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Tag: management

The Skills Map of Senior Tech Career Progression

Peter Drucker—the founder of modern management—said in his 1999 article “Managing Oneself” that knowledge workers should plan their second career well ahead of time.

That’s admirable advice.

Except that for the rest of us, planning our first career is already a major life struggle. 

And I can talk at length from my own experience. A little more than ten years ago, back when I was still a naive junior engineer, career progression was a very nebulous concept.

Now that I’m at a point where I’m managing other tech managers, I’ve gained enough perspective on the topic that I can share valuable insights that my younger self would have loved to hear and learn.

In a previous article, I covered why soft skills matter and how they can make your career stagnate if you don’t address them. I also shared what the next job roles are from the senior developer role.

I wanted to create a simple representation to enable anyone with a career in tech to grasp how career progression looks like and what it requires.

In the rest of this article, I’m presenting a skills map of career progression, starting all the way from the senior developer role. This map covers both the individual contributor and managerial career paths.

Remote Work Stole Our Foundation

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal remote work setup lately, and also about the organizational setup that my tech teams are using to work together.

When most of us still worked in collocated office spaces, there were many organizational features that we didn’t even realize were there and that we took for granted.

And it doesn’t matter that the pandemic started more than a year ago. It’s never too late to reflect on what can still be improved, and apply changes for the better.

I distilled it down to the following features.

Becoming a Manager of Managers

After I shared my article about the next career moves as a senior developer, someone asked me the following question over the weekend:

“I’m a senior engineer who recently switched to leading a team of engineers. How do I grow in the managerial career path and become a manager of managers?”

It’s a great question, and not a trivial one. Becoming an engineering manager is often straightforward, but the next step, becoming a manager of managers, ends up being a career blocker for many.

If you’ve been wondering the same thing, then the first step is to look at your current workplace by addressing the following questions:

  1. Did you see any colleagues becoming a manager of managers via an internal process over the past year?
  2. What type of projects did these colleagues work on, with who, and in which department? Can this be reproduced?
  3. Is your department or a nearby department growing, and will a position of manager of managers open soon?
  4. Do you see yourself staying at your current company for the coming two to three years?

If you could answer YES to all of the above, it means there is a chance you could grow internally. From there, you have to start planning to position yourself so you get the job when it opens.

If you answered NO to any of the above, then you’re in the wrong company, and it’s time to plan a move. Selecting the right next job and company, so it’s aligned with your career aspirations, is going to be a crucial step.

In this article, I’ll be diving into both cases by providing a guide on how you can plan this career move, and if you’re lucky enough to get a shot at it, how to handle your transition into your new role.

In addition, as I’ve run dozens of leadership interviews and selection processes, and as a manager of managers myself, I’ll be sharing insider information on how managers will evaluate you and will decide whether you get the job or not.

Managing People: Avoid The Reputation Trap

As an engineering manager, I’ve been thinking how much sharing my opinion of someone’s performance and skills can influence others around me to think the same.

For example during the weekly meetings I have with my peers at work, if I praise or complain about a person in my area having some behavior, I will shift the perception my peers have of that person.

When you have to manage people, staying objective when assessing a person’s performance is always a challenge, no matter the experience or seniority. There are several traps to avoid, one of them is to rely on reputations too much because although reputations offer convenient mental shortcuts, they also bring their load of subjectivity.

So how exactly are reputations formed, how to verify if someone’s reputation is fair, and how to help bring someone’s reputation closer to what it is in reality?

Autonomous Peer Learning at Booking.com and How You Can Do it in Your Organization

This article was originally published for Booking.com’s Technology blog on November 23rd, 2016.

Continuous learning on the job is hard. We all see things we want to improve, but maybe we’re missing a few skills to really make an impact. With most days filled with emails and meetings, there’s often not much time left for learning, no matter how much we want to develop our skills.

Although many organizations try to remedy this issue by employing external companies to handle training, they rarely follow-up to ensure such trainings are actually value for money. Not only that, employees are often left to figure out how their new skills can be applied to daily work, and sometimes they are even left wondering if the training taught them anything useful at all.

I work at Booking.com as an engineering manager, and in my job I wanted to learn about a topic for which there was no formal training. I ended up creating a study group that became the blueprint for autonomous peer learning in our Technology department. It’s an initiative that has been scaled to 50 Peer-to-Peer (or P2P) learning groups over the last 18 months.

The premise of P2P groups is that participants take the time to think about what they want to learn and why. This means their learning is tailored from the very beginning, ensuring that it is both relevant to their work and beneficial to their organization.