What happens when you move around inside a company?

By Georgina Murray

TLDR; The expectations vs. reality are different to what you might initially think.

It is looking very likely that on 29th March, 2019, the UK will leave the European Union. Brexit will actually happen. Really. Everyone has a different opinion on how politicians have handled this and the various ways in which this will impact the country. For most citizens though, one issue consistently comes up as a concern — freedom of movement. Can I go abroad? Can I work abroad? For how long? Will I need a visa for a quick city break with the other half? Even on a small level, moving is something inherently important to us.

Much like the freedom to move from country to country throughout Europe with immense ease, and seeing this as a huge part of EU membership, you can view moving about in large companies through the same lens. The ability to move around within a company, be it changing teams, relocating to another country or, switching things up and changing career paths entirely. Without a doubt there are many things to gain and very few things to lose. For a company, giving employees the opportunity to move around indicates a progressive culture and openness which is very attractive to prospective candidates. It is also far less costly for a business to move people around than invest the time and money it takes to hire in a new person (which costs about £7,000 per hire).

Ok, get to the good bits.. What can I personally get out of moving out of the role I’ve spent years developing my skills for?

In short, a greater variety of technical skills, increased people skills and a better understanding of the company you work in as a whole.

I joined the FT in 2016 as an intern in the Communications team and in October of that year I was taken on as a full time Communications Assistant. In September of this year (2018) I moved to the FT’s Learning and Talent team and took on the role of Talent Advocate Executive. My skill set has definitely increased since I’ve moved teams. I’ve learned how to use new tools, a whole new set of terms and phrases, I’m working on different projects and in a much smaller team which means taking on greater responsibility and finding efficient ways to achieve our goals. My focus has shifted, the metrics and ways we measure success in my new team are totally different, as is the way we plan our daily work and long term strategy. At the same time the communications skills I developed and in turn, fine-tuned, in my previous team have helped in my new team. Nothing has been a ‘waste’.

Changing teams is a bit like changing schools. As a general rule of thumb you know what you’re doing but it’s a whole new group of people, all with different personalities, strengths, weaknesses and a brand new dynamic to get to grips with. Change in this sense is healthy, it keeps you on your toes and prevents you from becoming ‘stuck’ in routine. The more people I meet and speak with, the more I’m inclined to think that changing managers (and vice versa, changing who reports in to you) is essential for everyone to grow and to keep teams refreshed. When you change teams you see things through the perspective of your new team, which is different to that of your old team, and this helps you to piece together the ever changing jigsaw puzzle that is your workplace.

I spoke to some other people who have moved around within the FT for their thoughts.

Luis Vigar joined the FT in 2013 as an Assistant Manager in the Facilities team and in 2017 changed roles to become a Delivery Manager in the Technology team.

“My experience of the FT has been thrilling after 5 years. I have had the opportunity to work with very inspiring people who helped me to acquire a diverse and enriching experience. This led me to discover my passion — product development. What drove me to move into product development was the fact that it is an open and innovative environment where people have the opportunity to build cutting-edge initiatives which have a massive impact, not only for the company, but also on the market. Also, this is an area which encourages risk and learning through failure, which is essential to bring new products to a constantly evolving environment. These are the main reasons that attracted me to this department and that have helped me to grow professionally and personally.”

Amy Nicholson joined the FT in 2016 as a Junior Developer in the FT.com team and was promoted to Developer in 2017. In 2018 Amy made the decision to change roles to become a Product Manager.

“My move to another role began when I was asked where I wanted to be in 5 years’ time. After a period of introspection, a chat with the FT’s career coach, and a lot of advice from those in my target role, I decided on a move to product management. What followed was a scary transition period where I didn’t want to fully commit to my new role, in case I lost all my previous skills, but didn’t have time to do both. I referred back to my motivation for making the move — to broaden my skill-set rather than deepen my knowledge in a narrow area. Whilst taking on a huge variety of new tasks was initially quite overwhelming it confirmed that I’d made the right decision.”

Emily Hall joined the FT in 2016 as a HR coordinator. In 2018 she took a secondment to the FT’s offices in Hong Kong and will take on a new role as HR advisor in February 2019 when she returns to London.

“After being in my role for 2 years, I was keen for a new challenge and a new opportunity to learn more at the FT. Working in our Hong Kong office for 3 months has given me the challenge of living in a new city and the chance to learn about the cultural differences across the Asia region. At the same time, I still had the comfort and familiarity of my role, the HR team and the FT culture. I’ve also been able to gain insight and experience in working in a regional office; being in a different timezone, being the one on google hangout (don’t be late for them and remember to dial us in!), trying to learn some Cantonese and introducing global policies such as ‘Flexibility at the FT’ in other regions. I think that this has broadened my knowledge, developed new skills and added a greater depth of understanding in my role which I wouldn’t have encountered in London.”

Are there any downsides to changing roles?

You will still get asked to do your old job — people will know you for the tasks you did in your old role so you will spend a fair amount of time telling people you aren’t in that role anymore and directing them to a contact in your previous team. If you have a somewhat vague or mysterious title, or you work on a newer discipline, you will become very good at telling people what your new job involves.

You will feel like a newbie at times, for example when you start learning new software (hello Workday) but you should also take comfort in the knowledge you are bringing skills to your new team — you can all learn from each other.

Something which is often thought about — though rarely discussed — is the impact this might have on your salary. In some cases, your salary may go up, however in others it may fall depending on what kind of role and what level you are coming in at. Ultimately this factor, and how it weighs on your decision, is down to your personal situation and priorities.

I want to try this but I don’t want to commit to changing teams permanently in case I don’t like it. What can I do?

Change is scary, especially when it is going to affect your everyday life. From my experience, it is worth taking some time to figure out if you want to do a different role, or if it’s a new skill you want to learn. If you think it may be the latter, that is much easier to do and you probably don’t need to make any big changes if skilling up is what you’re after.

If you have your heart set on changing your role, the best thing you can do is speak to your manager about it. They will not be offended or take it personally, and a good manager will support your growth regardless. Another course of action to take is to talk to your company’s Learning/Talent team (or HR if you do not have an L&T team). They will know exactly what steps need to be taken in terms of speaking to all the right people and filling out the right paperwork.

If it is a secondment you are interested in doing, again speak to your manager about this to see what can be arranged and invite people from the team you’ve got your eye on out for a coffee to ask about what they do and express your own interest in finding out more. If you have an interest in something make sure to articulate that when you do speak to all the people mentioned above, it’ll help them figure out the best course of action and you’ll be much better off in the long run, working on projects you care about. In some cases a secondment can be a good way to dip your toes into a new area before changing roles completely.

If you’ve been reading this and think there is an area you would like to explore, consider making it happen in 2019. What have you got to lose?