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One on Ones for Engineers

Louie Bacaj
Louie Bacaj
2 min read

The One on One is the most important meeting of your career. Treat it as such.

Until recently, I managed multiple engineering teams, and I've managed and helped hire hundreds of Software Engineers throughout my career. Also, before moving into management, I came up the ladder as an Individual Contributor and Software Engineer.

I will also go as far as to say that you can skip all your other meetings and get ahead fine with just One on Ones.

Why is the One on One so important?

It's your one chance to tell your manager about everything you've done. To highlight your accomplishments, tie your work to the business value in their heads.

Maybe your think that a good manager should just know what you've done. And perhaps they do but try to understand that your manager manages more than just you. And they manage a lot more than just people. They manage expectations, priorities, roadmaps, meetings, interviews, headcount, mid-year, end-of-year, their managers, just to name a few things they might be tied up with.

Your career is your responsibility, and even if your manager knows what your working on well, it's still good to remind them in One on Ones. It's especially good for you to list out your accomplishments regularly. It's a good idea to see if you can pull numbers from any business Dashboard that tell the manager exactly what the impact was, and if you cant find those, pull what you have from your own dashboards. Managers love that. It's also good for you to take notes on the accomplishments and bring those into the mid-year and end-of-year conversations. If you ever want a promotion or raise, your notes from those One on Ones will arm your manager to be your advocate.

The One on One is also your chance to ask your manager for the truth, they may be reluctant to say things in large meetings, but most managers will tell you exactly how you're doing in the One on One. Heck, they might even tell you how the company is doing and how the team is doing.

These meetings are also where you can make plans and chart a course for your career long-term with them.

I hope it's coming across now that I think One on Ones are so important.

This is why I think you shouldn't just have them with your manager, have them monthly or quarterly with their manager too. Reach out a level up; I promise they'll say yes. Have One on Ones with your business partners and peers too. It will only help you.

One on Ones are one of the few places where you can build real relationships and have real talk with people; please don't avoid them or half-ass them. Even if features or projects are mid-way, use the One on One to shoot the shit, grab a coffee, get to know what other people are working on, just get to know other people. All of this relationship building will help you immensely later. Maybe even help you when you leave your job because you will keep those relationships.

I saw too many people let One on Ones lapse when managers didn't ask for it or forgot. I saw even more never reach out to product managers, business partners, or peers, or line managers above theirs.

Please don't do that; ping your manager and add it to their calendar; they may have many such One on Ones.