Ask Them How They Want to Grow

“We’re working on development opportunities for our engineering team including some of the most senior folks on the engineering team. What are some interesting things we can provide to help them with personal development?”

I get versions of this question a lot and I have some default answers that I list below, but I would be very interested in what others do to make sure they have credible growth opportunities for their team:

  • Let’s start with: sending folks to conferences is a fine idea and relative low cost, but I find conferences are a short term growth bandaid and don’t give engineers longterm fire/recharge. However, speaking at a conference is whole other deal that I highly suggest especially for the folks who think they are not good public speakers.
  • Vacation is never the answer to this particular question. Vacation is lovely mental opportunity to mentally wander and I’m a huge proponent of mentally wandering, but time off as a growth opportunity often translates to mental wandering that results in resignations.
  • Open sourcing an internal project is an easy short-term win, but the ongoing cost of maintaining said project needs to be factored into this program.
  • Work out an engineering exchange program with another company. Details here. I haven’t done this before, but it makes all sorts of sense.
  • Have an individual work on whatever the hell they want for 90 days. No constraints. Just their project. Extra credit for pairing them with other likeminded engineers. This is hard to pull off because there is always something urgent for these folks to do, but would you rather have them semi-absent for a quarter or absent forever?
  • Ask them what they want to do and how they want to grow. Like I’m doing right now.

What’s your power growth move for yourself or your team?