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Continuous Career Development: Where To Start

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path

17 December, 2020

Mei Lazell
Mei Lazell

Engineering Manager at Coinbase

Mei Lazell, Engineering Manager at Coinbase, explains why any career development conversation should start as soon as a person joins a team and what is the role of a servant leader.

Problem

Many managers approach career development in the same way they had experienced it earlier in their careers. Some would look at it through the lens of promotion or as a one-off effort a person should make during the course of a quarter. Both views fail to see a continual character of career development that requires constant and persistent commitment.

In an engineering organization, time passes fast and people could be easily engulfed in a daily routine that leaves little time for long-term development. If they are not making any continual steps to reach their projected career goal, they will never get there.

Actions taken

As soon as an engineer joins my team I would initiate a career development conversation. Right after the first month, I would like my new report to get some sense of direction and be assured that the support for their plans would be provided. To do so, I compiled a rundown sheet of pitch questions that start with more foundational questions like what are your key values and what motivates you and then moving toward their long-term aspirations -- where do they see themselves in five or ten years. Not everyone wants promotion in the engineer career. Some folks see themself become a PM or EM later. Through those questions, I work with my report together to come up with the plan by leveraging their strength and understanding their weakness.

Once a person would share their long-term goal we could break it down into concrete ‘baby steps’ that would fit within a six months time frame. Six months proved to be a good cadence to identify the trend and if a person is heading toward the desired direction. The conversation should include concrete action items that should be regularly followed upon or revised.

As a manager, I am responsible to provide opportunities for a person to be able to move along that path. I’m also happy that they are embracing this process as a tool to progress in their career with or without me being present.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t make any assumptions. Not all people are looking for promotions or breath-taking titles. Some people are more focused on long-term goals and how to build specific skills.
  • Promotions may not happen for numerous reasons, but steadily built skills are there to stay. While many skills may not be directly applicable or needed at your current job, they could be appreciated in some other role or different circumstances. Unlike the titles, you are carrying your skills along to your next job.

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