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.

Think retail, think technology

10 years ago, I started my journey at Target as a senior software engineer in Bangalore.

Over the last decade, I have been a part of the technology modernization initiatives that have enabled us to work in a nimble and agile manner. For instance, we have moved away from older methods of creating reports in legacy DB2/DataStage and using WebFocus technologies with waterfall approach to actively adopting newer technologies like Teradata/Hadoop in agile methodology.

At Target, we are building advanced tools to gather insights into how we can enhance the shopping experience of our guests. The adoption of DevOps/CICD models in BI was one of the newer initiatives that I was a part of. The BI systems team (Shankar and I from Target India along with Nathan, Randy and Jeremy from Minneapolis) helped identified potential use cases for this implementation. We used technologies like VmWare, Teradata Express, Docker, Chef, Jenkins and CloudBee to deliver this project using agile methodology.

Today, BI is enabled with the CICD framework – defined from development to PROD server. We have seen several benefits like:
-More agility for product deliverables by enabling unlimited deployments into PROD servers
-Automatic code accuracy is maintained – what we do in PROD is being tested in DEV
-Automatic surety of the code version – the version of the code running in PROD is also available in the Version Control System (VCS)
-Auto-test and approval facility for a functionality that is changed/created
-Auto-backup of code(s) for any backout purposes
-Auto-communication to the right audiences on final deployment status

The fact that we work as an extension of our Minneapolis headquarters gives us the scope to collaborate with partners in the U.S. and learn more about the global retail landscape. This helps me gain immense knowledge and experience and I am able to contribute to other enterprise-level technology modernization initiatives.

As exciting as this field is, it is also one of the most dynamic industries. So you would agree that it’s extremely important to keep ourselves updated on the latest tools and technologies. And, that’s precisely why every Target team member is empowered with high-tech machines and can upskill themselves on-the-job through platforms like Pluralsight and Code Schools. In my capacity as a lead BI engineer, I also support the L&D team as a technical trainer. This gives me the chance to support the larger team build the right skillsets.

Well, these are some of the career experiences that make me want to come back to work every day. If you are an engineer and retail excites you, Target is the place to be!

6 Reasons Why New Developers + Target Technology = People I Want to Work With

Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with many new Developers at Target. The problems they solve are just as diverse as their skills, background and expertise, but across each new Engineer are patterns that make them especially great to work with. Here are 6 reasons why they are leading technology at Target:

1. Hungry to learn new technologies – On my team we’re introducing new technologies all the time. Team Members new to the team are fearless to jump right in, figure it out, and become go to people for what they’ve learned. People like Danny who mastered Chef and Cassandra (and speaking about it this year at C* Summit); Matt who helped introduce the use of Packer, Consul, and Graphite; or Nick and Corey who’ve become go to people for infra as code techniques. They’re all perfect examples of tackling technologies and quickly becoming experts for the team.

2. Not afraid to question the norm to try and make things better – This guy, Alex, saw an opportunity to take a logging technology he mastered and applied it to our distribution centers outside of his normal work and without being asked to do it. He just saw the problem and jumped at the chance to make it better. It saved us a ton of money. He even wrote a blog about his experience and he spoke about it at a conference last month.

3. Not bashful to organize and lead – In many cases a new engineer’s only experience is in Agile methodologies, so they make great scrum masters. Katie is a person on our team who’s not afraid to step in, coordinate work across developers and clients, and use tools like Jira or GitHub issues to get the job done. She’s really good at it and sets a great example for others to follow.

4. Understand the importance of contributing back to open source – Hundreds of examples of this, so I just picked a random one to illustrate how second nature this is – Cody wants to make Chefspec better so he did. Not only Target benefits from Cody’s work here – the developer community gets the knowledge too. But so many people on the team understand that the benefit to the developer community will also be a benefit to Target in the long run as other ideas are shared. It’s just become the norm – I like that!

5. Create big change and pioneer it – Eddie helped create our internal wiki.target.com which currently has 145,995 articles and 1,676,841 edits by 16,987 users. Aaron launched the Target Tech blog. Jack created a Go web framework in use at Target. I also like how they do it without asking – they’re just drawn to it and make it happen!

6. Dive in, start coding, learn quickly – Here’s a super recent example: Ashley, Jiaqi, Katrina, and Alden — I’m looking in GitHub Enterprise and I can see they literally just joined it on June 24th and they’re already committing code and building a new API for api.target.com. They’re figuring out our dev standards, stack, Spring Boot, CI pipeline, ChatOps, etc. and they’re learning quickly!

Of course there are many more, but these are some of the reasons why I’m excited about the future of Engineering at Target.

Putting the S in Progress

Image: Headquarters interns participate in the annual Tomato Royale Food Fight in the Twin Cities.

I identify myself as a writer. Whether I am organizing a technical document or unleashing my creative spirit on paper, I try to review each word for elegance and sentence for style. My philosophy was that one spelling mistake could ruin a reputation.

When I started at Target I immediately jumped into a project documenting how Target team members would use a new application and how Target Technology Services would support it.  Making technology easier and more accessible is one of my biggest passions. I spent the first week reviewing material and condensing it into a guide that could be universally understood. One of the lessons I learned from technical writing was how to make a large impact with the fewest words possible.

Once I was finished, I prepared for feedback. As I hit SEND I was confident the team would be impressed with my document. A few days later I received an email from a team member highlighting a glaring spelling mistake. Right there on the front page, I had left one critical “s” off of the word “assess.” This document was shared with not just my team, but people all across Target.  I was mortified.

Hanging my head low, I went to tell my manager. The minute the words left my mouth he bent over with laughter and I could not help but join in. He said, “This will be a great story to tell the interns when you start working here. Life is about progress, not perfection.” This was a philosophy he embodied and I realized that part of creating a successful document meant making a few mistakes and seeking feedback from your peers. This was not the end of my career with Target; it was just something that happened.

My embarrassing story became a topic of conversation. Other members of my team opened up about their first mistakes and we all joked about lessons learned. Looking back it seems more embarrassing that I felt like one outrageous spelling error was such a big deal. Since then I have taken more risks, voiced more of my ideas and shared my set-backs with others. I have progressed in my internship through this experience and have realized in order to make a good impression it is about handling challenges with grace instead of precision.

Post by Leah, headquarters Target Technology Services intern

Learn more about Target opportunities for college students here.