As an Engineering Manager I take the personal and professional growth of my direct reports very seriously. It is one of my core duties to make sure that, in my capacity, I have enabled them to learn continuously and advance their professional and soft skills. In this blog post I will share with you my formula how I support the professional growth of the team.
Understand who wants what
Every person is unique. Just admitting that defines the level of attention required to individualize the learning and growth experience. What exactly do I mean by that? Let us suppose you have a team member who is very much into data solutions. But, in their daily job, you constantly assign them frontend tasks. Maybe they will do the job, but I’m sure they will not operate at their optimal level if they don’t like frontend development.
With every one of my team members I do regular monthly (sometimes more often) 1:1 meetings. These meetings usually are for me to listen and them to talk. They are for me to understand what excites them, what bothers them, what makes them tick. I take notes and with every meeting I review my notes to check for deviations or changes. I also use these meetings to understand what interests them to understand them better personally and their professional interests.
Understanding the industry and market trends
I think it is of utmost importance for an Engineering Manager to be well acquainted with the trends in the industry and the market. In our vibrant industry, it is at the same time very difficult for us to be able to catch everything what is happening around us. Everyday we have a new framework coming up, a new cloud service, a new programming language update, and keeping up is a real challenge, so we do need to be able to filter critically the information that will be important for our future.
What has worked for me so far is to organise and classify information digestion. I use Twitter and LinkeIn to follow people behind the technologies of interest. I also follow the companies and communities behind the technologies that are in my and my teams area of interest.
This way I can keep myself up to date with what is in trend, what is being pushed and developed from big companies, therefore worth to invest time in.
Finding synergies with our company projects
Of course just knowing what are the trends and what the team members want to learn does not lead us anywhere. We have to match these two to create growth. So, how can we make these two ends meet?
We are lucky that the part of business we work in is very vibrant. We have more projects and backlog that we can manage to complete. In this backlog I constantly look to find opportunities where we can solve our business problems with innovative cutting edge solutions. I try to create opportunities where our important business goals are achieved by team mates implementing solutions with the latest technologies they enjoy. This way, a growth opportunity for the developers is created as well as our company benefits from innovative and up to date technical solutions. Win-win situation 🙂
Enabling the team to jump on these opportunities
Of course, when adopting a new technology, being a new version of a language, of a framework, or a new tool, this would mean that the team has to spend time learning it. Therefore, I as a manager have to critically evaluate these opportunities to see if this makes sense. If that new thing we want to adopt help us move faster, safer or further in our work. It should make sense from the business perspective and it should make sense from the professional growth perspective as well. When these two ends meet, I seize these opportunities.
As managers we should help our colleagues to be very attractive for the market, but also should create an environment that the employees would not like to leave.
As employees, we always have to think from the perspective that we are hired to solve the business problems and bring value to the company. But also we have to keep in mind that without continuous learning and improvement our value bringing capabilities diminish by time.
As the famous quote goes:
CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?” CEO: “ What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”