At D2L, our career development philosophy is about empowering employees to take ownership of their professional growth with encouragement and resources from their leader, the company and our People and Culture team. As business and people leaders, we know that investing in our team members’ professional and career development is critical to keeping them engaged and supporting them in their careers. Here’s how we do it.
– Tina Fletcher, Director of Software Engineering, D2L
One piece of advice I would share is to remember that career growth doesn’t have to go “upwards.” I have learned just as much (or more) from making lateral moves as I have from being promoted within a role.
Meet Tina Fletcher
As a director of software engineering with the Design and Engineering team, Tina has been a D2Ler for more than eight years. Her formal education includes a B.Sc. from McMaster University (focused on computer science and neuroscience), but she’s definitely continued learning every single day since graduation. Whether it’s discovering new communication and collaboration strategies, experimenting with ways to increase her team’s effectiveness and confidence in what they’re building, or attempting to grow new varieties in her vegetable garden, according to Tina, the key ingredient for both professional and personal development is a willingness to experience and learn from both successes and failures.
We asked Tina a few questions about her journey with D2L and how her career evolved over the past few years. Here’s what she has to say:
1. What made you choose D2L?
I think this is a common answer among D2Lers, but one of the primary reasons I joined is because I wanted to contribute to the company’s mission of transforming the way the world learns. Education is so foundational to so many aspects of our lives, and I wanted to do something to help make it better and more available to everyone.
2. Can you share your career journey within the organization? How has your role evolved over time?
My career journey has been very interesting over the past eight-plus years I’ve been at D2L. I started out in an individual contributor role focused on software quality. After being promoted within that role, I transitioned into a management role for the software development team I was working on. After managing that team for a while, I eventually moved to a different software development team, where I was promoted within the people leadership track until reaching my current role as director of engineering. Throughout all these role changes, I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects—from wrangling legacy code to writing new things from scratch and from user-facing
applications to infrastructure overhauls. You name it, I’ve probably done it.
3. Did you have a career development plan or goals in place? How did you work toward achieving them?
I had two possible career paths in mind when I started at D2L; I wanted to either eventually become a principal-level individual contributor focused on software quality or transition back into people leadership of technical teams and explore how far I could progress in that track. I was initially more actively following the former path, but when my team’s manager left the company, I was asked if I wanted to take over their role and I decided to go for it. Since committing more to the people leadership track, I’ve worked toward growth in my roles by seeking opportunities to take on more responsibility, to participate in cross-functional initiatives that have an impact outside of just my own team and to learn more about other parts of the business besides software development.
4. Were there any mentors or role models who played a significant role in guiding your career growth? How did they support you?
Several years ago, I became interested in sharing my knowledge and experiences with a broader audience. At the time, I had a manager who helped me find learning opportunities to build my public speaking skills (this is definitely not something that comes naturally for me) and provided amazing support in terms of encouraging me to apply for speaking opportunities at industry conferences and other venues. When I was accepted to speak at several of these events, he made it possible for me to attend by being very accommodating with my workload and helping me navigate getting financial support from the company to travel in cases where that was needed.
Since career growth and professional development are very close to me, I also got an opportunity to speak at a Career Coaching Webinar, where I shared my career development stories and talked about how professional development has helped me shape the career I have today. Overall, becoming a regular public speaker has been a huge boost to my confidence and my career path, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of this manager.
5. Can you discuss any challenges or obstacles you faced along your career path? How did you overcome them?
In the first year of the pandemic, I became very burned out trying to manage childcare at home for a one-year-old, provide emotional support for my team members at work and deal with my own feelings about the situation along with all the regular day-to-day work of running a software development team. I felt I had run out of energy and ideas that I could contribute to my current situation. I considered leaving D2L but ultimately decided that moving to a different team within the same company was exactly the fresh start I needed. I received great support from my leaders and peers and was able to make a very smooth transition to my new team. D2L is amazing about supporting internal movement within the company to help people learn, grow or just shake things up a bit.
6. What opportunities did D2L provide for your career growth? Were there any training programs, promotions or special projects that helped you advance?
One really significant investment D2L has made in my career growth is through a special leadership development program we call LEAD. Each year, a small cohort of high-potential future leaders are
selected to participate in a series of personal and professional development opportunities, including guided analysis of our strength and growth opportunities, face time with senior leaders, learning sessions on various leadership topics, and the chance to contribute to a significant project that will help advance some of the company’s broader goals. Through this program, I experienced some great learning moments and also met people from across the company whom I may not have ever interacted with otherwise, who became long-term friends and members of my personal network.
7. Can you share any examples of how you leveraged your skills, knowledge or expertise to contribute to the organization’s success and propel your own career forward?
I think the public speaking journey I mentioned earlier is a good example of how I have contributed to both D2L’s success and my own career growth at the same time. Becoming a confident public speaker has helped me in many ways in my own career path, but at the same time, getting up on stage in front of large audiences at various conferences and saying that I work for D2L is a great way to build our company’s reputation as a thought leader in the industry. As a talent magnet, I strive to enhance these skills further by participating in workshops, ask me anything (AMA) sessions and podcasts.
8. Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for future career growth? Are there any specific goals or positions you are working toward?
In the past several years, I’ve had so many great learning and growth opportunities related to managing a software development team. I feel I’ve gotten to a pretty good place in terms of knowing how to organize a team and enable them to do their best work. As a next step in my own growth, lately I’ve become interested in looking a bit beyond the domain of software development to better understand how our work fits in with and impacts other areas of the business (such as finance, ESG (environmental, social, governance), sales and marketing). This has led to some interesting learning opportunities, and I hope that in future, I can become a more well-rounded leader with better overall business acumen and help solve challenges that impact a wide variety of business areas.
One piece of advice I would share is to remember that career growth doesn’t have to go “upward.” I have learned just as much (or more) from making lateral moves as I have from being promoted within a role.