Curated by Sergio A. Martínez,
with contributions by Ivan Guerrero Cardoso & Víctor Ariel Rodríguez Cruz.
It may seem like a pretty simple question, but how will your career look five years from now? What is your current goal? Because no matter if you are a junior, senior, or lead developer, the landscape of career progression is looking less like a straight path, and more like an open field of possibilities in which unexpected talents and skills can flourish.
So even if you are just starting out and trying to figure out your best course of action, or are a veteran whose path was full of unexpected twists and turns, we would like to ask you: what’s the shape you want your career in to take?
The Peter Principle
Now, before we start, here’s some context on why career paths have been getting more and more fluid, with skill sets becoming more diverse than ever during the last decade, and a good starting point is the infamous “Peter Principle” described by the Canadian educator Laurence J. Peter, which analyzes an issue that companies and organizations have been struggling with since times immemorial.
To put it in simple terms, the Peter Principle states that “a person that keeps getting promoted will eventually end up in a position beyond their competence, which will prevent them from further promotions, and thus keeping them in positions they fail at”, meaning that we all have a “competence ceiling” in our talents that we’ll probably hit sooner or later, depending on the career progression chosen. In more traditional companies this was a common issue when promoting people to a leadership position, like Management, where the best worker in a given department (let’s say, Sales) will be the first in line to get promoted when the opportunity presents, even if their best skill (selling) has nothing to do with the responsibilities of the promotion (in this case, managing people).
However, since this was the obvious career path for such a job, and rarely there was an alternative within the same organization, this meant that a person would have to “climb up” even if they had to stop doing the thing they were good at. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t, and you can still see it today in programming and software development, where your best engineer, coder, QA, or tester excels because they are good and passionate at what they do, but, unless they explicitly seek to become leaders or managers, there is no guarantee of good performance in a new role with very different responsibilities.
Good companies, though, recognize this pitfall. “Careers are more organic today. Many organizations need a greater breadth of expertise and are encouraging employees to branch out, experiment with different functions, and become generalists rather than specialists. All of this opens new – and more – opportunities for people to grow, become engaged, and thrive at work”, says Skip Richard about the new realities of careers in the blog “Promotions are so yesterday”, which analyzes how career development is getting away from these traditional models, towards a more flexible approach. But what does this flexibility mean, and what does it look like in action?
The new realities of a career
What a lot of modern workplaces are trying to do nowadays is to get away from a linear concept of progress, offering their collaborators the chance to explore and develop new skills along with the flexibility to put them to use during a project. What if, for example, a senior Full Stack developer is interested in branching out to QA? Or if a member of the IT department wants to get into programming? Or what if a member of the marketing team is interested in learning to code?
“Career development used to be linear. It was all about that upward progression. Lateral – or God forbid downward – moves frequently reflected poorly upon ambitious professionals. […] Now, career development is much squigglier. People can move up, down and all around. They can go away and return – not something that was typical in the past”, continues the aforementioned blog.
And we are sure you have a pretty good guess on why this is the case; our relationship with work (and thus, careers) is changing, and following a single, inflexible path “forward” is less practical and realistic in a world that requires so much more from us, and the smartest organizations are those realizing that offering opportunities to explore new paths benefits us all.
“Until recently, I’d heard stories on the internet about software developers with peculiar paths, but never knew anyone like that. But then, one of my friends from high school, who studied Automation Engineering, started working as a software developer. Our CEO [Luis Aburto] has a background in Environmental Engineering, and some of the developers giving classes on the Apprenticeship told us about a couple of developers here with non-traditional paths, coming from Accounting or Chemistry. All these persons have inspired me to keep pursuing the career change I want”, says Iván Guerrero Cardoso, a Pharmaceutical Chemist who is currently an Application Developer Apprentice, a career he was able to pursue at Scio after discovering (and falling in love with) software development.
Stories like these are not uncommon at Scio and the software industry at large, and we will start to see how the ability to change paths not only will result in stronger organizations but in people less likely to get trapped in the Peter Principle, giving alternatives that let them explore their talents thoroughly.
“About a year and a half ago, I didn’t know anything related to software development as a profession — although I was already programming since a few years ago — and I found in Scio a place to learn, practice, and develop my skills even further. I’m also a follower of different web development personalities who has inspired me to try new things; I’d love to explore Web Development fully, Cyber Security is a topic I want to start leaning towards, and Videogame Development is an area where I’m constantly in the loop of the newest technologies”, says Víctor Ariel Rodríguez Cruz, a full-stack Application Developer at Scio, which touches on why this diversification is so attractive, beyond pure technical prowess: it lets us be part of a bigger whole.
The many dimensions of a career
“Humans have a deep need to connect, build relationships and be part of a community. Approached with intention, this can drive powerful career growth”, says Richards, and in the case of Scio, this idea of human connection [LINK] drives a lot of what we try to accomplish as an organization.
The reason is simple: in today’s world, where the ways we approach work are becoming more diverse than ever, Scio believes that investing in the personal growth of our collaborators, offering, among other things, paid technical courses, technical certifications, English classes, and our very own Leadership, Apprenticeship, and Sensei-Creati Coaching & Mentoring Programs to develop the hard and soft skills necessary to ensure the best collaboration between every developer, is the best way for a Nearshore Software Development company to foster the very best talent in Latin America.
This is a core part of the ways Scioneers can build their career prospects, encouraged by a culture of mutual support were learning a new skill can go from full-on coaching with someone with a vast experience to draw from, to simply asking for tips and pointers at informal meetings.
“Let me highlight the development dimension of ‘connection.’ This is one of my favorites, in large part because it’s become increasingly important in today’s distributed workplace”, continues the article by Richards. And this connection is built by also offering ways for our collaborators to develop the soft skills necessary to work on, collaborate or lead a team. Coming back to our example of the salesman becoming a manager, would it make a difference if such a promotion came with the coaching and tools necessary to learn how to handle a leadership position? The best way to give feedback, offer criticism, correct the trajectory of a project and balance the wants and needs of a team is not innate to many people, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be learned and developed.
Careers now need more than one dimension of growth, and Scio tries to offer the support to do just that: grow in the areas you want to.
Or as Ivan Guerrero puts it, about his own experience in the Scio apprentice program: “Not every company opens its doors to people without a strong computer science background, or without a related degree (which I understand, as it could be risky), therefore I’m hugely thankful with Scio for letting me join the team of apprentices where, as I see it, how passionate and willing we are to learn matters more than having an enormous amount of previous knowledge”.
The Key Takeaways:
- Hitting the “Peter Principle” meant that a company didn’t offer enough options to choose from to advance a career, and that could lead to poor outcomes.
- Today, a good company has multiple paths a collaborator can take, from traditional career advancement to coaching, to giving the opportunity to explore alternative options.
- Career growth cannot happen in a vacuum either; a culture of collaboration can foster relationships that cross-pollinate knowledge and helps to open new paths to explore in a career.