Since transitioning into management, I have been thinking more about how to maximize the time that I have each day, and especially the time that I spend in 1:1 conversations. One of my reports recently asked me about how she can get more out of 1:1s, and I realized that not too long ago, I was a very awkward person who didn’t really know how to use up 1:1 time, or how to get insight or learning out of them. So, here are some of my notes on how to get more out of 1:1 conversations with anyone at your organization!

There are actually 3 types of 1:1s that you’ll commonly have, and the key to getting the most out of them will vary based on its category. I’m also going to suggest some goals for each type of conversation – that helps anchor my brain in terms of the types of follow-ups I should be asking.

A lot of these questions are also written with the assumption that you’re relatively new to the org and/or the team (which is often the time when you’ll be front-loading 1:1s) but others are evergreen!

With managers, leaders, and other people with more formal authority or power than you

This includes people who are ahead of you on the IC track (eg. Staff Engineers, Principal Engineers). Senior engineers on your team can be considered in this group, or in the peer group below, if you’re within a level or two from them.


  • Build rapport
  • Learn about what success means within the organization
  • Get them on your side, to create future sponsorship opportunities

Some questions you can ask:

  • What do you believe makes a new [your job title, ex. Senior Engineer] successful at our company?
  • Tell me about your journey into leadership. What helped you decide that you wanted to be a [manager/director/Staff engineer]?
  • Do you have advice about how I can increase my impact, or get involved with the type of work that is highly valued for promotion towards [next level, eg. Staff Engineer]?
  • What are some things that are unique about our engineering culture, compared with other places that you’ve worked?
  • Do you mind sharing with me some lessons or insights about our org that you learned the hard way?
  • Who do you think are great role models within our engineering org? What type of work do they do, that makes you think of them?

With your teammates and peers

This includes people on your immediate team that you interact with on a regular basis. This might also include people who are not on your direct team but connected to you via similar discipline (eg. you’re a mobile engineer, and you’re meeting with someone on the only other mobile team in the company).


  • Build rapport, and mutual support
  • Accelerate your own learning
  • Compare your notes (especially useful for discovering what you can expect from your manager, because it can be awkward to ask that straight to your manager)

Some questions you can ask:

  • I’m struggling to prioritize between a lot of inputs, there are a lot of things to learn! Do you have advice for figuring out what’s the most important thing I need to spend my time on?
  • What was your journey into tech like? How did you end up here?
  • How long have you been here? What do you like about this place so far?
  • Where did you work before? What was that like? Is there anything about our current company that you wish was more like your previous jobs?
  • What are some weird or interesting things about our engineering culture?
  • What kinds of things do you go to your manager for help with? What’s your relationship like?
  • What’s been your experience with asking for help? How long do you let yourself stay stuck or blocked, before you ask someone for help?
  • What other teams have you worked on? What was that like?
  • What do you like to do outside of work?
  • What are some fun events or conferences to go to? What’s been your favorite, and why?

With folks outside of your direct team

If your company has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), or affinity groups, that serve under-indexed groups such as Black employees, LGBTQ+ employees, veterans, etc., a great way to seek out a sense of belonging is to have 1:1s every once in a while with folks in your affinity group. We have fun Slack channels dedicated to topics like cooking, cycling, and Taylor Swift fangirling - if you’re not part of an identity-based affinity group, interest groups can also be great places to find community. I try to have a 1:1 with someone not on my team at least once a month - I find that those connections always end up popping back up in a fun way, which makes me feel more connected.


  • Find belonging and community, if not provided by your immediate team
  • Build casual relationships

Some questions you can ask:

  • What do you like about your role here? What’s it like compared with past companies you’ve worked at?
  • What do you like about working here? What do you think could be better?
  • What’s your immediate team like?
  • What’s a great book you’ve read recently?
  • Where do you live, and what’s your favorite thing to do in your city? What’s unique about it?