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Do You Know What Motivates and Drives Your Junior Developers?

Career Path
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors

4 February, 2019

Raymond Wang discusses techniques he uses to ensure that his junior developers are performing at their highest level, as well as individualized means to measure their success and growth.

Problem

Managing junior developers requires a particular methodology to ensure that the time and effort that they are putting in is both valuable to the individual and to the company as a whole. You want them to take the initiative and spend extra time in investing in their own growth. This is not necessarily done in a purely technical manner but also includes getting them to think about their part in the bigger process, how to stitch all the pieces together, and taking ownership of their work on featured releases. As a manager, what measures can you take to safeguard the success and growth of your junior engineers?

Actions taken

  • Get a sense for when people are really pushing themselves and when they are not. Is their work performance self-motivated and progressive, or do you have to consistently insist on getting the work done? From a performance management perspective, decide whether to push your junior engineer harder or is it a case where they need to be coached a lot more.
  • Start building trust. How much trust you have can play into the different strategies that you may utilize with your junior developers. Are you able to be very direct with them or do you have to take a more roundabout approach? Usually with time you gain trust and, thereby, gain the advantage of being more direct with your reports.
  • Use your time in one-on-ones to have the junior engineer reflect on their own personal growth.
  • Junior engineers want to gain experience and eventually gain the title of 'senior' engineer. Lead into a conversation about what does it mean to be a senior engineer and lay out clear guidelines and expectations you have so that they can work towards those goals.
  • Build out a framework for what it looks like to move progressively upward in your company. What phases do they need to pass through? This will bring order and focus to the results that both they and you wish to see accomplished.
  • Ask them abstract questions and then sit back and observe their answers. By asking higher-level abstract questions you can really get people to start thinking beyond what they do day-to-day. Example questions: How do you measure your own personal growth? What does growth look like to you? Name some areas that you want to get better in.

Lessons learned

  • Tailor a different approach to every junior engineer. Each developer is slightly different so practice ways to adjust and modify according to the needs of the individual.
  • You want the junior engineer to take as much initiative as possible, not you. You can help and guide them but they, ultimately, need to be intrinsically motivated for their own success and growth.
  • Get junior developers to break down the steps they need to take to grow by continually asking questions. Get to a point where they have responded to enough inquires that they themselves have built their own foundation of what success looks like, without you really having done too much.

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