Posts Tagged ‘Development’

Looking for New Challenges Along All Coordinates

I’ve been working on a presentation for the region SWE conference on Career Management in Difficult Economic Circumstances.  One of the topic areas is around what to do when you feel bored and stuck in your job.  With the lack of promotions in the corporate world lately, and people afraid to get new jobs themselves or even retire, there are not nearly the number of “higher” positions available.

Sometimes, though you look up at your manager and your manager’s manager and think, I don’t want that job.  Either way, the question is, what do you do?

Well, you look to the side and you even look down.  I’ve made a few lateral transitions.  One of my transitions was continuing to do project management, just on a different product in a whole new business group.  I was able to use my same set of project management skills, but expand on a whole new set of technical skills.  I also got to work with new people in a new environment.  It kept me challenged and happy.

I have not personally moved down the hierarchy to find a new challenge, but I know a few people that have.  They said initially accepting the fact that they were going to be “a low run in the ladder” again was tough.  After a year, and a steep learning curve, they were each back at or above the level they were when they moved down.  Not too bad.

When you reach that stuck spot, I think there are 5 options for you:

  1. Move up (if available…though I’ve found this one can be tough as the number of openings is always smaller than where you are)
  2. Move laterally (best if you can use some skills you’ve mastered and build new ones)
  3. Move down (best for moving to entirely new area,and typically ends up with you moving up again after a year or so)
  4. Stay where you are (and convince your manager to give you some different things to work on- requires a manager who will help you out)
  5. Move out (sometimes the only option to stay happy really is to leave the company)

The key to any of the moves above is make sure you know what will make you happy and make the company money.  You need to figure out the intersection of your passions, your skills, and the business need.  When you can do that, you’ve got a nice template for the job to go after.

For me, that intersection has been project management.  I didn’t reach the conclusion on my own- I needed the help and advice of some mentors to help me see the intersection.  It has served me well for the past few years.  As my skills grow and the business need changes, I’ll need to re-asses that intersection and see if it has changed.  I think I’m about a year away from needing another change.  Better start thinking about it…

Retaining Your Individuality in the Corporate Hairball

I am traveling to New York today and doing some reading catch up on the plane.  I am part way through a great book called “Orbiting the Giant Hairball- A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace”, by Gordon MacKenzie.  It is fantastic!  (and a fun, fast read)

The books is really tips and insight into keeping your creativity and individuality and not getting sucked into the bureacratic norm that is most companies.  It focuses on how you can be happy and productive and creative by orbiting around the bureaucratic hairball, instead of being stagnant stuck in the middle of it.

I highly suggest it to anyone who works in a big company!  (warning, it took me awhile to get it.  I ordered it off of Amazon in December and got it about 6 weeks later)

Here is a quote out of the book, that is my inspiration for this Monday Morning.

When you come into an organization, you bring with you an arcane potency, which stems, in part, from your uniqueness.  That, in turn, is rooted in a complex mosaic of personal history that is original, unfathomable, inimitable.  There has never been anyone quite like you, and there never will be.  Consequently, you can contribute something to an endeavor nobody else can.  There is power in your uniqueness- an inexplicable, unmeasurable power…

Bug if you are hypnotized by an organizations culture, you become separated from your personal magic and cannot tap it to help achieve the goals of the organization.  In losing connection with your one-of-a-kind magic, you are reduced to nothing more than part of the headcount.  Deep inside the Hairball.

So whenever you feel your head being pushed down onto an organization’s chalk line, remember the challenege is to move out of the way, to choose not to be mesmerized by the culture of your company.  Instead, find the goals of the organization that touch your heard and release your passion to follow those goals.

It is a delicate balance, resisting the hypnotic spell of an organization’s culture and, at the same time, remaining committed from the heart to the personally relevant goals for the organization.  But if you can achieve that balance and maintain it, you will be out of the Hairball and into the Orbit, the only place where you can tap your one-of-a-kind magic, your genius, your limitless creativity.

Smiles don’t always mean good feedback

I’ve been behind in blogging this past week because it is review season at work.  Our reviews consist of a self-assessment and a set of 360 reviews.  Typically you suggest 3-5 people who have worked closely with you during the past year year to provide feedback through a form to your manager.

As a program manager, I get quite a few requests for 360s.  For many people, I am one of the few who work with them on a consistent basis and are not part of their immediate managerial chain.  This year was a record though, as I was asked to complete 39 360s.

I was wondering this weekend about why I had so many to do.  There are other program managers on my team who are not asked to fill out nearly as many.  I decided it probably came down to my demeanor.  As previously mentioned, I enjoy working with others, coaching and mentoring, and have a positive outlook.  I think it is my smiles that win me the 360s.

People believe that because I am nice, I will give them a good review.  I can say that just because I am nice, doesn’t mean I only have nice, kind things to say.  I have a knack for seeing what motivates and drives people- where they are strong and where they are weak.  (When I was younger, I moved around a lot and my ability to quickly figure out what made someone tick became a survival skill as I went from school to school).

I am not mean in my feedback.  I am truthful about the things that hold a person back, the areas and skills they need to focus on improving to become a more valuable member of the team.  Over the years, I have learned not to hold back, even when giving feedback to people more senior that myself- mangers, senior technologists, and architects.  I guess that means I am a good person to give feedback to all 39 of these people.  For some, though, I have a lot more improvement areas than strengths to list.  I have a feeling those are the ones who just bank on my smile.

New Year, New Habits

With both a new year and new decade upon us, the whole world seems to be in that resolution spirit this weekend.  I made a stop at Borders earlier today and was overwhelmed  by the crowds checking out all the fitness and self-help books.  (I was actually there in search of a Weimaraner calendar).  I thought I’d do a post on resolutions.

Let’s start with my own resolution for this year- 12 new habits.  A year ago I started in on a book called The Power of Focus and one of the concepts was around establishing new habits & also replacing bad habits with new better ones.  The idea being you should talk to highly successful people and get some good habits from them to incorporate in your own life.  It takes around 30 days to learn the new habit and to solidify it as a habit- something you do automatically without the conscious effort.

For 2010 I’m making a list of habits I’d like to change, take on, etc and then choosing one or two to implement each month.

Now some habits are easy for me to put down…floss my teeth every day, not dump all of my stuff on the dining room table when entering my house where it never seems to leave, and go to bed earlier.  The search for ideas for more interesting habits has been more fun.

Almost four years ago I met a leadership coach at a Society of Women Engineers conference in the bay area named Jo Miller.  I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow her coaching business over the past few years and have attended her sessions at numerous conferences as well as her webinars.  She is currently writing a column for the Anita Borg Institute and aptly had a column on  resolutions (

Jo’s column has a wealth of information in it.  I picked out a few items that were the most applicable to me and added them to my list of habits:

  1. Work Less (under her ways to ensure you are promoted).  My to-do list always seems to be 20+ items deep and I have a horrible tendency to work on all the little items first to get the satisfaction of crossing them off.  But it just adds stress and more work time because at the end of the day I haven’t gotten to the big three gnarly items that would help propel my career.  It’s easy to self-promote when you’ve implemented a new technical issue tracking tool, and not so much when you’ve just answered every email you received since 8am today.  So for one month in 2010, I’ll be focused on trimming down that to-do, prioritizing the big three items, and working less. (like being ok with not doing 15 items on my list…or better yet, delegating!)
  2. Delegate without micromanaging.  As a program manager most of my job is coming up with the plan of how the team will accomplish something, breaking it down into executable parts, and then delegating out.  I know I don’t delegate all that I can- both with my projects at work, and my volunteer endeavors, and even chores around the house.  A great new habit for one month in 2010 will be to ask myself “can this be delegated?” often each day, and when I do delegate to not ask “is it done yet?”…at least not nearly as much as i feel the urge.
  3. Adding key people to my Network.  I like people, I like talking, and I like socializing. (not very engineering like, huh?)  As a result, I have a pretty big network.  The item Jo is driving at in this resolution is- do I have the right people in my network, and do I make a concerted effort to foster my relationship with those people.  I really do not know if I have the right people in my network.  I haven’t stepped back and figured that out.  I do know that I do not do enough to foster some of my relationships.  So, for a month during 2010, I’ll take an assessment of my network and each day do something to either get a key person into the relationship or strengthen my connection to an existing key person.
  4. Improving the my skills of self-promotion (and promotion of others).  I think this an area where I am ok, but could be alot better.  I can say there are guys at work that are constantly self-promoting and it drives me crazy.  One guy in particular sounds like a five year old, “I’m running this really important task force”, “I just found and filed a critical issue into the database”, “I just got off the phone with Mr. Hot Shot at Hewlett Packard”.  He might as well be letting us know he put on his own clothes, made his own lunch, and made a new best friend.  One thing is for certain, you always know what he’s doing.  There is definitely an art here and I’ll need to find a few mentors who are good at it to coach me along the way.  The people who are good at this essentially tie their personal branding to good business results, products, events, etc and their name comes to the top of the list when new positions open up.  I think a key item in self-promotion is promoting others.  I think the statements are even more powerful when coming from another person.  So each day during a month in 2010 I will either self-promote or promote another person (and let them know I did) until it become a good habit.

Looks like I have a lot ahead of me in 2010.  Good thing I’m only taking on 1-2 habits a month so as not to get overwhelmed and have a better chance of succeeding at each.

Here’s to hoping your resolutions withstand 2010 as well!