Thinking about the path ahead


Yes, I know, I said I wasn’t going to overthink this career thing. During a bike ride to work, I thought it might be a good idea to graph the different things I’m considering in the medium/long-term, how they relate to my comfort zone, and what kind of growth I see ahead.

Development: I understand this path the most. I have a deep background in it, I know I love doing it, I can list some things I want to learn, and I’m already in a good position to work on projects like that. This path is mainly limited by the movement of development to lower-cost areas, but I have a lot of role models who are IT architects or senior developers, so I can imagine what growth looks like.

Consulting: I’ve done a bit of consulting in the past, and I can continue to develop industry knowledge and learn more about frameworks. I can find opportunities to do this, although it’s not as easy as finding development opportunities.

My current role in Innovation Discovery: I’ve gotten the hang of the routine things I need to do, and push outside my comfort zone by creating new tools and resources to help us work. It doesn’t feel as deep in terms of growth as the other paths do, though.

Supporting and leading workshops might be a good thing to grow into. It’s a relatively big jump from where I am and I may need to have a lot more experience (people who do this are several pay-levels above me!). It’s a subset of consulting. It will give me lighter cross-industry knowledge instead of the deeper industry knowledge that comes from extended engagements.

Communications: I know a little about communications, and I enjoy writing and presenting. I don’t know enough about full-time communications work to get a good sense of whether it would be a good fit, though.

Sales: I don’t have any sales experience. It’s a great life and business skill, though, so I’d love to explore it and learn more about client needs, our offerings, and how to match-make the two. What would I bring to the table? I’m good at finding resources/experts.

Management: I don’t have any management experience, although my experiments with virtual assistance helped me learn about delegation. I don’t know yet whether I’d like this a lot or not. One way to find out is to grow in development until I can become a project manager, and then use that project management experience to figure out if I like contributing primarily through a team (instead of as an individual contributor).

It’s good to have a Plan B, C, D, etc. In terms of flexibility and transferable skills, development, consulting, and sales are great. Communications and management are transferable, but more dependent on the organization. My current role is much more IBM-specific than the others, and the complex parts of workshop leading are also IBM-specific, although the facilitation skills are transferable.

I need to learn more about the other paths to see what they look like and what the opportunities are. It’s good to explore different areas, because that will help me bring the different parts together later on.

  • Development to do the SOA, Scalable, E-commerce stuff is not that difficult provided you do some common sense practice.

    The “development portion” pretty much has not changed over the years, the naming, the wire protocols, assembly may have changed but they are not significant in terms of learning curve because of tools and tutorials available. The core theories that we’d learn in computer science and actually programming a full J2EE app carry over anyway. shows what you should avoid with a dose of humor.

    However, the “business portion” of SOA, e-commerce, analytics, etc. is a totally different ball game. This is why you can’t say SOA is RMI with XML over HTTP because although that is the development portion, there is major implications of moving the data around the business at an organizational level.

  • @sachac Your diagram is simple, which is good and bad. You’ve mixed up a lot of dimensions, that include job role, career path (in the way that the company sees linear professional development) and skills. These work on different time scales.

    I would worry less about skills, because you’ll pick them up as you need them, and planning for training (rather than education) can be done one the scale of days or weeks.

    Job role mostly changes on the time scale of one to three years, i.e. a shift comes by a change in management reporting lines.

    Career path requires an accumulation of experiences. To be simplistic, the company probably most recognizes (i) technical (where depth matters); (ii) selling (where relationships with customers matter); and (iii) management (where authority over subordinates matter).

    You might consider how your job role(s) (previous, current and future) line up to your career path.

    P.S. The idea of time scales is highly influenced by Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn. I had written about “shearing layers” some time ago, and observe that the language has been refined to “pacing layers”.