Across the United States, the demand for top executives (including Vice President roles) is expected to grow 6% by 2031. If your company is looking for somebody to oversee and direct your growing team of engineers — while providing some much-needed technical direction and strategy — it may be time to hire a Vice President of Engineering (VPE).
But with so much at stake and a lot of competition for engineering leadership, the path to hiring the right VPE isn't always smooth.
Execution Vs. Strategy: Understanding the Different Roles of a VP of Engineering
Having led engineering teams for a variety of high-growth startups and innovative enterprise companies like Weebly and Square, Tim Snyder, VP of Engineering at Lean understands the invaluable nature of an effective and synergistic engineering function.
With over a decade of leading and building engineering teams, Tim says:
“Motivation and role interest are paramount to recruiting Vice Presidents of Engineering (VPEs). I see a lot of experienced engineering managers/directors at large companies decide to take on VPE roles at smaller startups because the role is more impactful to the company and allows you to wear more hats than at an established company. Where an engineering leader at an established company is often focused more on execution, a VPE will be involved with strategy, key product decisions, operations, and more which provides new challenges for them to solve every day.”
Tim Snyder, VP of Engineering at Lean
Understanding your company’s needs as well as future goals will help you identify the type of VP of Engineering that will bring the most value to your organization.
What Does a VP of Engineering Do?
A Vice President of Engineering is responsible for overseeing a company's engineering and development teams, making sure projects progress on time and that resources are being properly utilized.
Typically, a VPE works directly above the Director of Engineering and reports to a company's Chief Technology Officer.
Depending on the size and scope of a company, a VPE may also handle the budgeting needs for an engineering department or team. This may include making important spending decisions for tools and resources like source code generators and Git software that engineering teams need to do their jobs. Similarly, a Vice President of Engineering may play a role in the recruitment and hiring process for new engineers and developers.
VP of Engineering Job Responsibilities
The exact job responsibilities for a VP of Engineering may vary depending on the size of the company (among other factors), but some of the most common job responsibilities for this role include:
- Developing and carrying out engineering goals alongside the CTO and other C-Suite members.
- Providing training to new and existing engineers.
- Ensuring engineering and development teams have the tools and technologies needed to do their jobs.
- Overseeing spending and purchasing needs of the engineering department.
- Recruiting, screening, interviewing, and onboarding new engineers and developers.
- Reporting directly to CTOs and other stakeholders.
What's the Difference Between a CTO and a VP of Engineering?
It's not uncommon for the lines between the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the VP of Engineering to blur. Both play similar roles within an organization, but some subtle (yet important) differences set the VPE apart from the CTO and other senior roles.
For starters, the VP of Engineering typically reports to the CTO directly. The CTO is responsible for developing goals and strategies for technical teams, whereas the VPE is tasked with carrying out those objectives.
Likewise, CTOs tend to focus more on their relationships with stakeholders and other leadership — while VPEs work more directly with engineering and development team members.
Ultimately, while the CTO and VPE have similar goals and responsibilities, VPEs are more hands-on and directly engaged with engineers and engineering managers. They may occasionally work alongside the CTO, but they still report to the CTO at the end of the day.
What Is the Average Salary For a VP of Engineering?
In the U.S., the average Vice President of Engineering's total annual salary is $283,321. However, many factors can affect the actual salary of a VP of Engineering, including the company's size and location. For example, areas with a higher cost of living will have higher VPE salaries than areas of the country with a lower cost of living. A VPE's prior (and unique) experience, credentials, and qualifications will all also come into play.
Some companies also offer stock-based compensation or profit sharing as part of a VPE's salary and benefits — so this may also be a factor.
Skills and Qualities To Look For in a VPE
If your company is looking to hire a VP of Engineering, especially for the first time, there are some important hard and soft skills to look for in an ideal candidate.
A strong VP of Engineering should have a high standard for code, understanding how to create quality algorithms that enhance the user experience and prevent massive overhauls. At the very least, a VPE should carry a Bachelor's Degree in a related field (such as Computer Science or Software Engineering). But even more ideally, a VPE should also have a strong business background — with a minor or even a separate Master's degree in Business or Business Administration.
Because VPEs must directly oversee engineering teams, they should also have extensive experience working in the field. This may include at least a few years of experience working as a software engineer, developer, or similar position.
This will ensure that they have a solid understanding of what these jobs entail and the challenges these teams may face; it also ensures that they have the technical skills and understanding of industry terminology required in a VPE role.
Soft Skills and Cultural Fit
In addition to technical skills and professional experience, a great candidate for a VPE position will also have solid technical leadership and management skills. They should have worked in a management or supervisory role that required them to delegate tasks, collaborate with peers and their leadership team, and oversee other team members in asynchronous settings.
Communication skills are also a must as a VPE. These professionals need to be in frequent contact with the company's CTO and other C-Level professionals while also acting as a point of contact for engineers, developers, and other team members. All of this, in addition to critical thinking and analytical skills, will serve a VPE (and the entire organization) well on the job.
Finally, don't underestimate the importance of choosing a VPE who fits your company culture well. Research shows that the right leadership and management can greatly impact the quality of an organization's culture. One Gallup study finds that 70% of the variation in workplace culture and engagement traces back to the quality of a leader.
5 Tips For Recruiting a New VP of Engineering
Finding qualified talent to fill a VPE role can be difficult, especially considering the specialized qualifications and skills required for this type of work. At the same time, your company can't afford to make the wrong hire for such a vital position.
Fortunately, there are some practical tips you can follow to improve your recruitment and hiring process.
1. Team Up With an Executive Search Firm
Start by working with an executive search firm, which specializes in recruiting candidates for upper management and other senior-level roles (such as VPE).
Compared to a "traditional" recruiter, an executive search firm will have more specific experience recruiting for highly technical and specialized positions. They understand the unique challenges and nuances of hiring for a VP of Engineering role and can guide you through the process.
Working with an executive search firm allows you to streamline your recruiting and hiring process, helping you save time and money while ensuring you make the right hire. A reputable search firm like Hunt Club gives you access to tools like referral-based search, automated screening tools, and an expert network of connections to help you recruit top talent.
2. Choose the Right Channels To Reach Potential Candidates
Traditional job boards won't get you very far when sourcing talent for a VP of Engineering position. Instead, you may want to turn to more specialized job sites to narrow down your talent pool and reach the right candidates.
In addition to executive job sites, you can also use social media to your advantage when recruiting for a VPE position. For example, sharing your job posting on LinkedIn can be a great way to get the word out.
From there, your network connections can see your posting and may be able to refer you to some potential candidates. Even if they can't, they can share your post and spread the word to other professionals (and their networks).
3. Write a Compelling and Attractive Job Description
You can't expect to recruit top talent if you don't have a compelling job description. With this in mind, it's important to collaborate with C-suite professionals and other team leaders to write an attractive and engaging description for your VPE job opening.
This description should include the job title and summary and a list of responsibilities, qualifications, and skills. A job description is also a good place to communicate your company's values, mission, vision, and culture.
A potential candidate for your VPE position should be able to read the description and come away with a solid understanding of what the job entails and what it's like to work for your company.
4. Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits
There's a good chance your top candidates for VPE are already interviewing elsewhere. They may even be receiving other job offers already. Offering a competitive salary and benefits package from the beginning can cut down on negotiations and speed up the hiring process, especially once you've found the perfect fit for the job.
Don't miss out on your ideal VPE candidate because of a lowball offer. Take the time to research what your competitors are offering and adjust your own compensation and benefits as needed.
5. Network at Engineering Industry Events
A little networking can go a long way in being connected to potential VPE candidates. Attend industry events like software engineering conferences and trade shows to expand your professional network. You never know who you might meet and who they might know.
Hire Your Next VP of Engineering With Hunt Club
Finding candidates with the right blend of leadership skills, technical strategy, and understanding of engineering culture isn't easy — but it's a must when recruiting for a position as crucial as Vice President of Engineering.
If you want to streamline your recruitment process while freeing up more valuable time, Hunt Club is here to help.
Let us put our innovative technology, robust industry connections, and specialized skills to work for you. Get in touch with our team to learn more or get started today.