It’s been told a lot about managing your career. How to plan the career, how to get position you’d be happy with, how to push your way through the recruitment process, etc. You can find a lot of reading about the subject (personally I think Rowan Manahan has nice insights in that area), but I think we usually miss one thing here. We kick-off our careers and define our starting point usually quite unconsciously, when we start the first (longer) job. Of course the kick-off doesn’t limit our potential, but usually defines how painful it will be to achieve the final goal.
The environment which gives you first professional lessons forms you as an employee. And I don’t mean company culture only – one thing is how the organization as a whole is set up but another, even more important, how your team looks like and what kind of persons are leaders. Well-managed, integrated, team with influential leader is a great kick-off to your career. And it really doesn’t matter what programming language you use or what kind of projects you work on. The most important things you learn aren’t technology specific – team work or accountability can be learnt anywhere, customer/user-centric mindset isn’t the thing which is exclusively available in IT only. And a new programming language or project management technique? You’ll learn it when you need it.
When I think about my career I always come back to my very first team, where I learnt all those basics. I always considered the first professional environment as important but still when I’ve made a little analysis some time ago and results have surprised me a lot. I’ve taken people from my CDN XL team, where I’d grown up and listed what they’re doing now.
• Our director now co-owns a company
• Three of team manager owns or co-owns a company
• One more is a VP
• Three developers got director ranks
• One more is a team manager now
• Three consultants owns or co-owns a company
• Another three of them are directors now
• Three more became team managers
• Four testers moved to more prestigious developer role
• Two of them got their teams to manage
Wow. I mean, really, wow. I’ve just counted about two third of the team back then, and it was just a few years ago. What more, I can think about almost no one who wouldn’t appreciate the role of being there when looking from the perspective of their careers. For majority of us that was the first job, for another group that was first job they stuck with for a longer time. Definitely most of us set up our professional standards during that time. I believe the team, the way it was organized and managed and the atmosphere were very important elements of mixture which brought us wherever we are today.