Cate Huston on working with an external coach

Lead Time Chats: Season 1, Episode 3 Takeaways

In Episode 3 of Lead Time Chats, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, chats with Cate Huston, Engineering Director at DuckDuckGo and raccoon enthusiast 🦝 about working with an external coach.

Jean and Cate discuss:

  • The role of a external coach compared to a manager
  • The benefits of working with an external coach, especially over multiple jobs
  • What a good fit feels like when looking for a coach
  • How important an engineering background is (or isn't) when finding a coach
  • When external coaching can actually harm a situation

Takeaways from Cate

Trust is most important when finding a coach

“The most important thing with a coach is somebody who you can build a relationship of trust with, so that you can take to them the things that it's maybe harder or inadvisable to talk to your manager or your peers about. Somebody who you can have  sufficient trust with that, they can kind of lovingly push you and call you on your shit.”

Coaches can provide invaluable support when transitioning between companies

“I've been working with my coach for a long time. I've had three different jobs in the time that we've been working together.  So firstly, we have a high level of trust and context, but also in those kinds of transition points between jobs, she's been really able to support me. Probably the most helpful is like when I was in the place where I was thinking, is it time for me to look for my next job? That's not something that I'm necessarily going to want to talk to my boss about.”

Don't expect to get all your needs met from one person

“There's this fallacy that we're going to get what we need from one person, you know, like, and then it's like, oh, I don't get everything I need from my manager so I need a coach now. It's like, no, like you get some stuff from your manager. Hopefully you get some stuff from a coach. Like it was really important to have. You know, for example, a work BFF right? Like that's somebody who can really help you - to have a wide network of people in comparable roles, who you talk to regularly, right? And so then people are looking for a coach, but they don't necessarily know what they need, but like the answer might not just be one person. The answer might be a coach and more participation in some kind of group, like more investment in a mentoring relationship.”

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About Lead Time Chats

Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

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S1 E3: Cate Huston on working with an external coach
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