Through microbial engineering, biosynthesis has the potential to produce thousands of chemicals used in everyday life. Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology are fields driven by the manipulation of genes, genetic regulatory systems, and enzymatic pathways for developing highly productive microbial strains. Fundamentally, it is the biochemical characteristics of the enzymes themselves that dictate flux through a biosynthetic pathway toward the product of interest. As metabolic engineers target sophisticated secondary metabolites, there has been little recognition of the reduced catalytic activity and increased substrate/product promiscuity of the corresponding enzymes compared to those of central metabolism. Thus, fine-tuning these enzymatic characteristics through protein engineering is paramount for developing high-productivity microbial strains for secondary metabolites. Here, we describe the importance of protein engineering for advancing metabolic engineering of secondary metabolism pathways. This pathway integrated enzyme optimization can enhance the collective toolkit of microbial engineering to shape the future of chemical manufacturing.