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.
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):
A stakeholder interview with a Peer Engineering Manager and Product Manager, 45min
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.