Why, When & How to Hire a VP of Engineering

VP of engineering using vr

An organization’s engineering and development teams are overseen by a Vice President of Engineering (VP of Engineering.)  It is a senior position, typically at the executive level, in charge of leading a group of engineers and developers, making sure that design specifications are met, and managing the consistency of user experiences.

The VP of Engineering is responsible for ensuring that the team’s engineers and designers adhere to established standards, that the user experience is strong and well-maintained across everything developed, and that the teams perform at their best.

Depending on the sector in which the company operates, a VP of Engineering may, in certain circumstances, be required to manage the budget of the engineering department as well as make decisions concerning the acquisition of software and raw materials. In most companies, the VP of Engineering reports directly to the CEO.   However, in some companies, the Vice President of Engineering reports to the CTO.

The core responsibilities of a VP of Engineering

The core responsibilities of a VP of Engineering are:

  • Developing new ideas for products and services through planning and design
  • Leading the training and development of the engineering team
  • Budget management
  • Attracting, developing, and retaining talent
  • New product and service development with an emphasis on market leadership through research and development
  • Coordination of the manufacturing process
  • Ensuring the highest quality standards
  • Coordinating with other departments such as supply chain, sales, and finance
  • Product and service testing

Why should you hire a VP of engineering?

Some reasons for why a company should hire a VP of Engineering are:

  • Your company is expanding and you need someone to manage the growth of your engineering team.
  • You want to improve communication and collaboration between different departments in your company.
  • You want to establish better workflows and processes within the engineering department.
  • You feel that the engineering department is not working efficiently and you want to bring in an experienced manager to help improve productivity.

When should you hire a VP of Engineering?

Assuming you think you may need to hire a VP of Engineering, there is no one size fits all answer to when is the best time  It depends on the specific needs of your company. However, here are some general ideas on when companies do:

If you are a startup or small company with a growing engineering team, you may want to hire a VP of Engineering once you have around five engineers.

If you are a medium-sized company with a team of ten or more engineers, you may want to hire a VP of Engineering to help manage the department and improve efficiency.

If you are a large company with a team of twenty or more engineers, you may want to consider hiring a VP of Engineering to help streamline communication and workflows and bring in more experience senior level leadership, with experience on new cutting edge technologies and methodologies to improve your product and productivity.

Qualities of a good VP of Engineering

When hiring a VP of Engineering, you should look for someone with:

  • A minimum of five years experience managing engineers and developers
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills
  • The ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines
  • A track record of successful project management
  • Lead a change management initiative before
  • Knowledge an understanding of various product delivery and management methodologies such as: Scrum, Waterfall, lean methodologies, Six Sigma,…
vp of engineering in a high visibility jvest

How to hire a VP of Engineering

A VP of engineering is a highly technical operational role, with a lot of influence on the outcome of all of your businesses technical projects. Hiring a good candidate is hard and competitive, so you need to work quick and effectively to attract top talent. Here are my top tips on how to hire a VP of Engineering.

Create Search team

Given the complexity of most businesses,  no one person can best determine the needs of a VP of Engineering that will be best suited for your company.  So include in your decision making process and interviews the people they will work with the most. Such as: CEO, CTO, CMO, CRO, lead developers, lead engineers, product owners, scrum leaders,, etc.

This team can best establish what you really need from your VP of Engineering and the knowledge gap they will address

Establish your needs and wants

Have a open discussion with your search team, properly establish what the role of the VP of engineering will be in your business and what you hope for them to bring. The questions you should ask to lead this conversation can include:

  • What knowledge gap do we hope for them to fill?
  • What would them succeeding look like 3,6, and 12 months from now?
  • How are we going to measure their success?
  • Who should they report to?
  • What experience do they need?
  • What tools, systems or coding languages should they understand?
  • What budget do we have for this role?

Having a thorough discussion about this will help your team understand what you are looking for, enable you to conduct your search more quickly, and produce better candidates.

Work with an executive search firm

Finding top talent is hard. Especially as most top talent isn’t actively looking and currently doing a great job elsewhere. Top performers get approached regularly by executive search firms and are used to dealing with them, so they rarely are looking on the open market. This is what sets executive search apart from recruitment as executive search targets both the active and passive candidates in the market. 

Looking for help with your executive search? Contact me, I am a Managing Partner at Boyden.  I bring over 25 years of experience in executive search and can personally assist you,.  If your need is in a geography outside the United States or Canada, I can connect you to an executive search consultants from a local office in your area. We have offices in over 42 different countries, each with a range of specialists that know local job market, regional industries and can assist in recruiting for almost every function.

What do Executive Search firms do? They take ownership of the search process on your behalf. Significantly reducing the workload of the process for your leadership. They work with your team to get a deeper understanding of your needs. Developing a long term relationship of understanding. Finding you better candidates, faster. Helping you focus on running your business, while they get you the talent you need.

They speak with people who are qualified for your position and that are actively or passively looking for work. As a result, you will be able to obtain high-caliber potential candidates through the executive search firm’s broad regional and global network. The executive search consultant is in charge of managing the time-consuming process of approaching possible candidates, convincing them to consider your position, and qualifying them against the agreed-upon parameters. By far the most important component of the work. The entire procedure can take two to four months to finish. While the search is being conducted on your behalf, your company’s leadership can continue to focus their efforts on their primary tasks.

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