When interviewing for an entry-level role, would you know if you had a
sitting before you? That was the topic at a recent
Coffee with Digital Trailblazers, where we discussed how to evaluate, hire, and train entry-level employees
in product management, DevOps, data science, marketing, information
security, and other roles with high potential to become Digital
Thanks to Joanne Friedman, Joe Puglisi, Karen Lippman, Martha Lewis, and
Janette Gleyzer for your input.
Hiring emerging Digital Trailblazers: What to look for
Below are six ways to evaluate and hire emerging Digital Trailblazers. Look
for people who are
Passionate and have a breadth of interests – Pursues activities
outside of technology and their fields, shows zeal about their objectives,
and demonstrates they are not singularly focused.
Curious and creative – Asks probing questions, tells stories, and
shares how they applied creative problem-solving skills in their work.
Collegiate competitors – Plays sports or enter other forms of
competition. It’s not just about winning; it’s also the mentality of now
wanting to lose.
Adaptable – Has a structured way of getting work done, staying on task,
and meeting deadlines – but also shows they can realign to changing
priorities, new requirements, or stakeholder feedback.
Lifelong learners – Has excellent research and problem-solving
skills. They describe topics they’ve learned on their own, discuss
opportunities where they’ve taught others, and share what they’ve learned
from their mistakes.
Team leaders – They share how they’ve led teams, clubs, or other
groups. They discuss what made them successful and describe what they did
to improve team performance.
Digital Trailblazers! Join us Fridays at 11am ET for a live audio discussion on digital
transformation topics: innovation, product management, agile, DevOps,
data governance, and more!
Training emerging Digital Trailblazers: How to develop them
Here are several recommendations on training, developing, and mentoring
emerging Digital Trailblazers.
Provide opportunities to build digital skills – You may have hired
a software developer, but how will they learn other skills such as test
automation, data science, and security? Digital Trailblazers must have a
breadth of digital and transformation skills, so providing them opportunities to learn and work outside their primary
functions is crucial.
Aid in setting personal goals – Many people new to the workforce
may not have a three-year plan or long-term objectives, but they can
usually describe their interests and passions. Listen for how they
describe their future selves and help translate them to personal goals.
Coach on the why and be ready to reverse mentor – Many of us come
from the analog generation, while entry levelers are digital natives.
Leaders must dedicate time to share the why behind business objectives and
can learn a ton from how digital natives apply technology.
Educate on compliance and quality functions – Entry level
candidates may understand consumer digital, but they may be “deer in the
headlights” regarding security, governance, compliance, regulations, and
minimal quality standards the business requires. Training helps, but more
importantly, leaders must discuss these requirements in the context of
Share frequent feedback – Developing Digital Trailblazers requires
more than direct managers to provide feedback to entry level high
potentials. Leaders should discuss how more people up and diagonal in the
organization must provide advice, ask questions, or offer guidance to high
Establish experimentation as a primary objective – Digital
Trailblazers need room to sort out what problems to focus on, which
customers to target, how to define value, and what paths to take in
defining solutions. Lifelong learning starts with the time and freedom to
experiment on both problems and solutions.
Three leadership recommendations on a culture that fosters Digital
The last three recommendations touch on acclimating Digital Trailblazers to
the company culture and evolving the culture so that more Digital
Trailblazers are successful.
Guide them on building relationships – High potentials are often
introverts who need help to open doors. Get to know the high potential
well and find out what they like to do outside of work. Then, use their
aspirations and interests to help build relationships with more people in
the company and programs it offers.
Ensure they understand the organization’s values and principles –
Don’t assume the posters and HR programs go far enough to ingrain the
company’s mission and values. Leaders illustrate values by example, help
people, create decision-making principles, and coach high potentials on
Incentivize communication, collaboration, and teaching – Digital
Trailblazers are go-getters and problem solvers, but what worked for them
as individual contributors won’t be sufficient when leading digital
transformation initiatives. Leaders must help build onto emerging Digital
Trailblazers’ team leadership skills and shift their incentives from
getting work done to leadership outcomes. Encourage strong communication
skills, servant collaboration practices, and acumen to teach others new
ways of working.
I cover many of these topics in my book,
Digital Trailblazer. If you’re looking to develop Digital Trailblazers, please consider
StarCIO’s Digital Trailblazer coaching and advisory programs.
Join us for a future session of
Coffee with Digital Trailblazers, where we discuss topics for aspiring transformation leaders. If you enjoy
my thought leadership, please sign up for the
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