Leah Melvoin is a technical talent consultant specializing in the identification and resolution of issues that impair engineers and technology organizations. Working with companies of all sizes, she provides strategies that can be implemented quickly without major investment. Also available for individual professional skills development and career coaching.
JOB LEVEL DEFINITION
Poorly articulated company role guidance is a major root cause of serious engineering problems. The solution is "skills-based" job level guidance, for individual contributors and management. Guidelines containing objective statements that can be tested offer companies a foundational mechanism that supports fair hiring, compensation, performance, and promotions practices.
TECH TALENT PROGRAM DESIGN
To maintain a high bar, technical roles require an evaluation of skills to make sure they can meet expectations. When a company is small this is easy to manage, but at a certain stage of growth these processes can get bureaucratic, misaligned, and/or bottleneck at a certain level. The solution is to establish a lightweight technical assessment process that results in congruence between hire and promote.
Employees in technical roles have different concerns than their non-technical peers making the traditional engagement survey approach less effective. To take the right actions, leaders need to understand what engineers are dealing with. They need context - specific questions diving into how development projects are managed, source code quality, business prioritization vs. engineering backlog, DevOps impact, and other issues that make delivering new features a challenge. How questions are asked also matters. Engineers respond best to clear, actionable statements. Results need to be shared openly to build trust.
Engineering problems caused by a poor organization model can be easy to resolve. Determining what systems a team owns and how many engineers can be hired is only the first step. It's important to think through the ideal engineering team composition for the mission. Not all layers of management need to be technical. Knowing where to place a PM/TPM, Product Manager, and/or Sr. Engineer can enhance productivity. Deciding on the right QA and Support strategy is critical, as the wrong approach may unnecessarily slow down product launches and cause other problems..
PROFESSIONAL SKILLS AND CAREER COACHING
Having someone to think through career decisions can be incredibly helpful. Whether to follow the engineer or management track is one decision (there are so many other great paths in technology!) Knowing when to stay and when to move on from a team or company is important. Senior engineering levels require leadership skills, not just advanced coding and design. The role is fundamentally different. To be respected, it matters how one communicates, influences, and achieves consensus on decisions (to avoid building resentment). Those interested in the higher levels of management need to develop strategic, and in some cases visionary, thinking and the ability to "lead without line of sight".