Director of Engineering vs. VP of Engineering: Key Differences & Roles

Who would do what: the Director of Engineering or the Vice President of engineering? Although these roles might be similar in scope with some overlapping responsibilities, they occupy different places and responsibilities in the hierarchy of the company. Let's learn more about these titles.

What does a Director of Engineering do?

Directors of Engineering typically have both a strategic and a technical role in a company. Setting team goals, hiring engineers, and prioritizing projects are all part of the strategic aspect. The technical aspect must be actively involved in developing new products, identifying requirements, and setting timelines.

Directors of Engineering must have extensive experience as engineers, have managed complex technology projects, and understand how to build products and features from the scratch.

Some key responsibilities of Director of Engineering: 

  • Coordination between product and engineering teams to fully understand and widely socialise key service priorities across the company’s products.
  • Evolve the back-end tech stack with modern and internally supported options.
  • Maintain high-level core infrastructure offering stakeholder relationships with cloud providers to ensure our customers' needs emerge and are prioritized.
  • Lead and mentor the mobile app, web app, back-end, and front-end development team, as well as data engineers; directly supervise the team leaders; and create a strong engineering culture.
  • Conduct effective meetings, make a decision, and get back to work.

What is the role of a VP of engineering?

A Vice President of Engineering is a senior tech leader who oversees an organization's team of engineers and developers. They make certain that the daily engineering operations run smoothly. Furthermore, they ensure that team members work on projects as efficiently as possible.

Engineering VPs typically work for companies that design products or carry out engineering projects. A VP of Engineering is primarily in charge of their department's budget, resource procurement, technical requirements assessment, and engineer recruitment.

In essence, the VP of Engineering is the captain of an engineering team, ensuring that they meet the company's predetermined requirements. To summarize, their primary responsibilities are as follows:

  • Develop the technical vision and strategy with the CTO
  • Oversees product vision realization through an excellent team in planning and execution
  • Ensure engineers work at manageable efficiency
  • Manages the engineering department budget
  • Handles interviewing, recruiting and onboarding of new engineers
  • Facilitates regular education and training of team members
  • Oversee research and development programs
  • Obtain the raw materials, equipment, tools and systems needed by the team
  • Monitor product testing and reviews
  • Reports directly to the CEO

What are The differences between Director of Engineering and VP of Engineering?

Software engineering is ever-changing. There are many complex systems and complicated procedures that require specialized technical knowledge. With such a lengthy development cycle, the team will require guidance and support at every stage. It is critical to have clear direction and good coordination. Therefore, there are often multiple leadership roles involved in development including Director Of Engineering and Vice President of Engineering.

1. Core Responsibilities

Different roles require different priorities. The Director and the Vice President of Engineering each have specific responsibilities. Let’s first distinguish their responsibilities:

Director of Engineering:
  • Project Support
  • Lead a team, delegate tasks and plan work schedules
  • Technical support and training of new team members
  • Create and track a budget for engineering projects
  • Report to the VP on their team's progress
Vice President of Engineering:
  • Management of engineering teams
  • Resource optimization strategy and process development
  • Alignment of teamwork with company vision and goals
  • Financial decisions
  • Recruitment
2. Work Execution

Directors have limited communication with outside investors, consumers, or clients because they are preoccupied with internal matters. They guide their engineering teams through problems and provide technical assistance. Directors of engineering typically work regular hours and are only busy when deadlines are approaching. Directors spend more time each day meeting with team leads and developers to discuss details and roadblocks in ongoing projects. Project status meetings, backlog refinement meetings, and sprint retrospectives are examples of meetings they may lead.

On the other hand, Vice Presidents handle communications with customers, stakeholders, and senior management. They work with many outside affairs and have a large network to update and report to. Vice Presidents travel frequently to meet with clients and attend conferences. A Vice President will attend budget approval meetings and update on OKR progress during meetings with their manager (usually a C-level technical manager).

3. Vision

Directors and Vice Presidents have different perspectives on goals and how long they should be planned for. Short-term goals for engineering directors are frequently focused on how to make the next quarter better than the previous one. Vice presidents of engineering tend to plan for the long term—at least for the next year.

This affects how objectives and key results (OKRs) are developed and planned for. While directors may have shorter-term goals such as how many bugs are found in each sprint, the Vice President may have longer-term and higher-level strategic goals such as shortening the time between sprints to get more code out the door more frequently.

4. Career path

Another aspect that differentiates Directors and VPEs is the career path. Getting there requires a combination of technical and managerial experience. When a person moves from developer to tech lead or engineering manager, they can become a Director of Engineering. From there, the next step in the engineering hierarchy is to advance to the VP level. Next are C-level leadership roles such as CTO or Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Depending on the size of your organization, more specialized titles may be available for more technical positions.

5. Deliverables

Every manager has metrics to report at the end of each week, month, or quarter. This allows senior manager to assess the value of investment and determine whether or not the team was successful. These success indicators for the Director of Engineering may include the average number of bugs found in each release, the number of features released on time, or the time spent context switching.

They may be measured by reports on budget expenditures, the ROI of developer tooling, the amount of system downtime, or the productivity of the software development life cycle for the Vice President of Engineering.

6. Level of Authority

A Vice President of Engineering is one level above a Director of Engineering on the corporate ladder. As you might expect, their responsibility is difference. The engineering department is managed by the vice president of engineering, while the teams are managed by the director.

The director manages and tracks the progress of the team and reports to the vice president. In turn, the vice president informs upper-level management, stakeholders, and clients about the department's success.

7. Professional Experience and Education

Because both roles are similar, they have similar educational requirements. Engineering Directors and vice presidents should have a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field. A background in development or information systems can help you advance to the director level, especially if you have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.

Reaching Vice President level requires a more strategic mindset, a proven track record of project management, and a proven ability to lead people. Vice President of engineering will be the face of the engineering organization, so excellent relationship-building skills and a high level of charisma are essential for this role, as well as networking with other executives and external stakeholders. Since Vice Presidents are also part of financial management, it also helps that they have experience aligning spending with business goals.


If you are currently in any role or are deciding to pursue a position such as Director of Engineering or Vice President of Engineering, it is important to know the difference between the two. It should be noted that the roles can be interpreted differently depending on the size of the company.

Smaller companies and start-ups often hire technical executives who can fill many strategic and tactical roles, but large companies isolate these roles into single specialized roles. The number of "hats" you choose to wear in your daily life, as well as the type of company you work for, have a direct impact on the type of work you can do in your Either way, there's something for everyone in the engineering career, no matter how technical or managerial you want to shape your role.