Upskilling a Junior in 90 Days

Manan Patel

Software Engineering Manager at Coinbase



Some time ago, my team had an individual looking to explore engineering from another role within our company. My team helped this junior learn about engineering and navigated them to become productive members of my team. They had shifted from technical program management and wanted to start coding and shipping the features. It was difficult to adapt to the engineering mindset and solving problems in this new headspace. My team was small and had to compromise other tasks in order to upskill the new junior engineer.

Actions taken

In my first action step, I created a plan for the new member to transition within a ninety-day period. This plan consisted of actions I, my team, and the junior would take. The first part of the plan was dedicating a mentor to this individual. The mentor would meet with the junior on a weekly basis and review their programming and tasks they had been working on. I also created a reverse shadow system where the new member of my team observed the mentor while they worked on their projects. This allowed the trainee to understand the technical aspects of the role and involved a skilled employee who could answer any questions.

The next step was ensuring that all the tasks assigned to the trainee were well defined and understood the time frame. This allowed the new member of my team to recognize the expectations of the role and the workload. I did this myself, assigning them tasks with a well-defined scope and timeline. The most challenging piece was getting the individual user to the regular developing lifecycle, as well as getting them in the loop to test things easily. Initially, this was missing from my plan, as they had trouble entering the loop to test their iterations. After adding them into this loop helped them produce code much faster and make a greater impact.

The other actions were more aligned towards optimizing products they were working on to give them the opportunity to touch different parts of the codebase. Whether this was local storage, networking, or experimentation, I wanted them to be exposed to everything, so they were not just learning about one aspect of the role. After doing this, my trainee apprehended everything they would need to do going forward. I began holding monthly check-ins, three in total for the ninety days. These meetings were two-way communication where the trainee explained how the position was going and anything off track with the training. In turn, I gave my insight on their performance and any advice that I had.

Lessons learned

  • Be aware of your team's bandwidth and how it relates to working with a new teammate. When I took on the responsibility of the junior, my team was rather small and had to make tradeoffs to train them.

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Manan Patel

Software Engineering Manager at Coinbase

Leadership & StrategyEngineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementTeam & Project Management

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