Guiding Engineers With Their Career Path

Alexis Lê-Quôc

CTO at Datadog



"I had a software engineer who was present and was doing their job, but who was not fully engaged. He wasn't performing at the level he had been in the past and he was bothered by this, so I held a meeting with him to figure out what we should do. I wanted us both to understand what was going on and what he really wanted for his career. He was upfront with me, saying he was unsure what he wanted and that he had considered quitting to do something else. He wasn't sure about his career path, or even if he wanted to continue being a software engineer."

Actions taken

"I told him I had been through similar patches in my career where I wasn't sure about whether what I was doing was the right thing, and that moments of self-doubt usually go hand-in-hand with lower performance. In addition, I said that we could look at moving him around within the company and that I was okay with him looking at doing something else if that was what he wanted."

"I also advised him not to rush anything. While he may feel he could escape his problems by running away from them, if he rushed his decisions what was likely to happen is that his sense of unease would remain. I said he should stick it out and think about very concrete things he could deliver for the team over the next three to six months. I also said that if three months from then he still felt his job was a mismatch, he should then take action, and if things go well and he still wanted to walk away, he could still walk away feeling good about himself."

Lessons learned

"Try hard to understand exactly what your employees are going through, without being judgemental. It also helps to state the obvious, even if it's uncomfortable. The reality was that everybody in the company could leave - there was nothing holding them back. It may have a negative impact, but ultimately it's the person's choice whether to stay or go. Be upfront about this, but provide context about your experiences and how things played out when you made similar choices."

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Alexis Lê-Quôc

CTO at Datadog

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