Back to resources

Helping Your Reports Choose The Right Career Path

Personal Growth
Career Path

31 March, 2021

Arjita Ghosh
Arjita Ghosh

Senior Director of Engineering at Quizlet

Arjita Ghosh, Director of Engineering at Quizlet, describes how she helps her senior engineers choose the right career path.

Problem

I started my career as a software engineer and then climbed up the ladder to become a senior engineer, architect, and system architect. At that point, I found myself at the crossroads where I had to ask myself, “What’s next?” I was torn by the dilemma: should I go into management or follow a more technical path.

My own experience is common for many senior engineers fluctuating between becoming an engineering manager and a technical architect. Having experienced that, I am determined to help my reports choosing the right career path.

Actions taken

Currently, I am responsible for one of my managers and a senior IC who I am trying to guide through the process and help them make the best career decision. The process consists of two main activities:

Understanding the difference between an EM and a technical leader

One of the mistakes most engineers make is to assume that becoming an EM is the next obvious step to get promoted. Though an EM needs to have strong technical execution, they also need to be strong in people management. Most senior engineers seldom understand that they would have to spend 50 to 60 percent of their time in people management, become more hands-off and let go of technical execution. Their expectations and reality often diverge, and in most cases, they are unaware of this discrepancy. The only way for them to fully comprehend their new role would entail experiencing it firsthand.

Practical tryout

As a manager, I would create opportunities for my reports to try being an assistant EM or EM in action and experience it firsthand. For six months, they would have an opportunity to try out the new role and see for themselves what it would be like to be an EM. After six months, they are free to decide whether they would like to continue that path or instead go back to their past role and later follow a more technical career.

Lessons learned

  • Until someone becomes a fully-fledged manager, they shouldn’t be assigned a team; instead, they should have a summer intern reporting to them. That should always be a time-bound responsibility spanning over a few months.
  • What struck me as a surprise was that many engineers would decide to go back to their previous job after trying out a manager role. Many would realize that they too much like the technical aspect of their engineering job and would rather follow a technical path. During the probation period of six months, they would be able to acquire sufficient understanding and choose the right career path.
  • Your efforts, often formalized as an in-house program, should be known about across the organization. Different functions, such as Design or Product, should be cross-functionally helping an EM in action to gain knowledge outside of their domain. EMs in action should resemble student drivers that are labeled to mark their specific status. When I started the program, I was mainly focused on Engineering without paying much attention to communicating what I was doing to other departments. Therefore, they didn’t know about the program or how they could support our EMs in action.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

A Day in the Life of a Product Lead in FinTech – A Series

31 January

Discover the daily struggles, challenges, and moments of delight encountered when delivering banking products around the world. I will share my story candidly and honestly, without filter as much as I am allowed, and offer insights into my approach while providing retrospectives of the results.

Strategy
Embracing Failures
Cultural Differences
Career Path
Loussaief Fayssal

Loussaief Fayssal

Director of CX at FLF PRODUCT DESIGN

Ten quotes from Adam Grant relevant while dealing with layoff

27 January

Layoffs are tough. Dealing with situation we go through different emotions. First is disbelief, followed by anger, leading to frustration and finally accepting the news. Following quotes seemed relevant to review and again a perspective as we pass through hard times

Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

I was passed for Promotion. What now ?

26 January

Passing for promotion happens to everyone in their career lifespan. If someone does not had to go through the situation, consider them they are unique and blessed. Managing disappointment and handling situations in professional setting when things don’t pan out, is an important life skill.

Changing A Company
Handling Promotion
Feelings Aside
Feedback
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Fairness
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

15 Tips to improve profile discovery on LI

20 January

Recently, I have read the book ‘Linked’ from Omar Garriott and Jeremy Schifeling on audible. The audio book is 7 hours long. If you dont’ have time or need a brief summary, read on

Hiring
Changing Company
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

The art of Happiness

20 January

Happiness is a choice. Our upbringing and the surroundings have made it conditional. The first step is to get over the hump is self-awareness. Self-awareness is a journey by itself. The ability to identify what we can control, and we can’t is important.

Personal Growth
Career Path
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan