According to LinkedIn it is my work anniversary month and they are telling me I’ve reached 15 years at the same company. Lord have mercy!
I’ve been so busy that I forgot to even celebrate (or cry) on 4th June, the actual anniversary day.
LinkedIn has got me here all in my feelings. Reminiscing about the good times, and vex about the not so good times. In truth it’s been a rollercoaster of a journey the last 15 years, especially the first 10 years, but everything happens for a reason, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without these experiences and lessons in life and career.
Here’s 5 things I’ve learned from spending 15 years at the same company in tech:
Never stay in the same team too long
I spent the first 10 years in the same team, doing the same things day in day out, until the role changed focus abruptly. Nightmare. But when I eventually moved to a new team within the department it felt like I was working for a brand new company… Modern tech, fresh faces, new ways of working, new projects. It was a blessing. I moved teams a few times until I found the tech, project, and product I really enjoyed working on and felt proud of. Finally found my passion too… Mobile Development.
In order to survive even 10 years at the same company it’s wise to move around the department/company so that you get a better understanding of the business and different domains. This also helps to build good relationships in different areas with key people, relationships that you can leverage later on in your tech career.
Never stick to one technology stack
Whatever you do, never focus on one technology for the majority of your career. I made the mistake of being territorial about Java because it took me so long to be taken seriously as a Java developer that I was damn well going to be a Java developer for life… Little did I know I was cutting myself off from lots of opportunities to grow, and to work on other exciting products. When I finally opened my mind to other technologies new opportunities came thick and fast to widen my knowledge and experience, and I became a better developer because of it.
It’s your responsibility to keep up with the ever changing technology
Don’t get comfortable or complacent, especially after learning your first major tech stack (in my case Java). 10 years in the same team working on the same thing will keep you in your comfort zone. If you have the opportunity to regularly learn new technologies and apply them to your existing project and in your existing team then that’s great. However, if not, at least make the effort to do some skills development or at least have an awareness of what tech is new out there, and find out what opportunities are available in other teams with your department or company to get to use them.
Promotions are not handed to you on a plate… You need to do the work and have a positive mindset
I have to admit I was a bit naive in this space… Throughout most of my career I thought someone would tell you when you are ready for promotion and it just happens. That’s not exactly the case… And it took me 12 years to come to that realisation. You have to take responsibility for your own career development and put a plan together (with assistance from your manager if they care and/or are willing to support). Know what you want in life and career and create a plan to get there. Once you’re clear on what you want, start taking ‘inspired’ action and go along about it with a positive mindset. I don’t know for sure why, but the help, assistance, encouragement, and opportunities will start to appear when you least expect it. Mindset is everything. If you are struggling with this, get help from a coach or therapist until having a positive mindset becomes the norm. Also surround yourself with like minded people who are on a similar journey to you.
Not everyone is for you, but there are some great cheerleaders and supporters too. Know the difference
Tech careers can be very competitive. Most people in tech are generally decent humans and will celebrate your achievements and encourage you to push on and achieve more, and that’s great. Unfortunately, there are those who will smile in your face, but just hate to see you achieving, progressing and getting the recognition you deserve. (Could also be known as Frienemies). Please don’t waste your time or energy trying to convince said people of your worth. It’s their issue not yours. Keep on keeping on! Focus on build a thriving career in tech and building good relationships with the ones that cheer you on.
BONUS – Never turn down opportunities you feel you are not ready for
I’ve let so many opportunities slip through my fingers it’s unreal… and the feeling of regret is painful. However, at the 12.5 years point as a Senior Developer at the same company, my mindset started to change. I was encouraged by a colleague to consider applying for a leadership position, one of the roles I’ve been doing for the last year. If I tell you I tried my hardest to run from this opportunity, but many people pointed out that I had already been leading people in many ways for many years and I just needed to focus that energy and do it with intention to have influence and make a difference. My feelings were that I’d just got comfortable working on the technology and product I loved, and was I really going to stop doing what I love everyday for a role I wasn’t 100% convinced about. It took me a further 12 months to accept they were right, and I should put myself forward, which I begrudgingly did. Blocked in my first attempt (that’s a long story for another day), paused on my 2nd attempt due to the pandemic, but as they say 3 times a charm so I tried again. 15 months after taking that leadership role on, I’m still involved in contributing to a product I love, and being able to create career development opportunities for people who want to grow their tech careers. And it is so satisfying to help make that happen. Damn it!
Overall its been a good 15 years, but I the last 5 years have been great for the most part, and I’m immensely proud of the products I have contributed to and the team I work with. Here’s to the future.