Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Drafting a career plan ...

Having been born in India, and found my way into computers early, graduated in computer engineering, some of this was choice, an equally, yet immeasurable proportion was not chosen, but was welcome in shaping my career.

These are the lessons I have learned over a decade, which I am sure are relevant even to this day:
  1. The first ever domain in which we take up a job dictates to a large extent the focus domain we will have for the rest of our lives. This statement is not restricted to information-technology or engineering but is valid across several domains.
  2. If we start with an Indian graduation, we find ourselves lacking of many fundamentals whenever we choose to apply them. It is inevitable that we spend time trying to learn-again (or re-learn) some of the core skills we need to become productive and effective in our job.
  3. Being schooled with strict instructions from our Teachers, Headmasters, we are inherently designed to wait for instructions as opposed to figure our own way out. What is often referred to as "self drive" is usually the ability to transcend this phase where the education system wanted us to stay obedient. The more obedient we are, the more passive we become, the less productive and enthusiastic is our output within our domain.
  4. As our skills specific to our job begin to increase and our ability to apply knowledge in the field increases, our performance is immediately recognized. We are then offered a choice of promotions. The preferred kind are quasi-management and quasi-domain focus, usually at a ratio that is easily measurable and acceptable. It is more likely that the emphasis on management will slowly blot out the emphasis on the domain.
  5. Unfortunately many who want to purely focus only on their skills and strength within their domain do not have easy avenues of growth that they can lay out for themselves. In short, their career growth path within that domain so long as they focus on core skills / activities / field-work that is domain specific will be minimal especially where the Subcontinent's cultural ramifications in the work environment are pronounced.
  6. There is often a motivation to put one's self ahead of one's own team. This is counterproductive in most cases and must be avoided. Growing together with one's team is possible if one's team is cosmopolitan and not bound by regional, linguistic and gender bias. All future productivity in any domain lies with the ability to become part of teams by adapting quickly and identifying oneself with the team.
  7. If one does not have the entire picture beyond the domain of the full layout and flow of the work they are involved in, then finding this 'BIG picture' as it is oft cited, is very important. Performing our work within our domain, within specific boundaries can only give us partial understanding and satisfaction upon completion. Understanding the entire task of which we are a part of, will give us the ability to contribute to multiple parts or at the very least tune our own deliverable items to fit the holistic solution.
  8. Having a 3-month, 6-month, 1-year roadmap would be very useful to help one align with the organization. This would also help in taking critical decisions whenever necessary. If important family events like a wedding or a relocation are to take place within this known duration, we would be able to ensure that they have a minimum effect on what we would like to do in terms of a career. Keeping this career plan open, will help our performance in a team much better.
  9. Last, but not least, the most important part of pushing our career forward is to grow not only in our domain, but also in communication-skills. For some domains written communication skills are given emphasis (especially science, technology, engineering, research ...) while in other domains (like sales, marketing, management, strategy, leadership...) spoken communication is given emphasis. It is best to develop our skills to augment our ultimate objectives and goals in all dimensions.
    • This may involve learning a National language that may not be English. This may also involve an interest in learning local languages in a short time even if it is meant for improving verbal communication.
This career plan can be drafted after the critical hurdle to secure the very first job in our life is done. This too must be done in an organization of our preference, where we would find it comfortable to work at least largely.

Most of these rules would remain unchanged in other geographies. The complexity of organizations involving major people interaction at multiple levels as dense social dynamics is often the case in Service Companies and Service Oriented Companies.

We should be better poised to approach an Organization or a Company with solutions we are good at. As far as Software Engineering goes, we can share source code openly on the Internet, as we can share documentation that will help prospective employers to validate us with ease. Some employers insist on processes, but are willing to reduce that load if they are able to validate us based on work we have done prior (at an under-graduate or school level.) This is probably the most important part in ensuring that our first job, and therefore all that follow are in the right field of interest we have selected. Creativity can always be expressed and shared, and it will definitely help in doing so when we are trying to find a employer who is looking for a similar set of skills.

Ask what you can do for the employer rather than what the employer can do for you - and this first hurdle is easily crossed. The rest is Kaizen, continuous improvement on our part.