Identifying Individuals for Career Growth Opportunities

Jay Dave

Sr Director Of Engineering at Synack


The Difficulty of Identifying High-Performing Team Members

There are always individuals who go above and beyond for each project or task on each team. These team members continuously search for things they can do and challenge themselves. As an engineering lead, these team members may be direct reports or not, so setting KPIs to identify hard-working individuals is essential.

Using these signals is essential when bringing up promotion with other managers, as they need information that details why this team member should move up the career ladder. Sometimes these individuals need more opportunities to empower them for their next position and help them with possible burnout.

How to Understand When a Team Member is Ready for a Promotion

Traits to Look For:

Whenever one of my managers has an individual up for a potential promotion, I ask my managers to focus on a few key items. They look for consistency in delivering goals, going above expectations, ensuring the team delivers goals, and being detail-focused. If my team was working on a scenario for a specific Jira ticket, I would see if this team member brought up related cases and connected the details.

Outside of the day-to-day interactions, I search to see how well a team member is doing with different team collaboration activities. Are they focused on the PR reviews? Are they taking opportunities to help other team members do better? Are they focused on all activities that allow them to have action-driven outcomes?

Interaction with Non-Engineering Stakeholders:

After identifying the key traits of this potential new leader, I look to see how this individual interacts with technical as well as non-technical individuals. As one gets higher in the career ladder, they become more out of touch with the day-to-day technical side of things. Therefore, explaining massively technical problems to non-engineering stakeholders can be difficult, and I look to see what type of language they use.

Current Stressors:

One of the last aspects of a leader I look for in a candidate is their ability to complete tasks and projects under stress. Without preventing burn-out, I try to identify their aptitude towards stressful situations that require sprint planning. To test their capabilities, I provide team members with opportunities that will allow them to work in safely structured stressful environments.

Dealing with Specific Promotion Situations

  • In my one-on-ones with team members up for a promotion, I look to see if they are engaging their strengths and taking on more responsibility in those areas. If they are struggling to engage in these areas, sometimes you need to have them shadow a leader or provide them with leadership materials. Once they have worked through these materials, follow-up with these team members to see if they better understand the role.
  • Sometimes certain individuals reach their growth limit within a company. Smaller organizations often don’t have the space for each high-performing team member to become a tech lead. Identify and be honest with your team about these situations and help them find a path to their success.

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Jay Dave

Sr Director Of Engineering at Synack

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership Training

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