We've just launched plato for individuals

🔥

login


Google Sign inLinkedIn Sign in

Don't have an account? 

Outlining Trajectories of Growth for Senior Engineers

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path
Retention
Company Culture

13 December, 2018

Sebastian Perez Saaibi shares strategies for helping senior engineers grow and feel successful in your organization.

Problem

I had a senior engineer that started to become unmotivated and unhappy in his job. I began looking deeper to understand the source of his distress and I came to learn that he felt like he was hitting the perceived ceiling of growth in our company. He was a valuable asset to us, thus, I needed to strategize ways in which he could continue growing with our organization so that he did not feel bored nor like he reached the peak of growth within our company.

Actions taken

First, have a well-defined career ladder. If an individual contributor is making progress and would like to grow, have outlined track options that they may take in order to move up on that ladder.

Next, understand whether the senior engineer would like to stay on the engineering track or if they would like to move to the people management track. This is a simple initial question to ask, yet it might be difficult to answer. Help and guide your engineer to make this decision so that they may find their correct path.

    	Technical/Engineering Track- Determine whether the senior engineer has someone internally that they can learn from, or are they the source of technical knowledge.
  • Set up the engineer with a mentor. Find someone from either inside or outside of the company that has technical expertise in their field. There is always somebody out there that is better and knows more. Find that person so that your engineer can learn from them.
  • Assign an expertise acquiring project.
  • Get your engineer building. Have them work on an open source project, or better still, and open or closed source project within the company.
  • Have the engineer solve a problem end-to-end. Give them a problem in your current company, have them propose a solution with documentation, and get them to rally and convince others to spend the resources to fix that problem. It is a new skill for them to learn. They move through a business problem, the whole process from start to finish, articulate it as an engineering problem, and then deliver it back. It is an interesting opportunity that once completed is seen as growth experience.
  • Have them share their subject matter expertise. What have they learned from their years of experience?
  • Get them writing. It could be short blog posts- either personal or for the company, or lengthier writings for something in a longer format like a book chapter or contribution. Have them share and reflect on their thoughts and experiences.
  • Have them give a talk. Public speaking may not be the most comfortable thing, but it can be a rewarding experience. Sign your engineer up for a conference and get them to speak on their expertise.

    	Management Track- Decide whether the engineer would like to become a manager and if so, is there space to grow in people management within your company? This transition needs to come naturally and directly from the senior engineer. There is a large difference from being on the independent technical edge to managing people. The engineer needs to be sure that people management is the direction that they would like to take because if it is not, if it's just an experiment for them, it will likely fail.

Lessons learned

  • Remember what was extremely motivating to you as an individual contributor. Bring those experiences to the table and try to offer them to your senior engineers.
  • How do senior engineers thrive? By being challenged and taking on more technical responsibilities. Allow them to be the subject matter expert in the room and get them involved in the business aspect of the organization.
  • A senior engineer wishing to become a manager is not only an opportunity for the engineer to grow, but also a possibility to scale up your organization. Expand the scope of the team by promoting from within.
  • Show your senior engineers their value. There should be a correlation between the feeling of growth and that of accountability, deliverability, ownership, or (possibly) years of tenure in the company. Perhaps it is tied to compensation but more so it should be making sure that your engineer feels successful. If their value is not shown folks will likely get discouraged.

Related stories

Changing Responsibilities In an Organization Undergoing Change
14 September

Mason Mclead, CTO at Software.com, explains how a primary job of an engineering leader changes as a company grows and how he felt that merely managing people is not the role that fits his aspirations.

Career Path
Mason Mclead

Mason Mclead

CTO at Software.com

Merging a Web and Mobile Team: A Tale of Two Cultures
14 September

David La France, VP of Engineering at Kenna Security, explains how to merge two teams with different cultures, technology and operating modes.

Cross-functional collaboration
Company Culture
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Reorganization
David La France

David La France

VP Engineering at Synack

Drive Accountability and Ownership by Embracing Mistakes
14 September

David La France, VP of Engineering at Kenna Security, highlights the importance of acknowledging mistakes and building a company culture that embraces failures while still holding strong on accountability.

Company Culture
David La France

David La France

VP Engineering at Synack

Benefits of Organizational Transparency
28 August

Anoosh Mostowfipour, Founder at ReferralsLink, recounts his experience developing and implementing operational software that helped him achieve the much-desired transparency and improve coordination and collaboration across the company.

Company Culture
Leadership
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Meetings
Anoosh Mostowfipour

Anoosh Mostowfipour

Founder at ReferralsLink

How to Differentiate Yourself
28 August

Anoosh Mostowfipour, Founder at ReferralsLink, provides a unique insight into how to be successful by reinventing yourself and creating your own career path.

Career Path
Anoosh Mostowfipour

Anoosh Mostowfipour

Founder at ReferralsLink

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.