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Retaining

There was a really interesting YC blog post titled “Ask a Female Engineer: How Can Managers Help Retain Technical Women on Their Team?”, which asks a panel of female technical employees on reasons they left jobs or in some cases even change their career paths.

I believe it has some really important takeaways not just for managers of technical teams,
but all managers and all employees of whetever gender.

I’ve left companies after years of chaotically fighting fires while simultaneously
needing to build new features, or after repeatedly getting disorganized braindumps or
single line descriptions from stakeholders rather than the thoughtful, detailed specs
they’ve promised.

This is something I’ve had to deal with personally as well: underspecification, or the
people in charge not really knowing what they want. Rewriting code to fit their latest
whim or fancy is wasteful and makes you feel like your project is going nowhere. Also,
scope creep.

Making sure your team members have a comfortable relationship with someone in leadership
outside their reporting chain is important; having someone who they feel they can go to
with manager-related problems is key.

As the recent Susan Fowler/Uber debacle showed, though, upper leadership tends to
favour the manager’s side over the employee’s.

Especially as a woman, I worry about being labeled hyper-sensitive, or that my gender
will influence a person’s reaction to my feedback (e.g. the perception that women are
hysterical). If a company’s leadership feels too tightly knit – where all the managers
and founders are friends that aren’t open to critical feedback from employees – I won’t
even try to work out the issue before leaving.

See: the Uber thing above.

And finally, this gem:

That employee shouldn’t have to train their boss in order to make the relationship
productive.

On finding a new job:

I might see an email from a recruiter about a job that sounds exciting and that pays
well. I’ll start to consider leaving, and then someone I work with – usually my boss or
manager – does something that makes me angry. Angry enough to rewrite my resume, email a
recruiter back, brush up on interview questions and whiteboarding, and get off my butt
and go interview.

Or deciding to stay:

It’s important that my boss checks in with me even if I seem happy or like I’m doing
really well. I don’t want to be asked for feedback only when things aren’t going well.
When my boss respectfully listens to feedback and strives to incorporate at least some of
it, I’m much more likely to stay at a company.

On working at a startup:

At a startup it can be hard to decipher whether your company is doing well, especially
since progress isn’t always in a continuous, upward direction. As an employee, you’re not
always privy to important information that would help you figure it out, especially if the
company is struggling. I’ve often felt that trying to determine how well my company is
doing is a guessing game. So then I turn to assessing my personal growth because that’s in
theory more straight-forward. I ask myself questions like: How much have I learned? Do I
get feedback? Am I challenged? What else can I accomplish here? If I can get excited about
what’s next for me at a company, I will stay. If I can mix things up enough and learn new
things where I am without actually finding a new job, I will do that.

Anyway, the full blog post is really interesting and a must-read for both managers and employees. So do yourself a favour and go read!

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