Director to VP Engineering: what is expected and how to prepare?

Director to VP of Engineering

A lot of engineering leaders made it to the director level and now wonder what it looks like at a VP level, and even more importantly, how to prepare for that level in day to day job as a director.

I was there and shared the same curiosity. Now that I took both a senior director role in a $1.5B unicorn startup and a VP role in a seed stage company, I am glad to share thoughts on this topic.

I am not claiming that I am fully at…

Engineering manager to director

There is an excellent article on this topic: I truly enjoyed it and learned. Now that I crossed the bridge, I would like to share a few thoughts myself.

The focus of this article is how to get ready for a director level as much as possible when you are in an engineering manager role.

Signs that you are not very ready

Before you get ready for a director role, you have to do an outstanding job as a manager. The reasoning is simple: if you are not a great manager yourself, how can you lead and coach other managers? …

For a software engineer, as your career progresses, sooner or later, you will face a question: should I become an engineering manager?

When I was there, I googled, read many articles, books and consulted with people, it stayed mysterious until I finally got it myself. This article is kind of a letter to my younger self in 2015 to demystify this topic.


Google returns many articles for this question. A lot focus on motivation: good vs bad. When you talk with your manager on this topic, or interview for a manager position, they always ask for your motivation.

Of course…

Although there are tons of articles on software architecture on the internet, they are mostly from late stage startups or public companies. At Trace Data, a seed stage startup, we built our product from ground up in the past 15 months. In this article, I would like to share our experience and a few learnings on forming the architecture V1 at an early stage startup. Hope it is an interesting read for entrepreneurs, CTO, and architects and other engineering leaders facing similar challenges.

(Note, the architecture decisions were mostly made by Mark Lu and me together.)

What is Architecture V1

At the beginning, there…

Building a founding engineering team from scratch

In Sep 2019, I joined Trace Data, a seed stage startup on API security based in the Bay area, to head the engineering org. Although I have built and grown teams before, building a founding engineering team from zero is quite different. In this article, I share some of my experiences and learnings. And hope it is helpful to other engineering leaders before you start your journey at an early stage startup.

The Initial Plan

We like to build a great engineering team, a propelling engine that is capable of pushing the company in its long journey to IPO. We like engineers to…

Nearshore Development Team

Engineering leaders may often hear the idea of hiring a nearshore team, and think about this option. However, not many people have actually done it first hand. If you google “hiring nearshore team”, most articles are written by the nearshore companies, rather than the actual engineering leaders who did it.

In this article, I shared my experience of hiring a nearshore team at Trace Data as VP of Engineering. Hope it can demystify this choice and help other leaders consider this option confidently as reference.

Why hire a nearshore team?

The motivation for us was

Speed up the hiring process.

We did very well on…

High Availability Services

In the past 6 years, good or bad, I have been in an engineering leader role owning the most critical uptime or service availability in a few hyper growth companies. The tech stack varies from private data centers, AWS, and GCP. It is not an easy job. But I have led teams to achieve great success, often higher > 99.99%, some quarter result >99.999%, and learned a few important lessons that I am glad to share with you in this article.

(I learned a lot from my network and LinkedIn. Time to contribute back a bit.)

If the architecture is not right, address that first

If the product is…

Tao Wang

VP Engineering

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