Associate Engineering Manager program - a leadership growth path

Associate Engineering Manager program - a leadership growth path

As mentioned in our post on the Engineering Career Development Matrix, once an Engineer reaches the Senior level in our organization structure, they can either decide to continue pursuing the individual contributor path or branch off into a people management track. The first stop on the people management track is that of Associate Engineering Manager (AEM). 

We have several Associate programs at GetYourGuide (check out Raoni’s post on being an Associate Team Leader in our Customer Service department), and the aim of the AEM program is to support engineers who are interested in trying a move from the individual contributor to people management track by giving them the chance to perform in an interim role before officially making the jump. This interim role will last up to two review cycles (each cycle is 6 months) at which point the Engineering Director and the AEM will decide together if the Engineering Manager role is the right fit. 

Since this is a key development path for our Engineers, we wanted to provide a little bit more background into the program, the responsibilities of an AEM, and how one moves from Associate to full-time Engineering Manager. 

How to become an Associate Engineering Manager 

In order to participate in the AEM program, the Engineer must first establish a performance development plan with their manager, articulating their wish and motivation to grow into a people manager. Engineers who are performing according to their development plan or exceeding expectations qualify for the program.

Career development and personal growth were frequent topics in my 1:1s with my manager, and becoming an Engineering Manager was the path I expressed interest in. When the AEM program was published, my manager talked to me about it and offered me his support on the application. From the first moment, I was excited to give it a try.
— Alexandru Ionita, Engineering Manager - Marketing Tech

To move into an AEM role, interested Engineers go through a simplified recruiting process. Since the number of roles is limited, to be as fair as possible, we have two interviews designed to assess the best candidate for each role. These interviews are focused on the 5 foundational components to our Engineering Manager framework (check out our Engineering Manager series to learn more): 

This interview is a chance for the Engineer to learn more about the expectations of an Associate Engineering Manager and express why they specifically fit the role at this time. 

Supporting our Associate Engineering Managers 

To support AEMs throughout the program, we provide various resources:

Close cooperation with the direct manager, a mentor, and the People Partner

Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the program, each AEM is given a mentor (outside of the AEM’s direct manager) to help coach them. The mentor's role is to guide the AEM through the challenges they have along the path, to listen, and to provide support. 

Transitioning from an individual contributor to a people management role is, above all, a transition from an almost exclusively intellectual job to a more emotional job. This can take a heavy toll on the AEMs themselves because any people-management challenges they face typically cannot be shared with anyone in the team. The mentor uses their own leadership experience in these cases, acting as a soundboard and sparring partner. In addition to the mentor, the AEM continues to work on their personal and professional development with their own manager and can reach out to the People Partner as needed. With the support of their mentor, manager, and People Partner, the AEM has the necessary resources to try new things and take risks in their new role. 

Leadership training 

Managers from all departments at GetYourGuide, including the AEMs, complete our leadership training program, “Art of Leadership”. This training assists the learning journey of our people leaders and high potentials on their mission to enhance their managerial competencies, build high performing teams, and impact the company by achieving outstanding results. This training equips the AEMs with the necessary skills to effectively lead their team.

Reading recommendations

Our Engineering Managers and Directors are a well-read bunch, staying up-to-date on the latest books making waves in the world of leadership and professional development. Not only are our AEMs provided with a recommended reading list put together by the Engineering Directors and Managers, if needed they are also provided with additional development budget to spend on books or courses they feel would benefit their development in the program. 

One of the most useful tools I had at my disposal during the first few days/weeks was the guide, “Expectations for an Engineering Manager”. I used this document very frequently to assess myself and the impact I had on the team. It also made it very simple to prepare a structured agenda for my 1:1s with my manager. Finally, I read The Manager’s Path, which I found very useful at the time.
— Alexandru Ionita, Engineering Manager - Marketing Tech

Expectations for our Associate Engineering Managers 

The expectations of our AEMs mirror the expectations set for our Engineering Managers. Their success is dependent on the success of their teams and their performance is evaluated based on the 5 components of a successful Engineering Manager: team health, stakeholder happiness, productivity, business impact, and systems health.

During the AEM program, the AEM is expected to continuously rise to the challenges presented, passionately pursue personal and professional growth, effectively lead the engineers on their teams, and accomplish the duties required of a manager such as holding weekly 1on1s and completing performance reviews. The AEM will learn — a lot and fast.   

Completing the program 

There are a few aspects taken into consideration to determine whether or not the AEM should continue in the program. First and foremost, is the AEM actually enjoying the new role? New managers are often overwhelmed, and we encourage all of our participants to give it a year before they decide to leave the program. Second, is the AEM progressing and growing into the role? This is determined by the AEM’s manager. If sufficient progress has not been made, the program should not continue. 

We ask the AEM to go into the program with everything they have and commit to giving the role a really good try.
— Rodrigo Neves, Senior Engineering Manager and AEM Program Co-creator

The Engineering Managers and Directors continuously take the pulse of the program participants to ensure they are satisfied and making progress in their role. If it is clear at any point that the role is not a fit, the program is discontinued. In these cases, the Engineer is expected to continue in their original role or move to a similar role on a different team.

The AEM program has a graceful exit mechanism that allows the company and individual to return to a previous state if things aren’t going well.
— Jared Niederhauser, Associate Engineering Manager

If the AEM is performing well and still interested in the role, but there are significant gaps in the performance, the AEM and their manager will create a detailed development plan with the goal of covering any gaps before the next performance cycle.   

In the ideal scenario, the AEM performs well, is highly engaged in their role, and deemed ready for the full responsibility of an Engineering Manager. In this case, the candidate will be officially moved to the new role.  

It was a rewarding experience to graduate from the Associate Engineering Manager program. I was very proud to have my performance and achievements were recognized. It confirmed that I was doing a good job and was a real milestone for me. The program created anticipation and gave me something concrete to look forward to and work towards.
— Daniel Huguenin, Engineering Manager - Fintech

Promoting Growth 

The Associate Engineering Manager program has allowed for many of our Engineers to pursue and achieve their career development goals in an environment set up for their ultimate success. Through the program, they have the chance to fulfill their goals of people management knowing they can return to their previous role if it doesn’t quite fit. Whether an Engineer returns to the individual contributor pathway or continues on in people management, they will make an impact. 

Interested in finding your next growth opportunity in leadership on our Engineering team? Check out our open positions.

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Our career path for Engineers

Our career path for Engineers