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How can you evaluate the skills landscape in your team and fill any gaps?
Technical skills gaps in engineering teams are inevitable. With so much to learn in a constantly changing environment, it’s only natural that engineers end up with different strengths and weaknesses.
But keeping on top of knowledge gaps is an essential part of your role as an engineering leader. How can you diagnose your team’s competencies as a group and as individuals? And what steps can you take to fill the gaps?
How are engineering leaders in other companies addressing technical skills gaps? In this roundtable discussion, we brought together a small group to share their experiences of managing technical knowledge gaps in their teams.
Featuring Tal Joffe (Web Applications Group Leader at Nielsen), Tanaka Mutakwa (VP of Engineering at Names & Faces), Lindsey Bleimes (VP of Engineering at Nubank), Hywel Carver (Founder and CEO at Skiller Whale), and Jean Hsu (VP of Engineering at Range), the panel explored:
- How to identify engineers’ skills gaps
- Non-traditional, time-effective ways of filling gaps
- How to set your team up for the next stage of growth in your business
- How to support engineers' future career prospects
When Hywel Carver asked a group of engineers to do a free word association with the word ‘training’, they responded with surprisingly negative terms like ‘remedial’ and ‘junior’. In this article, Hywel explains why the idea that training is offensive to senior folks is holding teams back, and why this perception of learning exists in the industry.
Positive change has to come from the top. Hywel shares how you can promote a continuous culture of learning in your company, from making learning a key part of your strategy and modeling continual learning in the leadership team to no longer celebrating self-teaching.
Once you’ve identified a knowledge gap, how can you fill it? In this second article by Hywel Carver, he introduces his model for teaching engineers, from identifying your learning outcome (knowledge, skills, or wisdom) to picking the right methodology (e.g. videos and books, on-the-job experience, or simulated contextual learning).
Hywel goes on to share his top tips for running effective training initiatives: personalize the experience to your learners; focus on the exact skills your group needs; cut teaching down to bite-size chunks; challenge folks while providing support; and spread sessions out.
If you lead a mobile app team, it’s likely that your engineers will be experts in either Android or iOS. But building skills across both platforms will benefit both the engineers (who will gain a new community and improved job prospects) and the company (which will gain a more well-rounded, flexible, and collaborative team).
In this article, Sam Hill outlines what you can do to promote multiplatform skill growth and knowledge sharing in your team: provide opportunities; create the right culture and set expectations; and leverage multiplatform tools, such as Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile.
As your engineers grow in seniority, it becomes much harder to spot the gaps in their knowledge, or fill those gaps with a simple online course or book. But investing in their growth is essential if you want to retain talent and build better software.
In this article, Kristen Spencer shares the three things senior engineers need from managers to help them learn: opportunities to learn by doing, support through continuous feedback, and time and space to process what they’ve learned. Investing in these three areas will pay off.
A final takeaway
An engineering career is one of continuous learning, and technical skills gaps will always exist. As engineering leaders, you have the tricky but rewarding job of identifying these areas and guiding engineers through the right learning opportunities.
By running personalized training initiatives; providing opportunities based on the desired learning outcome; and giving engineers that all-important time and space to process, you can make learning a key part of your company culture so that you’re equipped to tackle skills gaps for the long term. And don’t forget to make learning a habit yourself; as Hywel Carver explained, when leaders show that learning isn’t about remediation, the rest will follow.