How Target is Propelling More Women into the Ranks of Engineering Leadership
The Engineering Management 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 be an engineering professional in the eMIP program? Here’s your chance to learn more! They’re making things happen in Target Technology, and we spent some time asking them what the program is all about…
Describe your background prior to eMIP.
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.
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.
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.
How did you hear about eMIP initially and what inspired you to apply?
Sowjanya: A Target recruiter reached out to me 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.
Joana: I heard about eMIP from a few members of TWIST, who attended an open house at Target. I then attended an online open house to get more information about the program. It took me several days to internalize if this program was for me, as I hadn’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 decided that this was the right program to help bridge the gap for me. And I am glad that I applied!
What has surprised you most about the program?
Millie: 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.
Sowjanya: Early on in the program was a constant learning period for me – the culture, resources, product, technology stack, developing leadership skills, and so on – which was both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful and well-structured the program was right from the start. I am also appreciative of how invested everyone is in bringing the right experiences and exposure to the cohort members – from the advisory board and trainers to the hosting team, leaders, sponsors and mentors.
How have the different parts of the curriculum (formal learning sessions, on-the-job experiences, mentoring) helped to develop your leadership skills?
Millie: 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 strategies 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.
Sowjanya: The formal trainings provide a wealth of resources. And on-the-job experience has enabled me to put those learnings into practice and develop my soft skills. I also consciously apply those techniques to communicate effectively and gain credibility. The leader, sponsor and mentor relationships provide an opportunity to brainstorm and get insight and guidance on various topics. These interactions have helped me get a better understanding of what it takes to become an effective leader and be prepared for any challenges that may lay ahead.
How would you describe the culture of the cohort? Or how has having a cohort helped you?
Millie: The current cohort is all women, but we are all very different. We have different backgrounds and experiences. Being able to pull from the group’s wider experiences or rely on them for advice when facing something new is 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.
Joana: 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.
How has eMIP changed you?
Joana: 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 time frame while retaining my authentic self.
Sowjanya: In just a few short months, 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.
Millie: I can feel that I am changing and growing by being exposed to so many new opportunities. I expect to look back on my experience in the program far into the future and recognize it as a period that changed the direction and accelerated the growth of my career.
Interested in expanding both your leadership and technical skills in engineering? Learn more about opportunities in the Target Engineering Management Immersion Program and apply today.