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Software Development Career Path - The Agilist Perspective

24 October 2016


The Software Development business has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.
While in the past you just need to know well one programming language, now we have to know at least two (or three), be well versed in a sort of frameworks, libs, patterns, be cloud compliant, etc.
For many developers that achieve a senior age, a dilemma rise up: Going deep into a technical path becoming a specialist or choose a management position (which for many may be a challenge or an unpleasant position). It's clear how common this situation is and address multiple other variables like company type, country, culture, etc. Using an Agile mindset how would be the best approach to handle this situation? When a developer chooses to migrate to another position? how should be the happy way? What skills should I improve in order to be prepared? As a Scrum Master that lived this kind of situation this article will be a narrative about how Scrum changed my life and career.

Be a software developer is certainly the job type that requires from the professionals a high concern about be always up-to-date. From time to time the Software industry has presented “waves” or “Hypes” (see http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/hype-cycle.jsp). For example, if you have been working in the software industry by the last 5 years, you probably went through two Hypes: Big Data and Virtual/Augmented Reality.
Welcome to the real world.
The majority of us do not work close to the hypes. Our industry embraces too many sectors, from transportation to nanotechnology, software is everywhere nowadays.
Now, let me put you in a very common scenario: You are a Mid-Senior Software Developer doing your job as usual, maybe you have now 4, 5 or 7 years of experience. Looking some years ahead in your career you have three options:
  1. Give up the software business: “I wanna be a Chef, Jet Pilot, Teacher, Pokemon Hunter, etc.”
  2. Going deep in software to work as a specialist, architect, guru, etc.
  3. Working as a Development Manager, PO, SM, Agile Coach, Program Manager.
When choosing the last two options will be bound to the Software Industry. This industry is in full process of change. The Lean/Agile mindset advent has showed incredible results and is being more and more adopted from small to huge organizations once its foundations proved to be sustainable in terms of delivering excellent valuable outcomes. However once its full adoptions require a cultural transformation its occurring in small steps in places that have a strong and traditional culture that is hard to replace. What is completely acceptable. It’s a change of 180º for many of those that think in terms of command-control management.
 
Going back to the proposed scenario, I would like to include some more variables like age and company culture/size.
Wouldn't be great if could keep doing what you love without any kind of external pressure? However, is quite common to heard this kind of sentence:
  • Do not plan to write code for your entire career.
  • Learn to communicate effectively.
  • Develop people skills.
  • Move into the “people” part of the business.
  • Learn how to sell.
  • Consider consulting.
There is nothing wrong to be a Software Developer with 40 years, although it’s not common due many different reasons. In the top of that not all companies have a solid and nice technical career path. In many places the most top tech position you may achieve is a Sr. Dev or Architect. How is easy is to change from a role to another? Do I have the requested competences to do that? How to develop such competences?
 
Wait, I am now with 37 years old, I am an experienced developer but I’m not able to follow the fast-paced scenario and learn about cloud architecture, microservices, serverless architecture, frameworks, libs, java 6, 7, 8, 9, etc. Now I have kids, there is no free time to learn at home as in the past, my learning rate has decreased, what is natural. The market doesn’t care about. This is a fact.

Each single person has his/her own goals in life, but a good balance life/work is something we really appreciate and once it has a direct impact in our health. The Scrum foster a sustainable work rhythm, by the way, individuals and interactions over processes and tools, right?

I had a chance to work in an organization that is embracing the Agile/Scrum as a framework to software development, but more than that, the top management is contributing to make this happen. What is really awesome when you came from the traditional models is to realize the differences, I mean how Scrum operates to make the work more pleasant and funny and continuously search for improvements. The possibilities are way bigger now in terms of career. New roles, new skills and a new mindset. Of course, the company size has a significant influence in the velocity of these changes.

When opening a channel to develop a new skill set, a company enables his employees to choose something challenging, pleasant and turns the motivation always on.

To give a chance to employees to growth is a key factor to success once is a never ending process and it stimulates self-improvement as a result. Let’s keep in mind that you are the main agent of any change, not only in your career but also your life.


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