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Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation?

66 replies on 5 pages. Most recent reply: Jun 29, 2010 11:09 PM by robert young

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Slava Imeshev

Posts: 114
Nickname: imeshev
Registered: Sep, 2004

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 4, 2010 5:35 PM
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Krisztian,

> I also did not answer the thread's original question:
> Can cause damages?: yes and no.
>
> NO: Planning activity can give opportunity for the person
> to express certain needs or aims.

I've never done career planning because I've been enjoying writing software so much. I've just haven't had time left to plan :-)

So, my question is, does anyone really believe that responding to HR's request to develop a "career plan" would get you there?

To me that request sounded just as a blind assertion of power ("You will do what I ask no matter how dumb that is").

Regards,

Slava Imeshev
http://www.cacheonix.com

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 4, 2010 5:52 PM
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> I've never done career planning because I've been enjoying
> writing software so much. I've just haven't had time left
> to plan :-)
>
> So, my question is, does anyone really believe that
> responding to HR's request to develop a "career plan"
> would get you there?
>
> To me that request sounded just as a blind assertion of
> power ("You will do what I ask no matter how dumb that
> is").

I'm not sure I see it that way. Most HR departments don't request you put together a career plan to assert authority over you. The basic idea is to attempt to make sure that your goals can be met within the organization. That is, if your desire is to be CTO one day that you won't leave to go somewhere else to make that happen. It's supposed to reduce turnover.

"Stay where I am until I retire" is a perfectly valid career plan. Some might consider it ill-advised but it's valid all the same. I think people (including the author) are reading into this a little. Just because they want you to have a plan doesn't mean they want you put on suspenders and walk around with a mug of coffee asking people to work weekends. There are organizations that work that way but not all do.

Andy Dent

Posts: 165
Nickname: andydent
Registered: Nov, 2005

Are you Not Trying if you're Just Standing Still? Posted: Jun 4, 2010 9:56 PM
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I've kept quiet a bit because I thought it was interesting how quickly this thread veered into the assumption that a career plan meant going into management, which you may note I did NOT say.


@Slava
> "I was trying to work out why this all made me feel
> extremely uncomfortable, with nearly thirty years behind
> me and at least another twenty to go, I suppose I should
> regard myself as mid-career. Is there a stigma if I say
> no, I don't want to set career goals?"
...
> Apparently, it didn't [happen by accident], and is not going to. Hence, Andy's
> situation is doomed there.

The presentation I attended outlined a framework which had a progression through to architectural level and similar senior levels for QA and other technical people. In that sense, and looking at the range of competencies defined for each, it was the most thoughtful and appropriate description of career advancement I've ever seen, with a clear picture that the organisation values senior technical people as much as management.

What I've been trying to understand and started with this forum posting, is why my initial reaction to the concept of career planning was to feel quite threatened and distressed.

I've thought about it a lot as this thread has developed - it's not the document but the idea that you need to progress that bothers me.

We live a Red Queen's Race to keep up with existing technology. Much like medicine, a professional developer should be forever studying.

I don't think HR people and even a lot of management (in other companies) understand this - very few of the people in other roles in an organisation are confronted with the rate of change and potential firehose of learning that we swallow.

This feeling was behind my original misgivings that prompted the start of the thread - does a career planning process threaten an organisation? Might some people leave, or wilfully stall, just because they are being pushed into something beyond what they can keep up with already, the unrecognised burden of being merely up-to-date?

We just received our official rankings against the framework this week and I'm one or two levels below what my assessment of my competencies would suggest, with the important exception of knowledge of the technologies used in the product. I think this is a fair assessment because it will take a long time to get my head around some of them as they are used in context.

It raises the interesting point of how you value a senior technical person's worth to an organisation - with a sufficiently complex product there are always going to be areas where they can't operate at their normal level because of ignorance.

Andy Dent

Posts: 165
Nickname: andydent
Registered: Nov, 2005

Re: Are you Not Trying if you're Just Standing Still? Posted: Jun 5, 2010 10:30 PM
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I was talking to my wife, a lifetime public servant ("government employee" in US terms?), in workforce management, about this topic.

I asked her directly why it is seen as necessary for people to plan to progress in their career and her response was if you're not trying to progress in your career then the perception is that you will go stale.

robert young

Posts: 361
Nickname: funbunny
Registered: Sep, 2003

Re: Are you Not Trying if you're Just Standing Still? Posted: Jun 6, 2010 7:48 PM
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> I was talking to my wife, a lifetime public servant
> ("government employee" in US terms?), in workforce
> management, about this topic.
>
> I asked her directly why it is seen as necessary for
> people to plan to progress in their career and her
> response was if you're not trying to progress in your
> career then the perception is that you will go stale
.

Some, I for one, associate career plan with career path. And career path, in general, connotes climbing the ladder over one's colleagues dead bodies. OK, a bit sarcastic, but largely the case. For Kiddies, the plan/path usually means getting out of coding as fast as possible. For those who have done some professional work for a length of time, and find that they enjoy it, often have little desire to stop doing it. And many find that their managers have a negative value add.

On balance then, most professionals (outside our cockeyed corner) continue to do that, unless and until they get overcome with money lust and go on to be partners or managers or the like. The same is true of skilled trades. A 50 year old plumber is a better bet than a 25 year old one.

Chris Dams

Posts: 14
Nickname: chrisd
Registered: Sep, 2009

Re: Are you Not Trying if you're Just Standing Still? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 3:30 AM
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This as such sounds sensible and very much true. As such, growth is an intrinsic part of being human. But the question is what kind of progress? Progress can also mean keeping up with the latest developments in programming. It seems that people are afraid of being pigeon-holed in somebody elses idea of growth. Maybe they are afraid of that because it is actually happening.

Haidi Marian

Posts: 1
Nickname: smallvolum
Registered: Jun, 2010

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 5:52 AM
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hello,management is very essential for each company.

robert young

Posts: 361
Nickname: funbunny
Registered: Sep, 2003

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 10:24 AM
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> hello,management is very essential for each company.

Napoleon:

There are no bad soldiers, only bad generals.


If the last couple of decades demonstrating both private sector and public sector "leadership" hasn't made that clear, then one hasn't been paying attention.

Krisztian Sinka

Posts: 30
Nickname: skrisz
Registered: Mar, 2009

Re: Are you Not Trying if you're Just Standing Still? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 11:15 AM
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> I've thought about it a lot as this thread has developed -
> it's not the document but the idea that you need to
> progress
that bothers me.

What I sometime feel is that: I am OK with the situation of mine generally, but sometimes I would like to receive "honour" for my efforts or work or contribution.

It is OK to know that the system is working and it is good designed but sometimes a small appreciation over the regular salary is expected.

If a company lacks a means of appreciations other than position change then it is hard to get the required additional "care".

I could imagine ways like:
- salary increase (initiated by the boss, and it is not "asked for")
- change title to "distinct engineer"
- (not regular) bonus
- etc?

I think this could show that in my professional career I made progress to be a better engineer. This would be a progress without becoming a manager.

johny boyd

Posts: 28
Nickname: johnyboyd
Registered: Apr, 2007

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 1:57 PM
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Hmm .. that's interesting observation.

From what I've heard about Oracle, the engineer career track is pretty limited - so folks end up being managers. I don't know whether this is just manager in 'title' with continued development activities.

Quite of few of my ex-Sun colleagues expressed surprise at the number of 'managers/senior managers/directors/VPs' ... at Oracle, compared to the number of 'engineers/principal engineers/architects' ...

-jb

Cameron Purdy

Posts: 186
Nickname: cpurdy
Registered: Dec, 2004

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 9:07 PM
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> From what I've heard about Oracle, the engineer career
> track is pretty limited - so folks end up being managers.
> I don't know whether this is just manager in 'title' with
> continued development activities.

> Quite of few of my ex-Sun colleagues expressed surprise at
> the number of 'managers/senior managers/directors/VPs' ...
> at Oracle, compared to the number of 'engineers/principal
> engineers/architects' ...

It's a big company, so my POV is limited by the areas that I see and interact with, but your description does not match my experience.

Peace,

Cameron Purdy | Oracle Coherence
http://coherence.oracle.com/

Bill Pyne

Posts: 165
Nickname: billpyne
Registered: Jan, 2007

Re: Are you Not Trying if you're Just Standing Still? Posted: Jun 7, 2010 11:37 PM
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> Some, I for one, associate career plan with career path.
> And career path, in general, connotes climbing the ladder
> r over one's colleagues dead bodies. OK, a bit sarcastic,
> but largely the case. For Kiddies, the plan/path usually
> means getting out of coding as fast as possible. For
> those who have done some professional work for a length of
> time, and find that they enjoy it, often have little
> desire to stop doing it. And many find that their
> managers have a negative value add.

A plan and a path are not the same. A plan seems more of what you'd like to do whereas a path is how to enact the plan. For instance, a plan is becoming a language designer by age 40. A path to it is getting into a graduate program under a language researcher then using your contacts to get into MS Research for example.

Speaking as someone who has spent 18 years in the field without a plan, I find it critical now to develop one. Without a plan, it's too easy to move from job to job and find out how dull business applications are: take input from a screen, run query, and display to screen. To work on more interesting applications, a developer needs to work toward the 20% of applications that do not fit this scenario: language design, AI, UI design, etc. Often graduate work is involved. Without a plan, it's difficult to break out of the 80% mind dulling work.

My own recommendation for younger developers is to spend 5 or so years jumping about finding out your interests in development, organizational structure, and organization size. Develop a plan around year 5 and start working towards it. Once family and mortgage are involved, choices narrow greatly.

John Zabroski

Posts: 272
Nickname: zbo
Registered: Jan, 2007

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 8, 2010 1:37 PM
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> Hmm .. that's interesting observation.
>
> From what I've heard about Oracle, the engineer career
> track is pretty limited - so folks end up being managers.
> I don't know whether this is just manager in 'title' with
> continued development activities.
>
> Quite of few of my ex-Sun colleagues expressed surprise at
> the number of 'managers/senior managers/directors/VPs' ...
> at Oracle, compared to the number of 'engineers/principal
> engineers/architects' ...
>
> -jb

JB,

Isn't that a bit ridiculous?

It seems to me like quite a bit of talent at Sun left well before Oracle acquired it, simply because Sun was not funding their particular projects... and head hunters promised them better jobs and more fun at Adobe or Google. Whether the other companies delivered is another matter, but if you want to keep a developer interested, don't make them feel like their whole job has devolved into answering phone calls or going to meetings.

1) Keep developers out of damned meetings
2) Don't call developers between 10am and 4pm, their local time
3) Don't worry about job titles, worry about 1 and 2 and everything else discussed in Peopleware.

Dhruva Krishnamurthy

Posts: 2
Nickname: dky
Registered: Jan, 2008

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 23, 2010 12:26 AM
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I share similar feelings. But, pay is directly attached to career progress (or change). To battle inflation, you are forced to keep changing (I hate to call change a progress).
I wish the day comes when we get paid for continuing the good work we are capable of doing instead of jumping and messing around in the name of progress...

robert young

Posts: 361
Nickname: funbunny
Registered: Sep, 2003

Re: Do Career Plans for Developers Actually Damage an Organisation? Posted: Jun 23, 2010 10:32 AM
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> But, pay is directly attached to
> career progress (or change). To battle inflation, you are
> forced to keep changing (I hate to call change a
> progress).

Hate to burst your bubble, but (in Western countries) there hasn't been inflation in quite a while. Nor will there be, despite what some of the Right Wingnut blatherers are blathering. Quite the opposite; the Western economies are "going Japanese", mild to severe deflation is starting or in place already. It's the income distribution; with more folks with falling income and a handful with rising income, industrial economies come to a screeching halt (that's an Americanism). Think of it this way: what would you expect to result, from a macroeconomic point of view, in these two cases.

- add 20 nurses at $50,000
- add 1 millionaire at $1,000,000

The answer is: in the first case, expenditures are varied and most of the income is spent, thus creating yet more jobs; in the second case, expenditures (if any) are limited and few if any more jobs are created. In the first case, 20 Fords are bought, in the second perhaps an additional Ferrari and may be a Mexican housekeeper. Increasing income disparity leads to a downward spiral, and deflation is the canary in the coal mine.

Having a bit of inflation spurs economic activity; having a bit of deflation spurs more of it and subsequent collapse. Japan has been in that situation since the mid 1990's, but that doesn't get widely reported here in the West; might get people to actually thinking rationally about the problem.

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