It’s been a long time since I jotted some of my thoughts down here. Years, in fact. I’m hoping to change that now.
In those years I’ve gone through two acquisitions, moved out of the Bay Area to become something of a digital nomad (based out of Indianapolis), started a little YouTube channel, became an investor and advisor in several start-up projects, and improved my trade as a software engineer.
My main focus is my 9-to-5 job. I’m a follower in that role. I follow the lead of my boss, and his boss, the direction of my product managers and try to get things done while making them look good. That’s been my main goal over the years I’ve worked with them. In fact, I’m closing in on a decade with some of these clowns now!
I’ve read a metric ton of blogs that preach the opposite ethos, encouraging job-hopping for higher salary, better perks, etc. That’s cool. If that is working for you, go for it. In the tech industry I’d wager that two years is about the average term to expect a developer to stay put before moving on to a different job, barring an encouraging reason to sit tight (i.e. money or stock options). Let me offer you another perspective.
Read a retirement blog. Read ten of them, actually.
Most of them define building wealth via your regular income as the main factor to getting there. Growth in the stock market is great, but you start to feel the success of these mediums after investing large swaths of your main income, over a long period of time.
So what in the world do retirement blogs have to do with your career growth? Generally those blogs interview retirees who had success at what they did. Software Engineers may peruse StackOverflow for tips and tricks on solving a problem, based on how others had success in solving the same (or a very similar) problem. Let us apply that to your career trajectory and look at what other people did throughout their careers to achieve success.
Finding out what other people did that led them on a path to success is a critical piece of knowledge to growing in your career. Echoed in many retirement blogs are a few main tips:
Being a friendly person is good for a number of reasons. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but it builds a rapport with your co-workers and as such you learn to trust them and they learn to trust you, over time. To me, this process alone takes a year which makes it difficult for me to follow the change-jobs-every-two-years model to my career.
Second up is work hard, which also includes working smart. My co-workers and I measure success by “did it ship”. Sometimes things change (like a project scope), and managing those expectations is never a fun set of conversations to have. The important thing, however, is to remain focused on the end goal and to get to that goal whether you are managing a team or working solo on a project. Learn how to hit your goals.
To hit goals you have to set goals. I keep a silly little text file that I look at nearly every morning:
This little file is a reminder of what I’ve 1) promised to my manager and 2) promised to myself. The goals I’ve set publicly with my manager and co-workers I try to keep very tactile (ex. ship feature ABC). I’ve missed on those goals before, and it feels awful and can lead to frustration. I’ve witnessed others miss on their goals on many more occasions. This can lead to churn (i.e. switching jobs or being fired) or burnout (due to not feeling productive).
My little “ToDo” file for the quarter helps me make sure that, on a daily basis, I’m driving towards what I set out to accomplish. It provides a sense of accountability and urgency in my daily routine and makes the noise of day-to-day items turn down a notch.
Personal goals can be anything, job related or not, to help you improve. I tend to set an outline of a goal (ex:. read more, go on more dates, rekindle old friendships, exercise more, etc.), followed by a detailed path for that goal (ex: one book per week, play tennis on Tuesday and Thursday nights). These goals sometimes get left behind due to your daily workload and other extraneous affairs, but by reading your goals and updating them quarterly, you’ll be more attuned and focused on them.
This has been a helpful piece to some of my success both personally and professionally. Setting a goal of being more likable is a great first goal to put on the “promise-to-yourself” side of your goal file. Current projects are good to start with on the public side. Don’t be bashful about sharing what you want to accomplish here. You’ll likely need other peoples help and expertise (in and outside of the software department, in my case). Being friendly is a great way to build a rapport and get projects to go from a “possible” completion to a “highly likely” completion by the end of your quarter.
Try it out.
I plan to write a series of posts building off of this notion of t"he quarterly “ToDo” talking about everything from managing developers / people, asking for a raise, growing in your job, how to know when to quit a job and recognizing / managing toxic relationships in your workplace. In addition to the “soft-skill” bits of being a software developer, I also plan to introduce some more technical posts on some of my favorite technology stacks of late.
Thanks for reading!