Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Fast track programs for managers and developers - Background

Last nine months I am mentoring/working with a team of 17 extremely enthusiastic people in a program we call 'Accelerated Techno Manager' program. It is an amazing experience/journey. Hence I thought I will write about these experiences.

Many companies have 'fast track' programs for their employees. Usually it means company identifies potential 'high performers' and then groom them someway. Nine months back we started a fast track program in Geometric Ltd. I took initiative in defining the program and I am now mentoring 17 potential candidates for last 9 months. I thought, I will write about general structure of program, how the program started, what benefits I see. I hope it will help others in starting/running similar program. If you have similar programs in your company, please share your experiences.

The fast track program is called 'Accelerated Technical Manager' program (ATM program, pun unintended).  Program is inspired by Google APM program or TAS (Tata Administrative Services) program in Tata Group. The content and structure and especially scale is lot different than these programs. 

As the name suggests the program is designed to develop 'technical project manager'. Manager who are experts in project management but also understand software development and technology and can teach a thing or two to engineers/developers working with them. They are multi-talented managers who are good at all aspects of project management, (customer communication, tracking, estimation techniques, negotiations) but are also good at problem solving, leadership, critical thinking and innovation techniques, strategy, strong software development and/or engineering fundamentals, etc etc. 

It is designed to be 'tough program' of 2 years. It is targeted towards 2-3 year experienced employees. The selection criteria is tough. There is an evaluation at every quarter. Every quarter based on performance evaluation some participants can be eliminated. It is expected that about 50-60% will get eliminated at various stages and only 40-50% will pass. The participants who pass will become Managers (i.e. they will get promotion in 2 years that usually takes 8 to 10 years ).

The program includes one year online Management Certification Course by McIntire School of Commerce paid by the company. The program includes a 3 day meet every quarter. There are class room sessions by internal and external faculty. During these 3 days participants get a chance to meet and interact with senior management team (e.g COO, CFO, Head of HR, etc).  Overall program consists of four Phases. Each phase consist of ‘on-job’ mentoring and formal class room trainings

  1. Phase 1 (6 months) - Focused on Problem Solving and Software development skills
  2. Phase 2 (3 months) - Demonstrating Fast learning skills in a new domain or role
  3. Phase 3 (9 months) - Project management skills and Mentoring from Sr. Mgmt team and rotation in various functions.
  4. Phase 4 (6 months) - Deputation as 'assistant project manager' in some project.
We selected 17 participants from different locations and domains from over 150 applications. We have completed the Phase 1 & 2. And I can see serious positive change in the thinking of all participants.

In the next part, I am going to write about preparation for program and selection process, experience of first six months.