Career refactoring

Technology moves fast and standing still for a few years will hurt your career. Developers know this. Hiring managers know this.

Whenever I interview senior devs, there are always a few that have an impressive skill set in an irrelevant tech stack.

I’m all for hiring for potential. If you’re good at Angular, I’m sure you’ll get quickly up-and-running with Vue. But what can you do with someone who has been an IBM WebSphere Admin for the last 10 years? Hire them to configure AWS? Setup Kubernetes?

These people basically start over from zero and they are going up against junior developers who already know what Docker is.

It’s up to you to stay relevant. The company you are working for will not “help you grow your career”. The HR department does not have a plan for you.

Here is a great test: Does your company have open positions for software developers? If so: do you qualify? Would you be able to land a dev job at the company where you have been a developer for years?

Experienced developers can easily find a new job as long as that experience is relevant to the current job market. When your company finally moves to the cloud and you are the AS400 guy, you’re in trouble. It’s vital for every developer to stay relevant.

So: what can you do?

Side projects.

A lot of online advise talks about side projects and public GitHub repos. Build some stuff after hours to prove you know recent technology. In all honesty: I have never seen that work. Most hiring managers don’t consider side projects professional experience. You’ll say “GraphQL”, but they’ll read “VB6”. Do learn new things, but don’t expect GitHub to be your portfolio.

Switch projects, not jobs.

Have a discussion with your manager and explain to her that it’s time to do something else. Most companies have multiple tech stacks around and if you’re maintaining an old PHP app, you might as well transfer to a new project that’s built on Laravel. You’ll learn a lot of skills that are relevant to the 2018 market.

A transfer within the company is the easiest and best route to go. You get to grow as a professional while keeping your steady job and they get to keep you and your knowledge in-house. Win-win.

Get ready to quit

But what if there are no other opportunities? What if your manager doesn’t want to let you transfer?

Then it is time to prepare to quit.

Update your LinkedIn, drop your CV with a few recruiters, talk to your friends-in-IT for potential leads.

Quitting is not prima-donna behaviour. It’s not a sign of weakness or a lack of commitment. You own your market value and if a business relationship is damaging that, you need to step in.

Consider it career refactoring.


Originally published at Mike Veerman.

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