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June 7, 2014 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever ran an incubator team as part of a larger engineering organization? Wild speculation invited!

I manage a software engineering team for a successful web-based service.

Thanks in part to your excellent answers to other questions, I'm now The Greatest Person At Hiring In the Universeā„¢. Other teams, and other departments, want to steal people from my team. They have a hard time finding their own people, where I've got a good record at finding very junior people with a lot of aptitude and training them up in a short time.

I'm totally okay with this; it makes sense to me, and it's probably the right thing for the company. I would like your collective wisdom on his how to build my team to facilitate this.

My requirements: At any given time, I need enough people, with enough experience, to keep up with our normal workload of projects and whatnot. And if we're going to be an incubator team, I'd also need enough people with enough experience to mentor entry-level people while we keep up with our normal work.

My gut feeling is that I want a core team of senior, experienced people who enjoy the kinds of work we do day-to-day who are also interested in mentoring others.

Another model I can think of would be to just have a regular rotation, regardless of experience, making senior people available to other teams. In this model, the rotations would likely be slower, because I'll need the entry-level people to stay on my team even after they're sufficiently trained up.

There are probably many other ways to do this. And maybe you have experience that suggests this is a terrible idea.

I'd be curious to hear any anecdotes, observations, and even wild speculation extrapolated from experience in other areas.

Thanks!
posted by colin_l to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
How about: Train other areas on how to identify, recruit, and grow talent within their own orgs? I think this would actually be the best thing for the long-term health of the company (not to mention your career!)

However, if that can't or won't happen, I think crafting a core team of senior folks who like mentoring and the day to day work is a good idea. Here are the ways I think this model, however you implement it, might fail:
1) Your team never really gels well due to people constantly coming on and coming off
2) Those young folks you take in and train up end up being dissatisfied when they leave your org and leave more quickly than if they had been trained in another team
3) too many members of your senior core leave and you find yourself with only half-trained junior folks (this is always a possibility although it sounds unlikely for you)

I would not recommend offering your core team up as resources for lend into other parts of the org. I've never seen this work well, even when people think that they might want this, it is often something where 3-6 months later they feel like they have no career path, no permanence, and they end up leaving for some place offering that.

So, teach others what you know, and if that doesn't work, guard your core with your life but push the fledglings out of the nest.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:54 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I have a team a lot like this, and I was mostly going to echo what ch1x0r said. You need to try to keep a few senior people who like the team and can help you to set the culture and act as institutional memory. You have to keep an eye on these people - some people really do want to find a niche and stick at it, but a lot of people do eventually want move on, and it's healthy if you can have some slow rotation of people in that role.

For the younger end, you have to think about the input and output pipelines - how quickly can you get new people in compared to how quickly you lose them to other teams, to external losses, and to just "stopping being a junior person" - you need to keep a few to keep some balance in the team and to give you a pool of "middle rank" people some of whom become your new seniors if any of them move on.

But yeah, protect the "core" team or you won't have any ability to maintain consistency and a good team spirit.
posted by crocomancer at 11:33 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


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