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Career ambitions in a gloomy economy

January 29, 2009

I had a brief talk with my manager today, and several things came out.

Before Christmas, my task lead (not my manager) talked to me about the possibility of stepping up and leading the type of team I’m on now, once we have a full scale program.  For the next six months, I would be “mentored” by a new task lead on the technical details needed to run a team like mine, and the following six months I’d get to do it.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about whether it was what I wanted.  While getting an opportunity to be a task lead would be great, my current technical niche is not where I see myself long term.  I could do it, and could do it well, but it isn’t what I’m most interested in.

Considering my relatively short experience, I have a fairly diverse technical background.  However, the stuff I’m most interested in and that I have the most educational background in, I’ve never done in the workplace.  My manager and I discussed future opportunities in that area.  Nothing urgent (sometime this year?).  While I wouldn’t mind focusing on area of expertise eventually, this one isn’t for me.  I’m still young and flexible enough that moving around is not a big issue.

The whole impromptu meeting went well, and now it is just a matter of waiting.  I don’t expect changes to come quickly (my company is not known for moving quickly).  For now, I hope to push forward and help my task lead with the… leading.  He’s very good technically, but he doesn’t seem like he really wants to be a leader.

The meeting also boosted my confidence.  I don’t interact with my manager much, and it is nice to remember that he thinks highly of me and looks out for his people.  It’s a good reminder in gloomy times like these.  After that, I spent the rest of the afternoon in a 3 hour so-boring-i-want-to-jab-a-pen-in-my-eye meeting.  You take the bad with the good, right?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2009 11:17 pm

    That’s awesome! I work for the government and it seems like most of the current managers broke into management via similar circumstances. Luckily, you’re early enough in your career than you could probably afford to pass on the opportunity if you wanted to. One of the worst things you can do is take an offer like that because you “should” or because it’s “what people do” to climb the latter.

  2. January 30, 2009 8:17 am

    @cheaporfrugal – A “task lead” position is fairly common and doesn’t necessarily lead to management. Some people just want to be tech leads. I do think if you want to go to management, it is a very common path. The longer I work, the more inclined I feel towards management. But I’m still not sure if it is the path for me. Right now I’d rather expand my technical skills to keep the most doors open.

  3. January 30, 2009 11:11 am

    When I first started in my career I took whatever paths opened and tried to gain a broad base of knowledge. My current specialty came out of the blue, I never thought I’d be doing what I do. A few projects ago a dept manager asked for help and they stuck me with him. 6 months later they let him go and put me in charge! I don’t want to be as “specialized” as I am right now but it’s proven to be very lucrative. I’m trying to move back into a variety of projects so I don’t get pigeonholed. If you don’t have the opportunity to pursue what you really want for another year, why not give this a chance. You never know where it will lead.

  4. January 30, 2009 11:17 am

    @Miss M – My current job was kind of just a random path that opened, but I want to intentionally steer myself towards a new path. I do intend to keep on doing what I’m doing until something else opens up, including leading if it takes that long. There are a few other reasons why I want to switch (the program I’m on is not as stable as others), but mainly, I just don’t want to continue doing what I’m doing for the next several years.

  5. January 30, 2009 12:15 pm

    Interesting. The opportunity to challenge yourself is key to stay interested in any job. In this economy, being a highly valued employee as you are, is always a good thing.

  6. January 30, 2009 12:28 pm

    I’m glad that your manager is being proactive about developing your career. Looks like you’re also looking at the choice of expanding the breadth or depth of your career path.

  7. January 30, 2009 12:44 pm

    Good for you! It sounds like you’ve got some pretty good job security where you’re at. Most of us are just looking to hold on to our jobs at this point, not get promoted!

    I can’t imagine it not helping out your resume tremendously. Go for it.

  8. January 30, 2009 12:53 pm

    @andy – thanks!

    @Revanche – My manager is good about helping people get to where they want, provided I can come up with some sort of statement about where it is I want

    @treveor – thanks! it isn’t a job title change or official promotion (though I’m working on that separately….), just a new role. I still worry about layoffs though. You just never know.

  9. Audentia permalink
    January 30, 2009 1:06 pm

    Hi SP, may I ask exactly what technical area it is that you have the most education and interest in? I don’t want to ask you to give away too much if you think it might compromise your anonymity, but I’d be really interested to know what your core technical competency is now, and what specialty you think you have the most passion for with regards to the future of your career. Thanks.

  10. January 30, 2009 11:17 pm

    Believe it or not just couple days ago I was thinking about you and your job. I am happy it is working out for you. New challenges are always good!

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