Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

Exercise: Self Skill Assessment

Jem Young

Jem Young

Engineering Management Fundamentals 101

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The "Exercise: Self Skill Assessment" Lesson is part of the full, Engineering Management Fundamentals 101 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Jem discusses the importance of self-assessment and identifying personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to engineering management by walking through a self-assessment exercise. He then discusses discoveries and insights with the class regarding their own skills and abilities. Jem also emphasizes the need for vulnerability and candidness in leadership and encourages the students to be honest about their areas for improvement.


Transcript from the "Exercise: Self Skill Assessment" Lesson

>> And we've talked a lot about skills, the different skills you'll need. More importantly, you're probably thinking, yeah, there's some skills that I wasn't aware of or I probably didn't even mention, there's a lot to it. Earlier when we thought of roles, all the roles that EMs play.

Think of all the skills it takes to be the lawyer, versus the cheerleader, versus the coach, versus the speaker of the house, different skill sets entirely. So now, we're gonna take a 15 minute exercise and let's talk about your own personal skills. I want you to think critically about what are you good at?

What are you not so good at? And be honest with yourself cuz I'm not seeing what you write, but it'll be a helpful exercise just to put it out there on paper. So let's jump into this exercise. Like Ryan said, his favorite way of learning is by doing.

Same with me, I don't like to see other people do it, I'd rather just jump in and do it. If that's something I need to fix, I need to step back and see what I can learn. Probably read more books. But that's one of the challenges is the only way to get good at leadership is actually do it.

There's different ways you can get touches of it. But right now it's good to focus on like, what are the skills that build up to doing that? And if you build up these skills, it'll make the transition so much easier. For example, the most common one I talked about was public speaking.

You're gonna have to do it. The minute you become a manager, you're gonna have to do it. But you can build up those skills over time, so it's not so daunting. So it's not just a shock when you get up in front of people. All right now I want you to take 15 minutes and fill this out, and then we'll talk about some of your answers after you're done.

So start with a personal assessment. What are your strengths? Is it public speaking? Is it communication? Are you a great writer? You just get stuff out really easily. Are you good at organizing? Are you an extrovert, your life of the party bringing people together? What are the things you're not so good at?

There's probably probably a lot there, if you're being honest. And then talk about how you translate those strengths and weaknesses into engineering management. How do you think they're gonna show up? What transfer you lean on today, it doesn't mean you have to focus all your energy on your thing in your weaknesses.

Strengths are just as important. Then what additional skills or knowledge you think you need, like what's the most critical things that you need to fix or build up? And then for those top three areas that you'd like to improve, write down a quick blurb. Why is it important to you?

How are you doing on it today? And how am I measuring if I'm being successful in growing this skill? You just have to do it for three. You can do as many as you want, but I recommend three. So take 15 minutes and fill this out, and then we'll come back in and talk about it.

I definitely wanna hear from you all on any discoveries or epiphanies you've had while filling this out. How was the exercise? Anything interesting you discovered about yourself? When I didn't write the personal assessment, but I think some of my strengths are public speaking. I don't know if I'm good at it, but it doesn't bother me to get up in front of people.

I do conference talks, but I'd done conference talk before I became a manager. So I'd say that's one of my strengths is presenting. Verbal communication I'm pretty good at, I probably over invest in reading people's body language and saying like, am I what is I'm saying landing? Where are they at?

Am I being receptive? Do I need to adjust my tone, add more humor, less humor, etc. Weaknesses, project management [LAUGH] I'm not. I create at it, I don't enjoy. It's not from the most enjoyable part, which means I haven't invested a whole lot into doing it. An area where I have tried to build on that, build that up a little bit.

It's just having a template, for project kick offs and things like that, makes me so much easier. I'm like, what are the milestones, what are the meanings, all that, having that in place, lets me kind of bolster up that weakness of mine. Another one is, my weakness is verbal communication, because I consider it strong, I tend to lean on a lot, when I really need to stop and listen.

And just being silent and working on doing that, is definitely something I need to get better at overtime.
>> I actually, I share that similar issue with not knowing when to shut up. And when I first became an engineering manager my manager gave me great advice to practice counting to seven in your head without speaking.

Seven is like an uncomfortable enough amount of time that you get introverts to speak up or get people to kind of start sharing more that you know. Maybe they weren't feeling good about saying right in a moment or two but if you get a couple of seconds you can get people to start opening up a little bit more and and find out the really good stuff.

>> Count to seven, that's a great tip. I should probably do that. That's so long though. Seven seconds of silence. If I wait, let me try seven seconds of silence now, okay. All right, that was seven seconds. That's a while, but that's a good tip. It's an uncomfortable amount of time.

I'd say my weaknesses outpace my strength, but I'd say that's probably weaknesses of mine is something I learned about myself this year, even into my 30s. I'm a perfectionist, not in everything. That doesn't mean I keep my room clean and all these other things. It just means I don't like to deliver something unless it's perfect.

Which turns out as an engineering manager, that's a weakness. Cuz it means I second-guess myself, I triple-check, I spend more time on things when, you know what? Sometimes it's just good enough and that's fine. And accepting that is something I'm still working on today, which is. Sometimes just send that email you don't have to triple check it and run it through AI and all these other things, just send the email and get it done with.

What about you all what are some of your strengths and weaknesses you uncover here.
>> I pride myself on being a really strong critical thinker and having a strong technical acumen and good understanding of how the nuts and bolts all work together. I do think that can manifest certain weaknesses, especially in how I articulate ideas and proposals to others.

Because I often leapfrog a lot of assumptions and conclusions in my own head, that my colleagues and peers may not have arrived at the same conclusions or, made some of the same assumptions. So having to break down those ideas and pedal backwards, to help them get caught up to where my brain is a lot of times is a challenge.

>> That's an interesting insight, we do that a lot. The stronger you are, the harder it is to go back down and explain things to people. My favorite one is a for loop. I don't have to explain how a for loop to any of you works, but try explaining a for loop later to your partner or your non-technical person.

They'll be like once, again it's the one of those insights you don't think about a lot. But that's a great example of understanding your strengths and weaknesses, right?.
>> What are my strengths? I think as a leader that I don't think I would have known going into it as hiring, very quick and good at hiring for some reason and it helped out a lot of others do that.

One of my weaknesses, I struggle to delegate, I think that is a really hard skill set in many ways of like letting go of something or. I definitely trust people to do it or I can trust that, but it's like sometimes knowing when's the right time to delegate it, when I'm like wait, I shouldn't be doing this, I should delegate this.

Oftentimes I'll just be like, I'll suffer through it and I'll just do it when I could have probably delegated it sooner.
>> That's a good one. That's a hard one to learn too, yeah.
>> As a strength as an engineer, I feel like I can hold a large mental model of the product I'm working on, as long as you kind of build that over time.

In a weakness, I'd say it was prioritizing what needs to be done today, versus what can wait till tomorrow. I feel like I'm always off on urgency with some of my other peers.
>> Yeah, those all these strengths or all these weaknesses we're mentioning, those are hard to.

>> Having tough conversations when it's needed, but it makes you uncomfortable having to have that conversation?
>> Yeah, man. You all are nailing these. It's human nature to avoid conflicts, it's just easier. But it's often not the right thing to do.
>> The strength that I may not have initially thought of going into leadership as empathy although it seems obvious now.

I think especially going through, just what we've been through as a world in the last three or four years. And then, a weakness I think is like the business acumen like when you're sitting in meetings with business product people and VPs and higher-ups. It's sometimes hard to like get the the business speak down and understand what they're talking about and be able to get your point across, as a technical person.

>> [LAUGH] That's a real one for me too, I'm like why should I care? You should, but it's only later, much more experience that I learned, I'm like, yeah, you should care. But that's a good one too.
>> [COUGH] How not to sound condescending when you're talking to someone.

That's not technical. Because sometimes it's, I understand, so I smile because I understand how they came to conclusion that's incorrect because, sometimes technologies and unintuitive. And some of smiling cuz I get exactly how they got there. But now I've, it seems, some people have told me it seems like I'm laughing at them.

>> That's a really good perspective and insight, kinda similar to what you're saying on like, you make these leaps and you're like, yeah, it's obvious, but not everybody's there. Yeah, that's a great one, yeah. [INAUDIBLE]
>> I guess talking about technical, anytime I do have to talk about something technical to somebody that might not be as technical might not be an engineer.

Being able to talk in analogies or be able to talk about. Whatever that thing is without totally getting in the weeds of why like [LAUGH] I think that's one of my strengths, boy all my weaknesses. Everything project management thinking about, and I guess one of the things it's thinking about.

Things like, thinking binary about things sometimes, thinking very black and white about things when there's probably a middle ground, everything's kind of a, so it's one thing I kind of struggle with.
>> Yeah, I call it the Star Trek, really good at using analogies. The captain, if the engines to this it will be something which, you don't realize it but it is something really powerful to explain things.

I like that you called that out. So I know there's an episode on Star Trek, they made this constraint that only uses an algae to communicate. Anybody who knows what I'm talking about will be like, yeah, I've seen that episode. Anyway, sorry, I'm just Star Trek nerding out a little bit.

Next generation, we'll see we're gonna get out.
>> [LAUGH]
>> Of Star Trek nerd. So for for those you answered and not everybody has to answer. There's a question here.
>> Yeah, just a couple in the chat here. Conflict avoidance has been something that's been a thorn in my side in the past.

That was just in comment to a couple of the others there. For me, it's a combination of impatience. It's faster if I just do it myself, but I love helping people and freeing them of work that they may not enjoy. A strength for me is being a strong advocate for my team and providing support under difficult circumstances.

I've often gotten the feedback that I've spoken out for my team when it's been critical. And a lot of comments back and forth to each other. Let your engineers solve their problems. And, Democ is the name of the episode.
>> [LAUGH]
>> Democ, thank you.
>> And Mark do you have some?

>> I don't know. The only thing rolling through my head is, there's kind of like a wartime leader versus peacetime leader. And I realize that I'm extremely good at a peacetime leader, and I've had to learn through what the world went through about becoming more of a time later in that the world changed.

And so now how do we as an organization, how do we run towards the change and address it rather than shrinking back and being like well now we can't record in person. So now we're just hamstrung, so, yeah I had to learn that how to dig deep and like.

Listen to customers, see what's going on and really kind of like have us all go towards that strongly instead of like shrinking back, I guess.
>> Yeah, I love that wartime versus peacetime. And I think we were discussing this yesterday, but remote work and COVID. Exposed a lot of weaknesses in managers.

We probably didn't know we're there. Fortunately I became a manager during this time, but if your strength is, I can sit you down face to face and have a conversation and understand what you're saying. And then all of a sudden that's gone, and you need to rely on your written communication.

Yeah, you had it tough. I think a lot of people leaders did. Hopefully we're all better for that, but your strengths and weaknesses are gonna vary from time to time. And over time, sometimes what in my case, verbal communication can be a weakness as well. Sometimes it's a strength, it all really depends.

We won't go through the rest of these. These are more personal to you, but, one thank you all for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to share things you're not good at. I think as a leader an important skill is just being vulnerable and being candid with people.

I tell my team that all the time things I'm like, hey, I'm really not good at this and I'm trying to get better, and that's okay. I think trying to try not cover those up, just makes it worse. You're just doing yourself a disservice, so thanks for sharing.

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