The blog ofJonathan Pepin

Jocelyn Goldfein- Eng Career Advice


How career growth works for engineers

This is not about becoming more expensive (higher salary) but becoming more valuable (having more impact)

You are responsible for your own career growth.
Going from engineer level 1 to Senior may come by itself with experience, but going beyond required effort.

It is managers' responsibility to develop their engineers, but it's a skill learnt and acquired over time, so not all manager may do this.

There are 2 zones; What you know (confort zone) and what you don't (stress zone).
Being only in either won't help you grow. It requires a good balance between both;
A little of what you already know to produce and move forward, and a little of what you don't know to learn and grow.

Do Stuff:
- Projects that matter
- Make judgement calls
- Have real consequences

Then learn from this and make future decisions according to your learnings.

Mid career is usually where most people get stuck. Become Senior and then stop growing, because
- what worked to become senior doesn't work anymore
- confort zone is bigger now so you are more into it
- harder to find mentorship

To continue growing, you have to find projects of Staff level that will grow you (get back in stress zone and work on things you don't know).

As a senior you get to a point where you know most of your work and you are limited to the speed at which you can type. It is time to develop soft skills (communication, etc.) to help grow others and scale yourself.

Management is not a promotion, it's a job change. Horizontal move, not vertical.
It requires different skills that are learnable.
It's ok to try to be a manager and go back you don't like it.

Don't become a manager for
- control
- access to information
- visibility
Those are the wrong reasons and will make you bad and not enjoy it.

Do it for:
- organizing
- developping people
- you think this is how you'll be able to have more impact

Usual errors from new managers:
1. no sense of accomplishment bc of lack of tangible impact (vs shipping code)
2. no intrisinc reward in people's impact
3. too hands on in coding
4. too hands on in design decisions and not leaving room for others to grow
5. too hands off and loose respect and relevance

Advice if interested in transitionning to management:
- Start small (3-5 reports)
- Be curious about the job (read books, blogs, ask questions)
- Get a lot of feedback along the way to grow and learn