How did I survive 15 years in the IT industry?
Recently, one of my good friend asked me privately how did I survive 15 years in the IT industry. So I thought to give my learnings and advice for young engineers.
Who am I
I started my IT career at the age of 22 and just completed 15 years in this field. A blessed career path. I got my first job as a software engineer in a startup and decided to grow horizontally with technologies, building networks, and tried various projects. I have enjoyed the utmost freedom in all the companies I had worked, exercised free speech, keep moving into hot technologies, new environments, and learned best practices from more than 30+ different customers.
In my experience, I have seen a lot of Ups and Downs in my career like
- Lack of appreciation
- Finding faults regularly
- Poor/No appraisals
- Divide & rule
- Favouritism & nepotism
- Cheap politics
- Psychological harassment
and the list goes on. I have got failures/rejection/success a lot of times and never got demotivated. From my experience I have listed some advice to the younger generation who is stepping into the IT industry.
My advice to Juniors
The grass is always greener on the other side. You have to choose what is right for you :)
Treat people with respect
A simple act of kindness goes a long way. Today’s direct report of your juniors could become your Boss or a Client in the future. No one will remember how good you were in programming and delivering project results. They will remember you for your interpersonal skills.
Don’t seek perfection
It is not possible to attain 100% expertise in a specific technology. Nothing wrong with it but know that life is short. As long as you can learn 60% of the specific technology domain, you are good to go. The dedication, work ethics, and the right atmosphere will fill you with the remaining.
Never stop learning. I do not encourage people to go back to school and spend money unnecessarily :). Just kidding. Be a self-learner. Invest yourself in good courses, books, and get comfortable work furniture (one of my friend bought a chair for 10,000 dollars). Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Write at least one certification in a year in the relevant field.
Understand Office Politics
You can’t get away with politics and it will pull you in. Never get into office gossip, Never talk bad about anyone especially about the people at the higher management.
Be politically correct
Long term sustainability in the IT industry is not just about technology. One must learn how to be politically correct. It may not work well in small organizations and others will alienate you. At some point, you will pick up the rhythm and move on by knowing the audience. It’s a natural process.
Be Open-Minded and an Active Listener
The world is full of talent. Everyone has something to offer in cross-functional teams. Listen to them carefully, be agreeable in matters that are not critical to the business, and recognize them as your counterpart. At some point, they will start following you without their knowledge and you will become the leader.
Keep building your professional network who can support you in your crisis, mentor, and give their hand to come up. References are very important to have a long career.
Embrace young engineers
When you experienced in the industry, you will end up working with a lot of young engineers. They have different views about the world, knowledge base and you may often feel frustrated to understand their thought process or educate them. It may feel like starting from the beginning some days. Never forget, they are the future. It is our job to mentor, nurture, discipline, and bring them up to speed. It will give you the utmost happiness in your heart and interestingly, we feel younger and learn new things from them.
The most successful people in IT are liberals. Never judge people by their color, nationality, accent, visa status, religion, and other physical factors. It liberates your mind, makes you calm, and generates good results for your employer. One of them may refer you to a top job in their country and help you to become an ex-pat.
Lifestyle and Relationship
Being physically fit is very important for long-term sustainability in IT. Keep working out, run and eat healthily. I’m no relationship expert. However, lack of love in personal life will hurt the career progress. Find your love, be loyal, and grow together. My personal advice is to never encourage office romance.
Don’t Stick to one platform, framework, or language: I have many references with my friends circle and other colleagues who had stuck to one technology Ex: (DBA – administrator) for over 10 to 12 years or Dot net or Java programmer for too long. I am not blaming. It will only result in narrowing the opportunities in the job market.
Just see my career as an example, and how I have changed technologies based on the job market. Today I am taking care of multiple roles like Senior DevOps Architect + Data Engineering architect and I am stepping into Machine Learning too. So don’t stick to one platform or language or framework.
My two cents
Most of the employers are looking for adaptability. You may face a career change in Any field, in the near future, and staying in your comfort zone, may not be so “comfortable” for much longer :). Moreover, This is the No:1 skill demanded by employers. Obviously, it is not inbuilt for most people, but it can be learned. See the below
- Leave your comfort zone.
- Take Risks
- Learn from others
- Be curious.
- Keep an open mind.
- Take ownership.
- Be resilient.
List goes on
As a developer, if you are not happy at work, It is better to take a break, change jobs, travel, etc. But don’t stop writing code, own a personal project, and enjoy development as a hobby.
All the best.