Chapter 6. Career Conversations as an Engineering Manager

Raquel Vélez

Whether your direct report is ambitious, oblivious, or anywhere in between, your job is to help them navigate their careers. It’s irrelevant where they are in their careers (e.g., early, middle, or advanced), it’s in everyone’s best interest to grow in a continuously challenging environment.

That said, it’s not your job to create or fully outline their career paths; note that you are a guide, not a mapmaker. Your goal is to develop a trusting relationship with your reports, understanding what they want for themselves and giving them the opportunities they need to succeed.

For your first career conversation with a given report, it’s essential that you two get on the same page as quickly as possible. Even if you’ve been working together for years, it’s possible that you don’t know them and their motivations as well as you think you do. The sooner you identify the gaps, the sooner you can work on closing them.

The following is my framework for having productive career conversations:

First, mention in a one-on-one that you’d like to talk about their careers. Give them the following homework:

  • If your organization has a career path, ask them to review it and identify where they think they are on the path. If your organization does not have a career path, ask them to consider what level they think they are at and ...

Get 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.