Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
— Benjamin Franklin
We’ve analyzed several cross-sections of an Engineer in trying to better understand how we can better understand them. There is one final aspect missing – we’ve looked at their past (experience and skills), their present (environment and performance) and now we need to look at their future, which I define by one term: Growth.
The Growth Layer
One of the most important aspects of managing Engineers is effectively working with them on where they are headed. Some might call this Career Planning and there is definitely an aspect of that, but the phrase itself is sometimes intimidating for the Engineer and their manager and seems to connote a very long-term plan. I prefer to talk about a more general topic of growth, which is short and long-term focused; to me, it breaks down like this:
The various segments of this layer are as follows:
- Interests – it’s important that a manager understand each Engineer’s interests. These interests might be in specific technologies, certain processes, a “next job” or a particular business domain. You should make sure you have these documented because unless you only have two direct reports, you’ll forget quickly (we’ll see how to document these in the next blog series).
- Expectations – whether you are aware of them or not, most Engineers have expectations. Like interests, these are varied and, like interests, you should endeavor to discover and document them. These expectations can range from an anticipated promotion, bonus, raise, or next opportunity. Some of these expectations get elevated to promises once the manager implicitly or explicitly suggests that something will be done. These are really important to track (and meet in a reasonable timeframe).
- Readiness – sometimes the Engineer’s interests and expectations are not in synch with their readiness for same. For example, a Senior Engineer has an interest in Architecture and an expectation that an Architect job title should be his within the next 6 months, but in the manager’s opinion, the Engineer is not ready. This collision of these three items (Interests, Expectations and Readiness) are the foundation of a Career Plan (if the Engineer wants to get that fancy). At a minimum, they provide guidance about things like which training the Engineer needs or which “next roles” are the right ones.
This completes our high-level coverage of the Growth Layer, as well as the entire stack of layers that comprise an Engineer. This is also the end of the first series on managing Engineers, which has been mostly theoretical. The next series will focus on how to turn this theory into action. The next series (Managing Engineers – Part II) will include templates to follow for activities including keeping a careful record of each of these aspects of the Growth Layer for each employee. For now, please add your comments below :).
This post is based on or excerpted from the upcoming book “De-Engineering the Corporation” by Darryl Ricker
Shockingly, there are none. I will probably fix that in my next round of editing, as it seems morally wrong in some way that I can’t put a finger on.