Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Career Strategy

What is your current position/ title/  and
where do you see yourself going in the next few years?

Prakash S
Saturday, February 8, 2003

Now:  Senior Scapegoat
Going: out of my mind :)

Chief Complainer
Saturday, February 8, 2003

This is something i've been thinking a lot about lately.  I've landed myself a few solid development positions, but i'm now starting to see the "glass ceiling" so to speak, mostly because i'm still working at my degree, and also because i'm so young.
I've been putting myself into "lead" positions more and more of late, and I've been trying to overcome my chaotic tendancies and teach myself Proccess (even though my company unofficially discourages it).  I definatly see myself in a management position in the next 5 or so years, but I also have a feeling that it will be an uphill battle getting there.  I look forward to the challenge though.

How 'bout you Prakash?  No fun if i'm the only one spilling my guts.

Vincent Marquez
Sunday, February 9, 2003

"How 'bout you Prakash?  No fun if i'm the only one spilling my guts. "

- Fair enough..

I have been thinking of this for a while too... and do see the 'glass ceiling' that you talk about.. which is why I am looking at various oportunites/ alternatives that would get me into upper management sooner rather than later.

This would be something like PM roles if I take up a tech job, am also thinking about joining companies like Bain (the management consultancy route...)

I am giving myself around 5 yrs to get there.

Prakash S
Sunday, February 9, 2003

"Proccess (even though my company unofficially discourages it).  "

-why do they discourage it? I am guessing they don't pay for you to go to school, either.

Prakash S
Sunday, February 9, 2003

>> This would be something like PM roles if I take up a tech job, am also thinking about joining companies like Bain (the management consultancy route...)

Hmmm.  You are perceptive young one.  Perceptive, and sly.

Most management roads run through the PM role.  It is rare, but not impossible, that an engineer gains promotion without some sort of PM feather in their hat.

You can work your ass off, be invaluable to your company's product, but at the end of the day they'll promote someone else.

I won't be surprised if someday I'm working for you.  Damn kids...

Nat Ersoz
Sunday, February 9, 2003

You guys make me laugh, so inexperienced, so full of your, as yet, unproven abilities.

You've got attitude, not aptitude, and that's all at this stage.

I think you should both aim for president of the united states, don't try to be too quick, give yourself at least five years.

Then you'll be in a role fit for your ability.

Some other things to consider are:

Surgeon General
Famous scientist
World Leader
Work out a cure a currently incurable disease

Go get em'!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2003

"Perceptive, and sly."

- Thanks for the perceptive part, but explain that sly part to me again!

"I won't be surprised if someday I'm working for you.  Damn kids... "

Hey Nat, I am sure I could learn a few things from you, and could teach you a thing or two:-)

Prakash S
Sunday, February 9, 2003


You forgot NBA All Star!

Prakash S
Sunday, February 9, 2003

Realist, I've always prided myself on being humble (wait..i'm so confused about that sentance ;-) )

As I said, I'm expecting many to have the attitude that you do.  Of course you have no reason to think I have anything other then attitude.  I've accepted that as a reaction i'll be getting for the next 8 years or so.  At the same time, I look forward to working with people like you, as most of the time they quickly come to respect me.  Do I have high aspirations? of course I do.  What else should I have?  I'm 20 and making a lot more money then I ever thought possible at this age.  Very rarely do I dwell on that fact though, as I'd rather look up, then down.  It goes along with that being humble thing. 

Vincent Marquez
Monday, February 10, 2003

"What is your current position/ title/ and
where do you see yourself going in the next few years?"

Current: QA Manager
Future: hard to say. I'd like a position I've only seen listed rareley--'QA Architect'. I was offerred that position once(took a different position that offerred way more money, though), with an organization that had at the top of its tech org chart an 'architecture group', of which the QA Architect was a member. Last couple of years, I've been doing an awful lot of hands-on, due to downsizings, which isn't bad either, but it is limiting. Either the QA Architect or a VP level position with organizational QA as at least one of the primary missions of the positions.

But, who knows? And as a word of caution to the younger folks out there--stay focused, but be flexible. I'm kind of a poster-child for the saying 'life is what happens when you had something else in mind'. Started out to be a professional soldier in the US Army Engineers, planning to go the professional engineer route, retire from the military someday and move into construction engineering full time. Took all the 'right' assignments an officer was supposed to have (we called it 'punching the right tickets') got loads of leadership time at different levels, but ended up--somehow--in one of the largest engineering organizations around, not getting any positions that reinforced my civil engineering background, which rapidly went stale. Seeing the writing on the wall, I started moving professionally into something that would be a more marketable direction for me, Operations Research/Systems Analysis. The Army sent me to school for that, and it became a secondary speciality. I did a tour of duty with one of the premier Army analytical agencies as an OR/SA and got pretty heavily into simulations, operations analysis, decision support, IV&V, testing, and computers. OK, so I was focused toward OR. Great. Then the military dramatically downsized in the early 90's, I decided to get out, and had difficulty finding civilian positions that were focused at OR--many didn't even know what it was, though their organizational problems screamed with need for it. But, I was able to continue in various analytical positions for a few years, also doing QA and testing of analytical simulations and software systems, then an opportunity came up to move fully into software QA and I've been following that path ever since. I've got something like 13 or more years as a leader/manager of groups ranging from 2-3 people up to 260, so I was in kind of a different position than lots of civilians; I had plenty of leadership experience, but needed to build more on my technical skills, which is why the last few years of hands-on has been a good thing.

The point is that I've basically had to re-think/re-start my 'career' three times. I've been able to land on my feet each time, though. I think what's let me do that is because I've had an eclectic mix of experience, and have had to handle very heavy burdens of responsibility at a fairly young age compared to the average civilian. Sometimes having a diverse background makes it hard to express succinctly on a resume the value that I bring to an organization, but so far at least, there's been something in my background to draw on, package up on a resume, and pursue when life demonstrates it 'has something else in mind' for me.  So it's not that I haven't been focused, but just the way things have worked out that I've had to change directions. Sometimes I envy the guys who've had a nice, simple, linear progression from graduation with their CS degrees to various rungs on the developer ladder, but just didn't work out that way for me.

Bottom line is to try to stay flexible, re-evaluate how the battle's going for you and realize that sometimes you may need to redirect your attack along another path. You obviously need to stay focused, but there's a balance to maintain--you can be too narrowly blind (i.e. 'specialized'), which can limit your overall utility and marketability in the long run. This is an observation other posters have made here as well, especially with respect to particular technologies of the moment.

Best of luck to all,

Monday, February 10, 2003

I'd rather stay technical. There are way too many middle-management Dilbert-like pointy haired bosses out there & they are the first to go during layoffs!

Staying technical is the way to go for me. I'd rather continue writing code & be on the path to a Technical Specialist position (currently I am a programmer analyst).

I'd rather be the guy who actually does work and accomplishes something rather than make phone calls, write email and set up endless meetings!!!!!!!

Monday, February 10, 2003

Although I have been programming for 6 years now I am actually in a testing and data entry position. Maybe others would consider this below me but I do not. It pays just as well, beats digging ditches, and they were specifically looking for a programmer to take the lead role in their testing strategy. Maybe after this crunch is over I can slide into another official programming position. I plan on picking back up in college where I left off this fall and getting a degree in CS.

Last year I started a software company wth a developer partner and we have yet to release our first product. When you take a grass roots approach it takes a while to purchase all the necessary tools and marketing to launch, so I've been contracting and looking into other means of financing that would benefit us. No I do not have an MBA. No I don't have much management experience outside of small teams. BUT I do know how to surround myself with people that do have this type of experience.

I don't think it's being cocky to have a plan for the future, no matter how bold or how much risk is involved. The fact is we have a good chance of failure and we have accepted that risk. Every chance for success comes with the flip side - failure. But how could one ever achieve success without taking that risk? Most shy away from that chance because they seek stability instead. More power to them, but it's not me. Those that criticize taking chances in one's dreams will always be relegated to life's forgotten. Those that seek stability from another's fortune will be the whipping boys, working late hours to buy their master another house or car. I'd rather make my own way.

Ian Stallings
Monday, February 10, 2003

>> I'd rather be the guy who actually does work and accomplishes something rather than make phone calls, write email and set up endless meetings!!!!!!!

Actually, most business owners and executives of companies above a rather small size tend to have a combination of condescending contempt and "master servant - I have the big picture - employee is a stunted runt" mentality. Most higher level business management has appeared to me, after being in industy for 23 years, to be an exercize in flaunting one's ego with others, usually by denigrating anyone who actually does real deliverable work for a living.

We people who create things of quality and value by using our creativity and technical prowess are NOT, I repeat *not* respected by the crowd that owns the golden parachutes and makes the strategic decisions for their corporations.
We (serious developers) basically do the sort of work that you'd think should earn respect, and it does. But that respect is generally from those that don't have any say in our career progression.

Sic: even if another coder thinks I'm an uber-mensch, all he or she is, is another damn coder with no say, who could be laid off or fired tomorrow with a smirk by management stating that they're cleaning house and promoting excellence...

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 10, 2003

Current Title:: Financial Analyst
Strategy:: avoid that quagmire called middle management!

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Current Title:: Senior Developer
Current Duties:: assistant PM-ish (process modifications, architecture & design), finally writing the first piece of production code after 9 months with the company
Current Plan:: this --> PM again for real --> start small company
Alternate plans:: school --> PM, manager of non-developers --> PM, quit this --> start small company.  And if anyone has any other routes...

Right now I'm hacking my job.  I'm very aware of it, I think the rest of the group is aware of it, relatively few are upset about it, my boss is not one of them.  If it works it works, I'd enjoy helping this company, this group succeed, even if the Idea is someone else's; if it doesn't work, I'll deal with it then, take another path to where I want to be.

Vincent, I don't think we're arrogant.  Or at least not too arrogant -- there's a lot of people who are more arrogant and less useful, and not aware of either fact.  And I don't think, either, that there are that many of us (young people, I'm 25, who care about people and process in addition to technology, and want a PM job someday soon) in the world in general.  Just here at JoS. ;)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

[I'd rather be the guy who actually does work and accomplishes something rather than make phone calls, write email and set up endless

I feel the same way. I'm a programmer/analyst, after 8 years in IT. I also have my own very small software business. I never had an ambition to be a manager because I like working with computers, and I like to feel I know something and actually do something.
However, my managers have always been younger than I am, and they usually feel far superior to me just because it's their job to tell me what to do.
I don't have ambitions to be a manager, but I would like to be respected anyway. I realize that's mpossible.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

PC, thats a shame, because I've worked with some REALLY good engineers who have no project management/managerial skills, (mostly because of choice), and that in no way takes away from my respect for them as an engineer.  Hopefuly you can find a company that respsects your skills. 

Vincent Marquez
Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Now : Senior Developer
Future : Program Manager, or equivalent thereof. I've got more interested in the decision making of what code to write, than the actual nuts and bolts of doing it (unless the nuts and bolts is some new technical challenege I haven't tried yet)

It would be nice to have my own company eventually, just need to think of a good product to sell...

Better than being unemployed...
Monday, February 17, 2003

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