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How Target is Propelling More Women into the Ranks of Engineering Leadership

The Engineering Manager Immersion Program (eMIP) is a development program launched in 2017 that helps to prepare engineers for leadership roles. This program is aligned with Target’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Wonder what it’s like to spend a day in the life of an engineering professional in the eMIP program? Here’s your chance! They’re making things happen in Target Technology, and we spent some time asking them what it’s all about…

Q: Describe your background prior to eMIP.

M (Millie): I studied computer science, art, and language in college. After college I had the opportunity to teach English in Spain and work for a Non-Governmental Organization in Switzerland. After a year, I came back to the Twin Cities and began looking for a job in the tech industry. I started working at Code42 as a server-side Java Engineer. I then moved to Prime Digital Academy as a Software Development Instructor, where I taught adults about full stack software development, led projects, and coached them as they entered the tech industry. I came to Target to be part of this program in November.

S (Sowjanya): I started my professional career working at Sun Microsystems on Solaris Cluster, a clustering solution where my interest in distributed systems began. To further pursue my interest in this field, I completed my Masters in Computer Science at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. After graduating, I joined Microsoft on the Dynamics AX team, an Enterprise Resource Planning product. Just prior to Target, I worked at Oracle for 5 years on Oracle Hierarchical Storage Manager, an archiving and data management software. I worked as a developer and primarily in product-based companies throughout my career and I ensured to take up new technology domains at each of my roles, be it Storage, ERP or High availability and with Target, retail industry is a whole new space for me and a challenge that I look forward to.

J (Joana): I have been a dedicated software engineer for 20+ years. Delivering results and rallying teams for outcomes where I am deeply involved motivates me. At Target, I have established domestic and global teams in Guest POS domains, led engineering transformation and product modernization development efforts in Supply Chain, and currently part of Enterprise Guest Services team. In addition, I am the Target Women in Science & Technology (TWIST) External Partnerships & Community Leader focusing on K-12 volunteerism and philanthropy efforts.

How did you hear about eMIP initially and what inspired you to apply?

M: I heard about the program from a former coworker who now works at Target. I wasn’t actively looking, but the opportunity sounded really appealing, so I applied on a whim.

S: A Target recruiter reached out to me in August through LinkedIn about eMIP. I have been contacted by recruiters previously regarding job openings, but never have I come across a position/program that is specifically geared towards your personal career development at a leadership level through a formal process. And also, since Target is based in Minneapolis, the opportunities for exploration and growth within the company are immense. These reasons were enough for me to make the decision to leap forward in spite of being seven months pregnant at the time and not let the opportunity pass by.

J: I heard about eMIP from a few members of TWIST, who attended the first open house at Target. I then attended the online open house to get more information about the program.

It took me several days to internalize if this program is for me, as I haven’t considered management as my career path. To help me with my decision, I consulted a few leaders and co-lead engineers, researched further about women in leadership, and reconnected all inputs to my goals.

As a result, knowing that the new management expectation is to maintain our technical skills, I have decided that this was the right program that will help bridge the gap for me. And I am glad that I applied!

We’re a third of the way through this program, what have you learned/what has surprised you?

M: I have learned so much. The days are jam packed with a mix of technical challenges, formal manager trainings, and on the job shadowing opportunities. I’m getting a lot of practice prioritizing and balancing this mixed work load. As a Senior Engineering Manager at Target, you do both people management and contribute to the tech. Finding this good balance can be hard for new leaders, so having this time to practice before being formally in the role is very helpful.

S: The past 2 months at Target, it has been constant learning for me, the culture, resources, product, technology stack, developing leadership skills etc. which is both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. In spite of this being the first cohort, I am pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful and well-structured the program is right from the start. I am also appreciative of how invested everyone involved in eMIP – the advisory board, the learning and development trainers, the hosting team and leader, sponsors and mentors are to bring in the right experiences and exposure to the cohort members.

J: When I learned my strengths and my brand as a leader through this program, my confidence on executing the SEM role as a trainee shifted from night to day. Having the Learning & Development (L&D) team uncover this for the cohort members was the biggest help.

How are the different parts of the curriculum (formal learning sessions, on-the-job experiences, mentoring) helping you develop your leadership skills?

M: Having the support of the cohort, the eMIP advisory board, my mentor, and my sponsor is so helpful. I am new to Target and this is a new program, so navigating all this new really takes a community of people. Throughout the experience I have always had someone to reach out to for advice.

The formal curriculum sessions have been great pillars for management learning. These sessions have focused on a variety of topics from communication, like storytelling and assertiveness, to more tactical like Target Interview Training. In between these pillars we have the opportunity to practice the skills we learn on the job. We also have shorter follow up sessions to share out how we are implementing these learnings on the job. These follow up sessions have been very useful to hear how others are applying their learnings and get new ideas to take back to our teams.

S: The formal trainings are a wealth of resources that provide a blue print on areas like Storytelling, Asserting yourself. And on-the-job experience is enabling me to put those learnings into practice and is helping in the development of my soft skills tremendously. I am consciously applying those techniques to communicate effectively and gain credibility. The leader, sponsor and mentor relationships are providing an opportunity to brainstorm, get their insight and guidance on various topics. These interactions are helping me in better understanding of what it takes to become an effective leader and be prepared accordingly for the challenges that lay ahead.

J: The formal learning sessions were fundamentally important as it had prepared me on how I can execute my SEM role on the job. The guidance and feedbacks from my leaders, sponsors, and mentors were a great sounding board on strategies and approaches.

How would you describe the culture of the cohort? Or how has having a cohort helped you?

M: Yes, the current cohort is all women, but we are all very different. We have different backgrounds and experiences. Being able to pull from the groups wider experiences or rely on them for advice when facing something new is very helpful. The flip side of this is that we all have different needs and perspectives. We don’t always agree and sometimes it can be a challenge to get to consensus. But this isn’t unlike how our experiences will be as we prepare for a Senior Engineering Manager role, so it is excellent practice in helping guide teams of driven, smart, and passionate individuals to common destinations.

S: The cohort is group of amazing and driven women technologists. All of us have different experiences and perspectives that we bring to the table and we uplift each other through open-minded conversations. We work with different teams and the challenges that arise are unique and it is great to have a cohort to discuss and share opinions honestly and learn from various scenarios. Being new to Target and joining the program a little late after coming back from my maternity leave, having a cohort has especially helped me feel welcome and navigate through everything.

J: I think the best part of the program is being bonded with strong and talented women. Having a group that you know you can trust, supporting you while you are vulnerable, and helping and lifting up each other to be successful is what I genuinely appreciate most on this journey.

We know there are two cohorts, one in the US & India, how are they working together?

M: We have self-directed development sessions both in the US and India and we are sharing the content from these sessions. We have a shared Slack channel and use that and email to communicate about our shared experience. Here in the US we have had the opportunity for a few of the India cohort members to join us here for sessions and that has been a great experience.

S: We have identified several key areas relevant to us for the cohort monthly development sessions that allow us to connect with peers and lead discussions. These topics are different for US and India cohorts depending on the needs of the members. We often share development session topics and notes with each other and initiate dialogue for further discussions. We also share our on-the-job experiences so as to benefit the entire cohort team. For eg. One of the India cohort members has already transitioned to a Sr. Engineering Manager role and on request, she shared with us her journey, readiness, the support received, her current role etc.

J: The cohorts working in the United States and India have been exchanging experiences. We also have a Slack room where we can easily ask questions and share fun and eMIP session notes.

How has eMIP changed you?

M: It is hard to measure the change from the middle of it. I can feel that I am changing and growing by being exposed to so many new opportunities. I expect to look back on this year far into the future and recognize it as a period that changed the direction and accelerated the growth of my career.

S: Just a few months and eMIP has already made a positive impact on me. In addition to learnings and leadership, it also gave me a chance to reflect upon myself, focus and develop on my strengths. This brought in a lot more confidence in myself and prepared me with a better approach to challenges as a leader.

J: More than the role, it is about growing and improving myself.

eMIP has opened several opportunities for me as a woman in leadership in an accelerated timeframe while retaining my authentic self.

We have opened up applications for the 2018 Engineering Manager Immersion Program (eMIP). Interested? We’d love to hear from you. To learn more please visit the job posting, or visit Target.com/careers and search job number: INF000c8P.

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