot trends easily.

Hire Software Experts Today!

Most of the emerging startups may think that they won’t need to hire a VP of Engineering. It’s probably because they are too small or have an adequate number of senior members in the team. However, we can’t overemphasize how important their roles are in an organization.

Having a star VP of Engineering establishes a productive engineering work culture that’s resilient to changing business demands. Moreover, the right VPE will keep the engineering operations running smoothly like a well-oiled machine. 

But here’s a bit of a pickle—finding technical experts like them is hard. That’s because the current job market is extremely competitive nowadays. This is why most companies decide to delegate their software development projects to offshore companies like Full Scale

We are a Kansas City-based custom software development company with an offshore arm in the Philippines. We recruit and onboard talented software experts to work with our growing roster of clients. So, do you want to scale your business to the next level? 

Start by sending us a message with your hiring needs.

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