Enabling an Engineer to Meet His Goals
18 December, 2017
A number of years ago I worked for eBay, where I was working with a very young engineer. He had come in as a support engineer, rather than a developer but he was very talented and he had drive. We sat down together and he said that his ultimate career goal was to eventually become a CTO. He realized that he was a long way away from realizing his goal, but he wanted my help with working towards it.
I started by talking to him about his motivations and why he wanted to be a CTO. You need to make sure that the person's motivation is aligned. What I mean by this is that the reason you want a goal is ultimately what you will get when you succeed at that goal. The engineer wanted to be a technology leader and he wanted to make the business successful, which was a good reason, and one I could support. I try to make it very clear to everyone that I mentor that career development is their responsibility. I'm here to help them and support them but they should drive their career development. But your engineer needs to take their own initiative to achieve their goals. I talked to the engineer about the steps he would need to take to move towards his goal. We sat down together and set out short, medium and long-term plans. The short-term plan was focussed on goals that would take from six months to a year. It had more granularity and I used it to focus on technical skills. We set goals for where the engineer should be in the next six months to one year in terms of promotion and skills, and would then set up goals that the engineer needed to meet in order to be successful. I gave him guidance around how he could gain new technical skills and gain experience and helped to provide him with opportunities The medium-term plan focussed on goals that would take one to three years, and focussed on people-management skills. At that point, it was too far away to get into too much detail. However, I talked with him about the different aspects of people management, such as coaching, task assignment, and career development. Then, finally, the long-term plan, which focussed on goals that would take over three years focussed on his visions for technology. I talked with him about how to develop your vision for the technologies he was interested in. I'd have a check in meeting monthly where we would spend time talking about the short-term goals, the progress he had and hadn't made, and adjustments required. I made the short-term goals as tangible as possible so we could easily track progress. Then we would spend 5-10 minutes talking about the mid to long-term plans. Not as much time was spent here, as the goals were less concrete.
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