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In-House Mentorship Program: Creating Learning Opportunities for Engineers

Coaching / Training / Mentorship

27 February, 2021

Marin Dimitrov, Senior Engineering Manager at Uber, describes his efforts to build an in-house mentorship program that would bring together top tech leaders and engineers from small offices and provide them with unique learning opportunities.

Problem

My office is the smallest from our 15 offices worldwide and top tech leaders are based at our largest offices. While we have the internal mentorship program between senior and junior engineers on the team, we lack the opportunity to connect with the top tech experts across the company. Connecting with them would allow us to have role models and mentors who would inspire and support more junior engineers.
 

Furthermore, small offices in most cases focus on building products for one area and engineers there would often like to develop skills that are not applicable to their day-to-day job. As a manager, I wanted to provide my engineers with new challenges and growth opportunities and help them build new skills.
 

Actions taken

I realized that these two challenges may have one common solution -- an open-source based, in-house mentorship program run company-wide. We are a large company with 5000 engineers and a lot of technologies we are developing are open source, published on GitHub, and shared within the developer community. Many top-level engineers at Uber were involved in developing these open-source projects.
 

If we build relationships and present these open source projects to our engineers they will be provided with a unique growth opportunity and possibility to learn about new technologies. By taking part in these projects they will meet and have access to our top technical experts who are leading these projects.
 

I started building our relationship with our team leadership and invited them to make presentations about their projects. I did my best to sell it to my teammates and encouraged them to join some projects and have an opportunity to work with our most esteemed engineers.
 

We use this cooperation to establish lasting mentorship relationships and have built and nurtured more than a dozen of these relationships. Also some of our engineers became excited about working on these projects and joined several open-source initiatives expanding their knowledge and skills beyond their day-to-day work.  

Lessons learned

  • For large companies, building relationships across different offices is immensely important. Otherwise you are self-limiting yourself and not using the existing potential to improve and grow.
  • Oftentimes people are unable to find learning opportunities within the scope of their day-to-day job. Their managers should look beyond local experience to find and provide these opportunities to their engineers.
  • I was inspired by a mutual excitement I witnessed -- people on my team were happy to learn from the most accomplished mentors while mentors were happy to share their knowledge and support their less experienced colleagues. No matter how much effort is needed to build these relationships, be assured they would pay off and bring enormous benefits to individual engineers and the company as whole.

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