VP of Engineering job description

VP of Engineering job description: role, duties and responsibilities

VP of Engineering job description

Who are VPs of Engineering and what do they do?

The VP of Engineering leads the managerial team in a research and development department. If the CTO were the Chairperson, the VPE would be the Chief Executive. The role of the VPE is to implement the strategic vision of the product, which has generally been co-developed with the CTO.

The VP of Engineering’s mission in tech companies

The VP of Engineering is responsible for defining and implementing the product roadmap, software and/or hardware. They must possess a firm understanding of the key strategic elements. They must also have a solid technical grasp of architecture components – web, mobile and hardware – so they can anticipate the risks and the technology choices to be made.

This is a demanding strategic role, for which candidates must demonstrate both flexibility and a proven track record of technical expertise.

What are the differences between a VP of Engineering and a CTO?

When a start-up launches, there’s usually a ‘multifunctional’ CTO in the decision-making team. As the company develops, the CTO may recruit a second-in-command to whom he or she will delegate certain tasks such as the management, recruitment and even leadership of teams.


A CTO’s responsibilities are diverse and varied, depending on the company’s size and level of maturity. The more mature the company, the more CTOs tend to delegate the managerial aspect of their role. This enables them to focus on the direction of the company’s technology strategy and the selection of platforms, tools and technical stack. The CTO understands the nuts and bolts of the entire technology program.

The VP of Engineering

The role of the VP of Engineering is more operational. Focused on supporting and guiding the teams delivering the company’s product(s), the VPE is tasked with building a multidisciplinary technology team and ensuring that it evolves and develops with the company. The VP of Engineering is said to be the person who must “lead, manage and build.”

What skills and qualifications does a VP of Engineering need?

Since the VP of Engineering does not directly manage operations, a high-level of literacy in specific tools and technologies is no longer required. However, VPEs are expected to have vast technical, operational and managerial experience, based on projects with similar issues to those faced by their company. It’s not unusual to see job advertisements for VPs of Engineering that list the ability to code as well as to manage operational teams as requisite skills.

A precise knowledge of an organization’s technical stack is often required to enable VPEs to make sound decisions regarding the company’s technical issues.

A technical mindset is vital for maintaining credibility among the team. As the VPE’s role also includes training and guiding managers on a daily basis, strong project and team management skills are equally essential.

  • The soft skills required of a VP of Engineering

Good communication skills and the ability to express ideas in simple terms enable VPs of Engineering to discuss matters, and make themselves understood, by different parties from both inside and outside their company. It’s not unusual for a VPE to be in direct contact with investors and other business partners.

The VP of Engineering must also demonstrate the ability to quickly understand and summarize oftentimes complex issues that are themselves made up of numerous sub-issues. They must be able to identify the core issues to avoid getting distracted by secondary issues. The whole team is counting on the VPE, after all, to ensure they progress efficiently.

  • Use of technologies and platforms

While the VP of Engineering does not get involved with project coding on an operational level, he or she must have a firm understanding of the company’s technical stack. That said, many VPEs provide coding input from time to time.

The VPE can have different types of stacks:

  • Web stack
  • Mobile stack
  • Software

What training do you need to become a VP of Engineering?

As one of the most senior roles in a technical organization, the VP of Engineering will have held both operational roles (early in their careers) and managerial roles. It’s a person’s on-the-job experience in their previous companies trains and prepares them to become VPE.

What are the responsibilities of a VP of Engineering?

Guiding and coordinating various development teams to efficiently progress along the product roadmap while also respecting time constraints (and other criteria), as stipulated by the Board.

Organizing the technical hub of a company or project, structuring the necessary teams based on their skills and operational remit.

Guiding technology managers in their day-to-day activities to enable them to progress matters relating to both project management and operational guidance for their respective teams.

Planning the people growth strategy for the technology department, in collaboration with both HR and technology managers as regards defining the recruitment process for their teams.

Having a very clear vision of the context in terms of the team, the project and the company. This enables strategic decision-making that keeps technology overall working efficiently and progressing in the right direction.

Co-developing, with the CTO, the company’s technology strategy. This approach ensures that all the business and technology elements known to the CTO and all the operational elements known by the VPE are taken into account.

What are the main challenges faced by the VP of Engineering?

The VP of Engineering defines the vision, the concept and the strategy behind integrated web systems that support the business, as well as leading their implementation.

The VPE also leads the development teams and collaborates with other areas of the business including the Sales, Marketing and Finance departments. Their challenge is to at once roll out new web systems and to constantly update and improve current systems in operation.

The VP/ Head of Engineering keeps abreast of new technologies and the latest trends in their business sector. They analyze, identify and plan the most appropriate structure and architecture for the sites and software currently in development.

VPs of Engineering have strong leadership skills. They are excellent role models and promote organizational best practice. They are responsible for the deployment of new functionalities, the stability of the company’s main platform, and the overall quality of the company’s web architecture.

Who does the VP of Engineering work with?

The number of people with whom the VP of Engineering collaborates depends on company size.

In small organizations, VPEs liaise directly with developers and corporate leaders, particularly the CEO who is in most cases their line manager.

In companies experiencing growth and structural development, the VPE collaborates mostly with Engineering Managers or, in very large teams, with Directors of Engineering. In the latter case, they have no longer collaborate on an operational level with developers.

VPEs also work with Product Managers, namely – given that the technology pipeline is in large part built by their teams – the VP of Product or the Head of Product.

How do VPs of Engineering measure their work performance?

The VP of Engineering plays an active role in setting up the teams responsible for building the company’s products. This necessitates recruiting a multidisciplinary team of engineers, including Software Engineers (Back-end/ Front-end/ Mobile), Cloud Engineers, Data Engineers, API Engineers, Security Engineers…

These qualified engineers have different levels of seniority. Some are experts while others are relatively junior. Regardless, they all must add business value in the short-term. The VP of Engineering must ensure that the team remains equally effective at generating value in the mid and long-term future too, in order to safeguard the company’s business resilience.

To tell if a VP of Engineering is a competent employee or freelancer, you don’t have to look far. Signposts include rapidly delivered projects that fulfil all the technical criteria outlined in the project specification, a proactive team, and employees who happily go about their daily tasks and find meaning in their work.

Technical achievements aren’t the only success indicators in this matter. Feedback from the team regarding the VPE’s management skills, coherence in the messages they communicate, and their ability to unite an operational team around them are equally revealing of their talent and of their ability to express themselves through their various responsibilities.

In other words, the VP of Engineering must be a leader, a manager, a strategist and a builder.

Why do businesses today increasingly need a VP of Engineering?

VPs of Engineering are often referred to as ‘facilitators.’ The moniker effectively embodies the nature of the career and the activities behind it. In point of fact, the holder of this job title plays a vital role in the implementation of an IT project, in the sense that it’s the VPE who analyzes a project’s technical requirements and defines the actions necessary for its successful implementation and optimization. To this end, the VPE has regular meetings with the Board as well as with various other project stakeholders (primarily developers).

VPEs constantly monitor the market for new technologies. They initiate development research projects relating to advanced programming, logistics, time optimization and more. This enables development teams in particular to improve their skills and acquire expertise that is just as valuable to them on an individual basis as it is for their company.

Finally, it should be noted that this career requires the effective management of a company’s information technology systems and tools, e.g. IT systems, hardware and specialized software. In the event of an incident, it’s the Engineering Manager who is responsible for finding stop-gap solutions.

This role requires remarkable versatility. It plays a vital role in the success of a technology project.

The VP of Engineering aims to use whatever means are necessary to make an IT project successful. To that end, they lead meetings, supervise work, and ensure that delivery deadlines and quality criteria are met. The VPE is also responsible for the well-being of all the developers in the company.

High-stress engineering and developer roles can sometimes prompt young talent to head for the door to see if the grass is greener elsewhere. Managerial culture is everything when it comes to being a good employer that promotes the positive mental health of employees in this context.

Companies that wish to succeed in IT matters would be well-advised to recruit a good VP of Engineering today. That’s how you gain loyalty from your developers and guarantee the long-term continuity of your projects.

How much does a VP of Engineering earn - average salary vs. average daily rate?

In 2022, depending on the level of experience and the nature of the company, the average salary for a Vice President of Engineering in the United States ranges from: $240,000 to $310,000

On freelance platforms, you can find VPs of Engineering with an hourly rate ranging from $115/hour in the lower bracket, to $150/hour in the higher bracket. The amount is based on level of experience and technical expertise (Symfony, Python…).

Depending on mission type, some VPEs have a dual role – that of VPE and that of CTO.