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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

What Do You Want To Do In Two Years From Now?

What Do You Want To Do In Two Years From Now? post image

As a manager of 130-something people I often have these chats on what opportunities people have to grow within the organization. You know, with such crowd you can pretty safely assume that people do want to grow, to change their role, to get promoted. So they eventually land on a sofa in my office to discuss their future.

On one hand these discussions are always challenging. I mean we’re discussing here one’s future. That’s a serious matter. On the other most of the time I find it easy to share a flurry of ideas on where someone could push their career.

The context of organization is pretty much set – we know what we do, we roughly know how we do it and we definitely know how, in general, we want to improve it. And yet people often need a lot of guidance to show them what they can do in a couple years from now.

One thing is people often constrain themselves to just the lowest hanging fruit. I’m a developer so the next step is senior developer. Then a tech lead and then a software development manager. Oh so creative. How about business analysis, project management, product management, quality assurance (yes, this one too) or what have you?

While we are going beyond mental constraints, why not running a startup, consulting or freelancing?

Or simply doing the same thing you do and rightshifting at the same time? Do you really need a new title on a business card to feel fulfilled? Maybe you just like what you already do and the fun comes when you shift toward improved effectiveness?

One could say that having much power it’s easy to come up with different ideas but I do as I preach. I mean I consider myself a leader. My current team has, at the moment, 130ish people. The previous one had 4. Another 35. In each and every of them I was self-developing like crazy. In each role I could imagine myself in a year being in any of others as well as doing a bunch of different things. I didn’t feel constrained either by the current situation or by current organization. These things change very rapidly in IT.

When you are asked a question what you want to do in two year time (and believe me, I ask this question a lot) it’s not a question about current options in your organization but it’s a challenge to your mental constraints.

As simple as that. No one is going to offer you a project management position or their biggest software development division unless they’re convinced you will manage. You won’t convince them using your will solely. You need to know what it takes to do the job, understand different approaches and have a vision of your own path.

My wild-ass guess is that you don’t know all that at the moment. That’s great. Because I’m not going to judge anyone on their current knowledge. I’m going to judge them on their potential and their urge to learn.

With such attitude you render your mental constraints irrelevant and you don’t need to ask anyone about your options anymore. You know the answer.

in: personal development, recruitment

5 comments… add one

  • Alex K May 21, 2012, 12:54 am

    In my experience growing within one organization in terms of job titles often gets in the way of actual professional and skills growth.
    What’s worse is when people set as target achieving a title instead of success track record or further developing their own skills. This is one of the main reasons companies with over 100 employees tend to stagnate at some point – people are often waiting for promotion based on seniority and networking instead of what value they can bring to a different position.
    One of the best ways to deal with this is setting a very flat organizational chart where teams can focus on reaching targets instead of constantly striving for promotion and further career development.

  • Heather May 22, 2012, 9:52 am

    This is an encouraging post. I definitely have the urge to learn. Showing an urge to learn is easy but how do you judge potential? Is this a gut feeling for you or do you measure it in some other way?

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 23, 2012, 9:57 am

    @Alex – Personally I’m a fan of super-flat role names, namely one role per specialization. This way you rule promotion out of equation. However, some people tend to care much about what they have printed on their business card and for them such organization may be a bit problematic.

    Either way, seniority- or networking-based promotions are plain evil. I care little about how long you’ve been around. What is important is how well you can cope with work. I would say however that it’s more a property of weak leaders than org size.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 23, 2012, 10:28 am

    @Heather – I would say that I judge potential by informed gut feeling. I mean I don’t have a scientific method to say who will grow more than the others, but it’s not just plain feeling. I ask questions about different things you read, pet projects you build, technologies you choose whenever you have freedom to do so, etc. Basing on answers you can learn about one’s mindset and this is exactly what indicates potential.

  • Sean June 21, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Yup, that’s what Tony Sheh of Zappos said about all his projects: about two years out is the average return on anything you’re doing today — speaking from over a decade of experience.

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