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Plotting Out a Career Map for Your Employees

Handling Promotion
Company Culture
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path

21 July, 2021

Sameer Khanna
Sameer Khanna

SVP of Engineering at Pager

Sameer Khanna, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Pager, gives his team all of the tools that they need to find themselves within their organization.

Problem

When you’re in a start-up environment and you’re just beginning, you’re really not thinking about the career growth of the team. At this stage, it’s usually a flat structure. As you progress through series B and C, your team might grow from five to fifty. You really need to start thinking about how to scale your team effectively, as well as how to keep your team balanced.

This starts with first considering how you intend to layer new talent in over those first few hires made on your team. How will you consider their career growth? What is the best way to elevate and to guide them? Investing in their career paths should be something that you think about early as a leader. If you fail to do this, your talent may become blocked or stuck where they are.

As a manager, your company may look to you when trying to instate some of these tools and practices.

Actions taken

The first step is investing in your company’s career ladder. Think along the lines of how you plan on bringing in junior employees, because you really do need new talent on every level. Where will they begin within the company?

An effective career ladder tells an employee what they have to do in order to advance. How can I grow here? What are my goals? You need to set clear expectations for everybody involved. What are the roles that each team member can aspire to? Outline the key responsibilities and duties of each position. Then, you can carve a path that takes them from where they are to where they want to go. This thinking must be done by both the manager and the employee that wants to succeed. It has to be an exchange of information. It’s a two-way street. Once the career map is clear, people will latch on readily.

As you grow, you will likely also be complementing your team with talent that might be up and coming. This will give your senior-level employees an opportunity to mentor them, a vital opportunity to develop these coaching skills. This is especially true if any of these employees are interested in moving into a managerial position.

After introducing all of these new people into the ecosystem of your company, how do those above then transcend? You still need to provide the original members of your team with a technical path forward, as well as a managerial path, if applicable. You go from junior to senior, but what happens after that? What else is there? We have something called a gateway role that allows them to test the waters in all of the options before them, exposing them to the day-to-day of each position so that they can figure out what they’re most suited for.

At my own company, we continue this work to this day. It’s not done, it’ll never be done. The paths need to continuously evolve as structural needs for these higher-level roles emerge over time.

Lessons learned

  • Every person, at some point in their career, will have to ask themselves whether they would like to become a manager or to specialize technically. You want to train your managers to have those sorts of conversations with their reports early. What is the right path for you? Show them what that path looks like.
  • A company structured totally flat can sometimes cause imbalance in terms of the growth of your team. If everybody is on the same level, there is little opportunity for mentorship.
  • Part of instating a successful career map for your employees involves finding the right leadership to help guide them along the way. It’s one thing to have it on a piece of paper. It’s another thing to have somebody engaging with you and taking an interest in your future.
  • You have to show your employees that these higher goals are realistic and that these things have already been done within the organization. They have to see senior-level employees operating in these roles and they have to know how to work their way into a similar position themselves.

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