This makes sense to me. It's why we have 30-year-old CEOs of hypergrowth tech startups, but we don't have 30-year-old CEOs of mature companies.
It also makes sense from a career capital perspective. The skills & knowledge that are most valuable to learn are those that will be needed by fast-growing teams & businesses.
Of course, the obvious follow-up question is how do you identify which teams and businesses will grow fast?
I think his point was: when you're certain that the current team isn't, find a new one. You can't reliably identify what will grow fast, but you can identify what won't
This is a great insight that certainly rings true to me.
And the new business being "interesting" improves the odds of growing fast.
The author argues that you should not stay where you are hoping to passively benefit from a power vacuum, but instead actively seek out opportunities to advance your career. If your current position is not helping you move toward your goals you should find one that does.
Importantly, with the benefit of experience he's now in a position to identify that moving teams was less risky than he'd even assumed. This is not just survivor bias either — in management you aren't rewarded for keeping a floundering team afloat. You need to attach yourself to a team that is making your manager and their managers look good.
Right, it’s the same business model as elite universities - find people who are likely to succeed anyway and take credit for their success. Except in the case of management, it’s exploitative of the Workers because the manager hoovers up the lions share of the financial rewards, not just a fuzzy boost to reputation and prestige.
I think it's basically right.
New Kid on the block? All the best. Stack ranking means you are by far the most easy person to be down ranked fired because you are new, fairly less important, you don't have friends in the hierarchy. All this while people want to rank their friends well and protect them.
The only reason this person did well was because he got lucky. Most of the times people are not. I even know of people who make such jumps and get demoted. They go into a new structure and realize there is an entire ladder of people wanting to take your job with powerful friends up management. Most of the times you will be made to make way for them.
If you are having a bad time, no risk is small. Every change can likely trigger a bigger catastrophe than the hell you are already sitting on. Risk taking works only when you are winning well luck wise in your career. For everybody else risks are basically exposing yourself to a fairly powerful gravity well without a harness.
In reality doing X was a small factor in making success happen. In terms of a risk management perspective, the old adage A bird in hand, is better than two in the bush is very sound advice to follow. Say his case would have gone the other way. Had he been demoted, it would have taken a few years to merely climb out of that mess.
If you believe this kind of risk taking. It will makes sense to also toss a coin a few times and make that decision. After all if you have to leave it chance, might as well let it be a little pure.
When people leave a sinking ship, a person who gets promoted to fill the gap in management has an even tougher job than the manager who left. The team is smaller and a lot of the best people have moved on, morale is low, and the project is probably already behind on deadlines. The factors that caused the project to go wrong in the first place will still exist and may be entirely out of the manager's control.
If the author's new position turned out to be bad, he could have moved on from that as well. By leaving he had a chance to get out of a bad situation. By staying he would have guaranteed that his situation would remain bad. He didn't have much to lose.
The new position he selected (after researching several) was "interesting" - a positive indicator. It was also still within Microsoft, so a baseline of safety.
tl;dr The "risk" was highly constrained; and things would likely be better, at least regress to the mean.
Turns out that the people that I was working with were very arrogant, played a lot of politics, and didn't care about providing help. Many of the work was heavily siloed to the individual and little training was provided. Granted, I accept that part of it was me not asking for help when I needed it, but the lack of interest and ease of frustration when doing so was apparent.
I was a contractor (to hire) there and I left after 1.5 years because I was basically having cold sweats everyday I came into the office from feeling like I was being scrutinized all the time. Funny enough, I actually tried to quit after a year and they agreed, but couldn't find anyone to replace me in 4 weeks, so they were ecstatic when I decided to stay on for them.
So, I'm much more weary of "positive" indicators. I know this is anecdotal evidence, but part of his claim was that "comfort is a beautiful garden where careers won't grow" which I disagree with because comfort often builds expertise due to constant, repeated exposure (aka. deliberate practice). Its different than climbing the corporate ladder, but it depends on what you value I guess.
Job interviews can offer plenty of indication regarding how different the new position is.
Article seems to have the same basic idea as https://xkcd.com/1768 - When in doubt it's better to leave.
Pretty much everything meaningful about a job is kept hidden because of the game of "you shouldn't look like your benefits shopping".
I haven't gone to a single job interview where those were discussed before hiring at a non-superficial level (I've interviewed about 5-6 times in my professional career) And you're actively discouraged from asking these questions when learning about interviewing techniques.
Also, personal, from a 28 year old: why would you work for 9 years straight on the same project? Sounds very boring.
It's easy to say in retrospect that a flip of the coin was successful or unsuccessful. Hard to say in advance. Having said that, I think it's sound advice to say that if you aren't getting the opportunities you want in you current situation, it might be a good idea to see if those opportunities exist elsewhere. Just be careful to weigh the risks and realise that survivor bias is a thing.
I know that many people are driven to reach a certain goal in their career, but that doesn't mean that everyone has to do that. Some people might want to just go to work, do their thing, and take home their salary. That isn't bad, it is just different.
This is a slightly ambiguous claim, because a "programmer" can be such a wide range of things. You can read a book on PHP and MySql, or not read the book and say you did, and call yourself a programmer.
But if you're the sort of person who can enter a decent college (no, not elite, just a proper college), read and write well enough to get good grades in your humanities general coursework, do calculus through differential equations, and major in computer science or engineering, then I think you're probably capable of entering a field with better prospects than programming.
I don't feel quite as negative about programming as you do, in that I don't think it's necessarily a bad job or a dead end (though I do think these risks are very present in programming careers), and there are still great careers to be had in it. But yes, I do agree that people capable of doing this are probably capable of doing a lot of things, and many of those things may be better paths.
There are plenty of opportunities here and most of the candidates are grossly incompetent. Many passably competent candidates confuse their status for greatness (Dunning-Kruger). As a result many companies persue visa sponsorship for immigrants at greater expense to supplement their hiring targets.
This level of incompetence should not be a surprise to anybody since software and software hiring are completely unregulated. There are no licensing, certification, or objective standard qualifications to define competence.
If in fact a candidate is objectively better than average they can go where ever they want. For these people the most challenging part of their career is finding a team/product that thinks like they do.
You’ll bring whatever you’re capable of bringing whether you stay in chaos or move on. It’s less about the environment and more about your attitude...even more than you may realize at the time.
In my experience, the greatest success in my career has happened when I stopped trying to figure out how to get ahead and just went about the business of doing and growing.
I told him to learn some new language that's used in the company that can be used as a leverage to switch companies as well if he isn't getting promoted, and try to switch. 1 year later he's working on writing new application load balancers in go, and he's loving it, and getting more money for it, and he can easily switch to other company if he wants to.
Of course the old team really misses him, but they didn't value him high enough, so they lost the best person on their team.
I think that in most cases, career advice is subjective and to brand advice as black and white, good or bad, is silly. Nobody can predict the future. A seemingly negative decision could potentially lead to other positive outcomes. That's why I find little value in this discussion: it's subjective and difficult to measure.
They're not all equally likely.
Staying on a lame duck project is a huge gamble. It achieved lame duckness for all kinds of reasons. To benefit you have to assume that those conditions will change AND that the changes will create opportunities for advancement OR that you will be able to force changes and advancement from your current position.
How likely is that?
Getting out and changing is a gamble, but if you're not completely clueless you have some prospect of assessing the likely success of a new project.
Bottom line: giving yourself more options is not a bad game move. You can interview without commitment until you're fairly sure you're going to make a good move, and that's much more likely to work out than staying on a project that's broken and going nowhere.
Alternatively, you could probably find another story about an engineer who left a similar situation and founded a unicorn company, so in comparison, would this author have ‘failed’ because he didn’t go down that road?
In other words: If author had moved to an unsuccessful team, he likely would have moved again until he found a team he could be successful with. Looking back and comparing with his friend who didn't move on will often result in a favorable comparison.
What would this signify, beyond how this particular decision worked out nicely for me? I'm not sure, other than that it is important to make good decisions about whether you stay or leave, and where you go next. Sometimes stay, sometimes leave, and it often won't be clear at the time which is the better call.
- Don't work with assholes (avoid detrimental execs and culture)
- Has plenty of growth opportunities (able to quickly expand skillset & learn new roles)
- Proven product/market fit & steady growth (avoid stagnant startups and sinking ships)
This is a force bigger and stronger than you are.
Because of the nature of software development (no development cycle is ever really identical to the previous one) it can be difficult to conclusively or objectively say that the capabilities of the organization have been reduced, or that the working environment is poorer, because these things require subjective judgments. But many people have enough experience to make those judgments for themselves, to feel the organization getting worse and less capable, and this can create a kind of pressure for people to find other options elsewhere even if not everyone understands why on a conscious level.
Perhaps it is accurate to say the most mobile, unattached people tend to go first.
Perhaps the more loyal people stick around longer -- this puts a positive spin on it.
But you could also say that the most opportunistic people go first -- putting a negative spin on it.
Also, I think it depends heavily on what you mean by "bad". As a company culture deteriorates, sometimes it is the people who have been there the longest that don't notice the decline (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog)
Having trouble with this whole paragraph because it's essentially arguing in favor of the other extreme, which is just as bad: sucking up whatever you might not like about your new job and how bad the situation in it might be because it might help your career.
The solution to "staying stuck because it's comfortable" is not "suffer through something because it might help you".
One needs to measure the compromises.