A Software Engineer Cheat Sheet for One-on-One Meetings

Learn key tips and best practices for having effective one-on-one meetings for software engineers.

November 30, 2022
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How would you describe your job to a five year old?
What season would you be?
What is a weird food you have tried? Would you eat it again?
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Would you go in the mother-ship with aliens if they landed on Earth tomorrow?
What is your favorite season?
Do prefer working from home or the office?
What is your earliest memory of this job?
What is the best thing you have bought so far this year?
What is the earliest book you remember?
If you had to move to another country, which one would you choose?
You are the best criminal mastermind in the world. What crime would you commit if you knew you would get away with it?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
What was the last thing you ate?
What person from history would you add to Mount Rushmore?
What is a weird fact you know?
What is your favorite part of working from home?
Were the Spice Girls a good team?
Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Which fictional team is the best team of all time?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What do you usually eat for a quick lunch?
What simple food will you never eat?
Show us the weirdest thing you have in the room with you right now.
Would you rather stay at a hotel or an AirBNB?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
Are you more productive in the morning or at night?
Who is someone in your community that makes a difference?
Who was your most unique pet?
Choose one famous person from history you want on your team during a zombie apocalypse.
What is a good way to give back to the community?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
Is Hugh Grant funny?
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Would you want to have an imaginary friend today? Did you have one as a child?
What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life?
What is the best super power?
What is your New Years resolution?
You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?
What is the best work holiday?
What is the first gift you remember receiving?
Would you rather join Metallica or Backstreet Boys?
What is the best example of a community you have seen?
What is an easy way to do something nice for someone?
Show us your phone background and tell the story behind why you picked this image.
What was your first job?
Pick any band to play at your funeral.
If you could have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
Which superpower would you give to your arch enemy?
What is the most obscure superpower you would want?
What emoji best describes how you are feeling right now?
If you could live in any country, which country would you pick?
Would you rather live in a city or a town?
What is your favorite holiday?
What is something you accomplished as part of a team?
What is your standard office lunch?
What is your most used phone app?
What is your favorite season?
Have you ever won something as a team?
Imagine you are a professional baseball player. What is your introduction song?
Beach holiday or ski trip?
Have you ever been to a funny comedy show?
Would you rather live at the North Pole or the South Pole?
What is your favorite song to sing?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Imagine you could teleport anywhere. Where would you go right now?
What is the most unusual job you have heard of?
What was the last thing you ate?
You can visit any fictional time or place. Which would you pick?
What do your family and friends think you do all day?
What movie do you wish you could watch again for the first time?
Show us your most-used emoji.
What was the most unique style or fashion trend you ever embraced?
What movie defined your generation?
You are stranded on a remote desert island. Are you alone or with your worst enemy?
What is your favorite knock-knock joke?
Have you ever told someone Santa is not real?
Do you know how to speak more than one language?
On a scale of 1 – 10, how much of a team player are you?
What is your #1 recommendation in this city?
What is your favorite holiday?
What bucket list item do you most want to check off in the next six months?
What is your favorite mythical creature?
What was the first way you made money?
If you could be great at any Olympic sport, which would it be?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
When did you start liking/hating mushrooms?
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Do you take your PTO all at one time, or another way?
Which show do you remember most from your childhood?
Which beverage goes best with pizza?
Would you want to have a personal assistant follow you around everywhere and do what you asked of them?
Have you ever met your idol?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
What is your hobby?
When you are alone in the car, what volume is the music at?
Imagine you no longer have to work. How would you spend a Tuesday?
What is your favorite type of sandwich?

One-on-one meetings are the cornerstone of your career development and a critical way for you to get feedback and guidance from your manager. But frequent one-on-ones can be intimidating. What if you come unprepared? What if you get nervous and forget everything you wanted to talk about? What if you can't think of what to talk about?

This article will explore one-on-one meeting best practices from a software engineer’s perspective. Follow this cheat sheet carefully, and you’ll be running one-on-one meetings like a pro in no time.

Let’s begin.

What is the purpose of one-on-one meetings?

The purpose of one-on-one meetings is to create a safe space to exchange positive and constructive feedback. Taking ownership of one-on-one meetings with your manager ensures that you’re proactive about tackling issues. As a software engineer, your manager can assign tasks, track your personal and professional progress, and receive updates on your milestones and personal vision for each project.

Scheduling regular 1:1 meetings help you discuss blockers with your manager, creating opportunities for receiving the help and support you need to nail your KPIs and achieve your goals. Working hard to deliver projects in due time can be very stressful for software developers. One-on-ones are a great time to discuss these pressures and find ways to reduce/prevent burnout and boost programming productivity. Using constructive one-on-one meeting questions, your manager can also gain insight into your personality and professional goals. 

Other reasons to have one-on-ones with your manager include:

  • To explore team dynamics.
  • Keep each other in the loop.
  • Build trust and transparency.
  • Build better manager-employee relationships.
  • Foster accountability for both parties.
  • Work effectively and deliver results faster.

If you’ve ever had a one-on-one meeting, you know that it can get awkward. How do you avoid this, and what do you discuss with your manager?

Read - How To Prepare For A One-on-One Meeting With Your Manager

What do you discuss in one on one as a software engineer?

During a 1:1 meeting, you can discuss anything from ongoing projects to your accomplishments, career developments, team developments, work concerns, and even hobbies.

Knowing what to discuss in a one-on-one starts with having a kickass agenda. This helps you create a detailed checklist for an effective one-on-one meeting. What you choose to discuss during a one-on-one as a software engineer typically depends on your current needs. 

Of course, there are certain things you should not discuss during a one-on-one. Whatever you do choose to discuss, the structure of 1:1 meetings should follow the same pattern:

  • A quick check-in or recap of the last discussion. Keep it short and positive.
  • Address priorities and goals. These could be about work issues, career development, team improvement, work-life balance, or even a raise.
  • Ask for and give feedback where necessary.
  • Reflect on how much progress you’re making. This will also be an excellent time to point out steps you’ve taken to work on and improve on your lapses.

Once you decide what you’d like to discuss during your 1:1, it’s essential to know the right questions to ask and when.

What questions should a software engineer ask during a one-on-one?

  1. Are there any opportunities for me to help out with projects, or get involved in other areas that interest me?
  2. If we were working on this project together, how would you approach it?
  3. What are your expectations regarding my performance this year? What goals and objectives would you like to see me accomplish over the next three to six months?
  4. What skills do the best software engineers have that I need to learn?
  5. What future challenges do you anticipate for the dev team, and how can I help?
  6. What software engineering best practices does our team need to implement?
  7. What are some of your favorite tools/apps that help you get work done more efficiently?
  8. What is it about our team that marks you proud?
  9. Can you tell me about some past projects that were especially successful or challenging? (And what lessons did you take away from them?)
  10. What's something going well right now that we didn't expect? How did we accomplish that? How did we come up with the solution?

These questions will help you gain insight into your team, your manager’s personality and your career goals. You’ll also ensure that both parties get the most out of the meeting. Note that your manager will also have questions for you.

Assembly | How to set up and answer a One on One workflow

Need more good one on one questions to ask your manager? Check these out.

When is the best time to schedule a one-on-one?

The best time to schedule one on one meetings is every two weeks. This frequency usually creates a balance between effective time management and regularity. How so?

Well, cadence and regularity are important for one-on-ones, but you also need to consider relevance. Weekly one-on-one meetings are popular, but they can become too frequent for the level of autonomy you have at work. Tech teams typically use collaboration tools for communication. This means that many issues are addressed in real time, and having another 1:1 every week can become boring with little to nothing to talk about. 

In cases where there’s so much going on that needs to be addressed immediately; you can request to schedule a one-on-one within a week of the previous meeting. The key here is flexibility and not a mindless routine. 

Can you skip a one-on-one meeting?

Yes, you can. You may have weekly one-on-ones fall during a short week, like when there’s a holiday during the week, or you or your manager was out sick, you can skip the meeting for the next week. Whatever the case, remember that flexibility and reasonableness play a part in the cadence of your 1:1 meetings.

Should one-on-ones be held before or after a project?

One-on-one meetings are typically focused on improving manager-employee relationships. Hence, they can be held before, during, and at the end of a project. One-on-one meetings are not the time for giving project reports. They are used to manage your challenges, career aspirations, team bonding, and areas for improvement. Other meetings like sprints, daily standups, and performance reviews are better opportunities for discussing project goals, challenges, and outcomes. 

5 Tips for Having Effective One-on-Ones for Software Engineers

To ensure that your one-on-one is effective and beneficial for both parties, you should:

  1. Come Prepared
  2. Keep It Short and Relevant
  3. Take Notes
  4. Give and Receive Feedback
  5. Specify Next Steps and Action Points

Let’s talk more about these tips.

  1. Come Prepared

If your plan is to ‘just wing it’ during your one-on-one, you’ll end up wasting your time and probably pissing off your boss. Plan and structure your meeting to follow a professional but friendly flow. 

Create an agenda and write out your talking points. Since one-on-ones are collaborative, you also need to share the agenda with your manager so they know what to expect and can also prepare ahead of time.

  1. Keep It Short and Relevant

One-on-one meetings with your manager are more beneficial when they are short, sweet, and effective. This way, both parties stay engaged all through and can get back to doing actual work. A 30-minute meeting is usually enough to discuss pending issues. Stick to asking relevant work-related questions and avoid inappropriate topics and/or jokes. 

  1. Take Notes

Ditch your laptop. If possible, try to take handwritten notes. This reduces your chances of distraction and shows that you’re paying attention to details. You can also easily review your notes during the next meeting.

  1. Give and Receive Feedback

Remember to ask for and give positive and constructive feedback during your one-on-one. Because they are more personal, one-on-one meetings are an excellent opportunity to talk freely and share your thoughts and concerns without fear of backlash or wondering how other team members may react.

  1. Specify Next Steps and Action Points

A one-on-one meeting with your manager that does not end with detailed action points is a waste of time. Outlining next steps helps both parties know what is required of them. It also helps measure the meeting outcome and is a great ay to track progress during the next meet

Take Ownership of Your One-on-One Meetings Today

Initiating and facilitating one-on-one meetings with your manager can seem like a lot of work. But, in the long run, it benefits you and your entire team and can be the secret weapon your manager needs to lead efficiently. You’ll be able to make better decisions and get the support you need to deliver quality, timely work every time. You’ll also be able to address situations before they become serious issues. 

Ready to get started? Use this detailed one-on-one with a manager template. Ensure structure, efficiency, and transparency with Assembly’s workflow tools. Schedule a call now to learn more. 

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