Chapter 7. Career Development for Startup Engineers

Josh Tyler

In the early days of a startup, not too many people are concerned with “career development.” They’re too busy trying to keep the lights on and hit the next milestone, which can have life-or-death consequences for the company.

But after people have been with the company for a year or two and things have stabilized to the point that they can think more long term about their career, they will. They want to continue growing and are looking for a path. (Side note: hopefully you hired people who want to grow.) If they don’t see that path within your team, they will look outside.

Here are some ways to provide career development:

  • Share the opportunity to work on larger projects

  • Create more specialization

  • Hire experienced mentors

  • Invest in training and classes

If your company is growing, so are the size and scope of your projects. Share the opportunity to lead these projects, especially with your top performers. You don’t need to do it all. In fact, you shouldn’t. Is there an upcoming effort to add language support and internationalize the product? Perfect, ask a promising senior engineer if they can lead it. As Laszlo Bock, author of Work Rules! and former senior vice president of people operations at Google says, “You want to give people a little more freedom than you’re comfortable with.”

Early stage startups ...

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