One of the first things that you have to develop as a new manager is a philosophy around assembling your team. One could even suggest that your ability to bring together a great team is the entire job of management. A great team can move mountains, a great team begets further greatness; it’s a perpetual motion machine if you get it right.
Hiring Senior Engineers
The first time I was tasked with expanding a team I spent a lot of time interviewing senior-level candidates and I learned a few things:
- The really excellent Senior Engineers rarely fall into your lap, you have to work at it, have a network, and be willing to circle back with people sometimes for years until the timing can work out.
- Attitude is everything. A Senior Engineer who already knows everything and is considering blessing you with his/her employment is probably not actually a Senior Engineer. The great ones have a growth mindset and are always looking for a new challenge.
- Do you actually have a challenging problem to solve? Sometimes the work is a grind and a grind is more suited to junior/mid-level engineers who can cut their teeth on something and still get some personal growth out of it.
So hire based on the problems you expect to solve over the next 6-12 months. Justify your hiring plan against the expected work, at least quarterly. This will help optimize the work for potentially more junior and mid-level hires. Turns out, after attempting to only hire Senior Engineers I realized that there just aren’t that many Senior Engineers out there in this hyper-competitive landscape that also match my own team and culture expectations.
The biggest thing I’ve learned and incorporated as part of my “secret-sauce” to hiring is to structure interviews around hiring for growth trajectory. Finding the right Junior or Mid-level Engineer with aspirations, work ethic and ambition has consistently blown me away. It is our job after all, to not only hire people that can help us but to take a chance on those early in their career who just need someone to give them a shot. Especially when considering diversity and inclusive goals, there are many more opportunities with people at a slightly earlier stage in their career that are willing to put in the work.
Hiring Junior/Mid-level Engineers
Finding the right person is still very hard, attempting to measure someone with a high growth trajectory in a short interview means that you will get it wrong a few times. Also, expect 10x the resumes to sift through.
A few things to look for:
- I like to find people who maybe had a different, previous career, maybe they ran their own business or had a startup briefly. While these people may be junior in skill level, they bring a mature perspective to the job and know what it takes to get something done.
- In general, people who have had to push through some hard extenuating circumstance are on high growth trajectories, maybe they worked their way through college or contribute to open source in some fashion.
- People who have a real appreciation for the opportunity and bring some humility to the table are diamonds in the rough because they know how ultimately spoiled we are in tech and know what it’s like to work outside of our industry.
My hope, as a manager, is that people remember me as a supportive foothold as they climb on to bigger and better things. I still wake up feeling grateful for those that took a chance on me all those years ago when I took a pay cut to go from Retail Management to Entry-level Software Developer. The best job in the world is to send the ladder back on down and then help equip and coach others to achieve their goals. Chances are, if I’m doing a great job at this, then the people working together on the team just might make a dent in the universe.