Saying it Aloud, To Others

I really enjoyed this post via Smashing Mag that covers a topic that is important as it is sensitive:

Many developers get to a point in their careers in which they’ve achieved many of their goals and wonder about the future.

Although some are confident continuing down the same road, others might feel the urge to explore different options in which their skills can be used to have a broader impact on the projects we work on and the teams we work with.

Is there a future beyond writing amazing, performant, beautifully-crafted code? Of course! For some, though, that ideal never gets old; it’s a never-ending quest and their careers are defined by pushing their own personal boundaries of efficiency, understanding, and even self-actualization.

While others have a slightly broader perspective and their curiosity drives them to explore other parts of their profession, especially in adjacent parts of the business (e.g. business, sales, marketing, operations, etc).

Some will inevitably explore management but I don’t always believe that’s the next-best spot for a curious and experienced engineer.

Unfortunately, most may feel pressured into these roles as a “necessary evil” for forward progress but that’s an outright lie (or myth) and the world, thankfully, is now so diverse with opportunity that there’s a definite spot on an amazing team that can use your skills while also entertaining and listening empathetically about where you want to go next.

But, here’s my point: Saying it aloud is powerful and it’s the first step (of many!) for software-oriented folks who have just begun to explore and entertain the idea of doing something other than full-time software and product development!

Want to know something even more powerful than just saying it aloud? Telling someone else what you’re actually thinking. For instance, how hard would it be for you to go to your spouse or significant other or friend or even your direct report / manager and say:

Hey… I’d like to start a conversation about doing something other than full-time software development—would you be open to chatting with me about that sensitive and difficult topic?

You’re not committing to anything nor are you communicating that you’re unhappy; rather, you’re “going first,” sharing candid thoughts to someone who loves and respects you. This decision, in and of itself, is exceptionally courageous and you deserve a ton of kudos for even surfacing it.

[Oh, that’s important: Share these early ruminations with those that you know well and that you can trust, at least in the beginning!]

I remember the first time that I told my best friend that I was no longer “as interested” in writing production code as a full-time engineer and that that thought scared the fucking shit out of me.

My wife just looked at me and smiled; and, after what felt like an eternity, said quietly:

I know. You lost that fire years ago.

Ironically, the ones that know you the best probably already know what you’re thinking (to a certain degree). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people really knew what you thought? Would it be amazing if more people really knew… you?

That’s a thought. Let’s get to work:

Once we’re sure we want to take a leap in our career, we have to start moving in the right direction. The first step would be to explore the options, decide which path you want to pursue, and see how that path aligns with your current role.

Does your company offer a space in which you could be a mentor or a manager? Do you think that there’s a chance of making it happen there or do you think you will need to continue your growth elsewhere? These are just some of the questions you have to ask yourself and will also lead to a conversation with some of your teammates and managers.

Taking a step in a new direction will require putting in the hard work, having an open mind, and being resilient enough to fail and try again, as many times as it takes.

via Smashing Magazine

2020 is going to be one very exciting year, for all of us.