Helping your direct reports decide on management, senior IC, or lateral growth tracks, to guide their career development

Simon Gong

Sr. Manager, Capacity Engineering & Analysis at Meta



"I had a one-on-one with one of my high performers. During this meeting, I talked to him about his aspirations in terms of career development and asked him about what he wanted to do in the future. I presented him with three different tracks - a 'senior individual contributor track', a 'management track' and the possibility of not taking on a larger scope of responsibility, but working on learning new technologies and growing 'laterally'. My report wanted to follow the management track, but I was unsure about the reasons he gave for wanting to become a manager. He seemed to be conflating 'management' and 'leadership'. He saw management as more attractive due to having a perception of it being a more 'senior' role, which was not correct."

Actions taken

"I talked a bit more to him and tried to put what it meant to be a manager into perspective. I told him about the main differences between management and a senior IC role. I gave him some time to think about it and told him to do some research and to talk with other managers and senior engineers to get a better picture of the different roles. I helped him in this discovery process by arranging some meetings and I sent him relevant articles so that he better understood the distinction between the different tracks. A month later, during a one-on-one with him, I came back to this topic to discover whether his aspirations were still the same. He told me that the discovery process had made him realize that some of the preconceived ideas he had about managers and senior ICs were wrong and that he would prefer to become a senior IC. This helped to provide the right foundation to build a Dev Plan together."

Lessons learned

"As a manager, when I have discussions with my direct reports about their career paths, I try not to pressure them in terms of their choice. Some people might have an interest in areas that they are not already good at. This is fine, as long as they show the motivation to learn. It is important to make sure that your reports make decisions for the right reasons and that their decisions are based on correct and complete information."

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Simon Gong

Sr. Manager, Capacity Engineering & Analysis at Meta

Leadership DevelopmentMentorship ProgramsTechnical ExpertiseTechnical SkillsCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor Roles

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