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Training Engineering Managers

In Brief

Who: A Social Calendaring Company

What: Management Training and Onboarding

Where: San Francisco, CA

A Social Calendaring Company gains a talent advantage using human-centered instruction

A stealth Social Calendaring Company (hence referred to as SoCAL) in San Francisco, CA is changing the way we think of calendar invitations and social connections. In 2017, the company grew from 15 to 24 engineers, with expectations to add another ten engineers over the course of 2018. This period of rapid growth resulted in the CTO moving two engineers on the team into management positions with the intent to hire a third manager externally. Acknowledging that his new management team hadn't received any formal training, the CTO wanted a training that resembled the custom training enjoyed by large companies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Looking for a custom L&D solution, SoCAL partnered with Lead SV, the creators of human-centered instruction.


Taking an approach inspired by Google's Project Oxygen, I sat down with every engineering manager, technical leader, and individual contributor. The goal of these interviews was to understand what these individuals expected of their managers, what they believed the role of their manager was, and uncover any stories or experience that would yield higher relevancy training. During the process, we discovered that the CTO was still "managing by proxy." Both managers and technical leads at SoCAL were seeking the constant guidance of the CTO for fear of making mistakes. This learning informed our long term instructional strategy; self-sufficiency was required for engineering leadership to thrive.


An early prototype of a two day immersive training was scrapped based on the discoveries from Exploration. Instead, it was agreed upon that a cohort bootcamp would help managers and technical leaders rely on one another instead of the CTO. However, with a small engineering team, the cohort would not be large enough to create the needed support. Inspiration for how to bridge this challenge came from SoCAL's HR lead who suggested having themselves along with the head of sales (a seasoned manager) join in the cohort. With six individuals, what SoCAL fondly called "the fellowship" was born.

The final program developed at SoCAL included the following highlights:

  • One to three non-Engineering resources who would provide insights and mentorship. In exchange, these individuals would gain the opportunity to build strong relationships with new engineering leadership.
  • Three cohort sessions that consisted of topical discussion of management strategy for engineers, activities, and commitments from leaders that they would take back to their team.


With the goal of SoCAL's HR being able to run the training without the support of Lead SV, focus was on building the materials, activities, and guides for an external facilitator. To help ease the transition into this human-centered instructional model, I was responsible for running the first session, with SoCAL's HR partner running the second and third of the sessions. Evaluation began before the first cohort via employee surveys, and after every in-person training session with data collected via Google Forms.

I believe my manager understands my career goals rose by 32%.

I am motivated every day to do my best work rose by 8%.

I see myself at SoCal for the next two years rose by 22%.

I can't imagine trying to build this training out with our limited resources. I wish you did this for more than just engineering. Do you mind keeping our name private? I don't want our competitors knowing you were our secret weapon!
-- CTO of A Social Calendaring Company

SoCal made their onboarding program part of their pitch to new engineers. With an emphasis on training and development, they had no problem attracting a senior engineering manager for that third leadership role.