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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

How to Achieve an Extraordinary Career Growth as a Programmer

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Recently we went through a company-wide survey for the employees.

The common theme that came up in our organization is that people need better opportunities for their career growth.

Doing a bit of research, I found out half of the software industry’s workforce is not happy with their career progression. Here are a few stats on the related topic.

The above numbers do not give an encouraging picture of software engineers' professional growth. So, in such scenarios, what should you do to have an outstanding software development career?

How can you grow faster than your peers and achieve your dream goals?

Here is a seven-step formula; if you diligently adhere to them, it will help you have the most extraordinary success as a software engineer. Some of these steps were shared by our leaders who have already achieved big in their careers.

1. Your career is your responsibility

The first and foremost thing to understand is— Your career is nobody else’s responsibility. If you want outstanding professional growth, then you need to own your career path.

Many people sit around and do their job silently, expecting they will get noticed by their manager. But professional growth does not work that way.

The software industry does not work like government organizations where you move through the hierarchy after a set period. It would be best if you approached your career progression systematically.

Your colleagues and friends can motivate you. Your company and manager can provide adequate support. But the effort required to enhance your skills to achieve the career goals is entirely your responsibility.

In my experience— if you want an extraordinary career, you need to perform way better than everyone around you in all aspects.

It helps to be proactive and sincere. Put your effort to deliver much better than your team members. When your colleagues or interlocks need help, never hesitate to assist them.

Taking ownership of your career is the first step towards building an exceptional career.

2. Know what you want

Many software developers desire professional growth but do not know what exactly they want. They don’t have a vision for their own career. Without an objective, their career wavers around like an aimless ship.

I have seen people get confused with what they want for themselves as a developer. Many see the role of PM or PO as a better perspective. Some prefer to become a manager.

When I ask them why exactly they want to choose either of these roles, the answer almost always is— I think those roles have better growth opportunities.

Next question: What do you mean by growth opportunities? Answer(s): Managers get more money and have control over everything. PM/POs never have to code. They have fewer responsibilities but make more money.

I don’t know how these people know what a manager /PM / PO earns or how much they actually have to work. However, the responses clearly show that the individuals have no clue how they want to grow in their careers.

They feel the perceived more money or less work is what growth looks like.

Deciding career goals based on assumptions is a sure-shot path to failure.

It is crucial to base your decisions on facts instead of assumptions. Ask for suggestions from people who have already achieved what you want to achieve.

Take your time to analyze the details and decide on your career goals. It is also equally essential to set a definite timeline to achieve it.

3. Find out what you need to do to achieve what you want

Once you have set your goals after doing your due diligence, the next is to find out how to achieve them. You have to put in the work to discover the ways.

An important point to remember is that your goals are your responsibility

Suppose you are a junior developer, and your target is to become a senior developer within the next few years. For that, you need to understand what it takes to become a senior developer.

Talk to experienced people in your company and find out what is expected out of the role.

Maybe your target is to become an architect in a few years. Check with your manager to understand what is expected from an architect. Solicit advice from the architects in your company. Request them to see if you can tag along in some of their work to learn directly.

There is nothing wrong with a developer aspiring for a PO or PM role. Talk to someone who is already performing the function to see what are the prerequisites. Find out if you need to do any specific courses or acquire any certification to be eligible for the target role. Your target should be to know the requirements for moving into the desired role. Just knowing what you want but without a plan to achieve it will not take you anywhere closer to your goals.

4. Have multiple plans

Now you have a goal and a plan to achieve it. That gives you a great start on your career path. Next is to understand that no plan is perfect. There are many factors along the way which can disrupt your plan.

Then the 2008 recession happened. At the same time, my company registered its name in history as India’s largest corporate fraud. I was left with no other plan but rushed to find another job before any risk to my employment status.

I learned my lesson and was prepared for any casualty in the next company.

I am not saying that you have to jump the company to fulfill your dreams. But you should have more than one plan to achieve your goals.

Maybe your team cannot fulfill your growth objectives. In such cases, you should be ready to switch the team. Perhaps there is a long queue ahead of you for your desired role. In that case, maybe it is a wise idea to find similar opportunities outside the organization.

You know your situation better than anyone else. Hence, plan accordingly and keep more than one trick up your sleeves.

5. Don’t wait for others to help you

It’s action time. Start working on your plans. Everyone has their plan, and they are working on it. Do not wait for them to pause their plans to fulfill your dream.

People often come up with career plans and then share them with others expecting some form of validation. It is good to have your goals reviewed but do not expect approval before you start working on them.

I have seen people complain about not getting interview calls for many months, but they neither have a good resume nor actively participate in networking. They expect a job site to do magic for them.

Within your team— if your teammate cannot give KT, then ask for documents and start reading them. Don’t wait for someone to explain the details of new technology.

Go ahead and register yourself in an online course and learn on your own. Pick up a certification course and prepare yourself for the exam. People will be busy fulfilling their dreams. If you wait for them to come and help with yours, then you will be left behind.

It is your career; own it, and act on it.

6. Use the tools that are available to you

Make use of all the tools available to stay relevant in the software development field. Enroll in your company’s training program. If there is no formal training program, then request your manager to arrange for one.

Use the software that is available for your day-to-day work to learn new things. Your company will not complain if you use the tools available to enhance your skills outside your job profile.

I use our company-provided online training platform to take courses about leadership and writing. I am a solution architect by role. But learning about leadership and writing is my passion.

Find out the internal job posting site in your company. Check if any openings fit your career goal. Talk to your manager and apply for open positions.

One on One meeting is also one of the most powerful tools to have a conversation about your career path with your manager. Utilize it effectively.

Conferences are a great way to learn about the latest development and do networking. See if your manager can approve the budget for it. There are also many free conferences that you can attend and take similar benefits.

7. Learn from Others

Feedback is one of the best tools to learn. Elicit feedback from your co-workers, seniors, friends, and managers.

If you want to reach a particular designation, then watch someone who is already in that position. There will be people who are better than you in certain aspects. Learn from them directly.

If you think you are the smartest person in the group, you might want to change your group. Be in a group where you can learn more than you know. Knowledge is a critical factor that will help you in your career progression.

Final Thoughts

You will not get selected in every interview you give. You might not get promoted when you think you are ready for the next role. There will be times you will not get the credit when it is due. However, don’t lose your heart with initial failures.

When you have your plans set and solid determination to achieve them, you will find yourself bouncing back from each setback and marching ahead with new vigor.

Stick to these seven-step processes throughout your professional career and you will undoubtedly achieve extraordinary growth.

Thanks for reading the article. I wish you all the very best in your professional career.

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