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"Glass seiling" problem: how to advance you career?

 
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Here's a problem I've been working on lately.
"Glass seiling" exists for tehcnology professionals trying to advance their careers. Most big companies would have a limited ladder of advancement, beyond which a techie can't grow. For instance, you can do from Programmer to Senior Programmer (Programmer-Analyst) to Systems Analyst to Technical Lead, and that's it. In order then to advance your career further, you have to cross over to business side, for instance go this way: Systems Analyst to Project Leader to Project Manager, etc. This side is usually limitless and ends at CIO or VP of Technology.
Now the question: what to do when you are young enough but got nowhere to go above? Learning Java and getting certificates will only worsen a situation.
I went to consulting to avoid it. Any other ideas?
Shura
 
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I would suggest trying to do some charity work. Not only is it good for the soul but it allows you to network with the odd higher up at a company. I volunteered for the Cancer Society and gained managment experience I'd never have gotten any other way. Just remember that you get out of it what you put into it.
 
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Shura, you've been posting some great questions and topics!
I agree with you completely. This, btw, is nothing new. It was the same way in the 60's. No progress.
For what it's worth, the same thing is true in QA. There's a glass ceiling there, and QA personnel, in the eyes of developers are like developers, in the eyes of business people--a necessary evil. In both cases, when folks hit the class ceiling, if they want to advance further, they change focus to the next area, even though it requires a different skill set. Usually the transfer results in them being less effective and less happy in the new job.
Good companies will recognize that good people should be rewarded for that which they do well, and not forced into slots society dictates.

--Mark
 
Shura Balaganov
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Thanks, Mark
Since I posted this late last night, I guess I was not in my best mood.
Some progress has been made, companies invented this new position called Architect. There are also people who act as Sales Support, although you might have a lot more luck doing it in a smaller shop. What Sales Support person does is (s)he participates in sales discussions and gives his/her technical expertise. From those 2 positions it is a lot closer line to Project Management and then up. Still, being Architect you become too technical to be able to handle VP responsibilities.
I was thinking along the lines of either getting MBA and walking the business pass or doing PhD and joining an R&D squad.
[edit: added comments below]
Mark, I thought about your remark, that people should be recognized for what they do. Is it from a too perfect world? I was thinking, that IT is generally a pretty boring field. When you build a busines system, there's always a database, business layer and front end. Doesn't matter what technologies you use, it's all the same. Here comes Java, OOP, whatever, still the same base principle. Boring. I guess it's one of the reasons people get married and have kids - to get away from same old stuff every day. I am not looking forward to another 20 years of the same crap, really. Sorry people, just some soul searching.
I better go study Java now, otherwise these headhunters will trick me into accepting VB/ASP positions, a few of those popped up this week. :roll:
Shura
[ May 03, 2002: Message edited by: Shura Balaganov ]
 
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Originally posted by Shura Balaganov:
"Glass ceiling" exists for technology professionals trying to advance their careers.


Just bribe me - I will get out of your way .
Actually this is a big problem in lots of companies. I am lucky enough to work for a company that has a parallel career path for techies and management types - with considerations for slipping back and forth between the paths. This allows a techie to get the experience on both sides necessary for career advancement without having to abandon the technical part of their career that they loved to begin with. After Technical Lead or Senior Specialist (Analyst) there is System Architect/Staff Engineer, then Enterprise Architect/Senior Staff Engineer and then finally Corporate Fellow (these are the techies that report to the Board of Directors et al. and make the BIG BUCKS).
But most companies are not so considerate of their techies. One thing you really have to consider is WHY you want to "advance".
Is it JUST the money?? You would be suprised how many people abandon a career that they love just to "get ahead" so that they earn the big bucks :roll: . If so you might want to consider changing companies to one that will get you there moneywise on a techie path.
Is it that you want to influence technical direction for your company? Usually there is no problem getting this on a technical path.
Is it that you want to influence business direction for your company? Then you SHOULD be switching to a business path.
Personally I have found that I have had to insist that I stay on the Technical Path/Individual Performer path or I would have been pushed into a Management Role against my will. However, I also worry about advancing so far that I end up TOO far removed from the work that I love. In my case I love custom application development work. I would give up a "promotion" to Entriseprise Architect because I would end up NEVER getting to get up to my elbows in code in that position.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Shura Balaganov:
Mark, I thought about your remark, that people should be recognized for what they do. Is it from a too perfect world?


Yes, but why try to create an imperfect company? Try to create a perfect one, and accept certain imperfections. I'm still not convinced this has to be one of them.

Originally posted by Shura Balaganov:
I was thinking, that IT is generally a pretty boring field. When you build a busines system, there's always a database, business layer and front end. Doesn't matter what technologies you use, it's all the same. Here comes Java, OOP, whatever, still the same base principle. Boring.


Peopleware made a very interesting point, most of the projects that fail do no do so for technical reasons. Think about it, the project shtat most people propose are technically doable! Only a few companies really push the limits of technology, e.g. search engines trying to get every last nanosecond of speed out of their servers. This means projects fail for non=technical reasons. For this reason, I think management is harder then technology. (Of course, I think most technology people are far more competant then most managers.)
--Mark
 
Shura Balaganov
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

Peopleware made a very interesting point, most of the projects that fail do no do so for technical reasons. Think about it, the projects that most people propose are technically doable! Only a few companies really push the limits of technology, e.g. search engines trying to get every last nanosecond of speed out of their servers. This means projects fail for non-technical reasons. For this reason, I think management is harder then technology. (Of course, I think most technology people are far more competant then most managers.)


Good point, Mark. Here's where the probliem lies: the Sales/Management team goes out and negotiates a deal. Whatever they do, shmoozing, arse kissing, scareing tactics, etc., but their goal is to close the deal (that's what they get paid for). Now, in most cases they'd get a % of the deal right of the bat, no matter if the project has been successfully completed or never started. Which leads them to promising unrealistic costs and deadlines. What needs to be done across the board is to change their commision structure to only pay them on project completion (too bad if they leave), and PENALIZE for projects that failed FOR ANY REASON (they shouldn't have sold it in the first place).
In market terms, they should move from the scheme MONEY-MONEY towards MONEY-PRODUCT-MONEY Engineer's life depends on their ability to sell, why shouldn't their life depend on engineer's ability to build what they sell?
Management is tough, and good Managers MUST be groomed by companies, not just at VP and CEO levels (which almost all companies do when their old leaders closing on retirement), but all the way down to Project Leads. Unfirtunately, it isn't happenning very often
Shura
 
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What about starting your own company? You can be the CEO. First generation immigrants are often successful. Does that match your profile?
 
Shura Balaganov
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Rufus, correction. The ones everybody is talking about ("first generation immigrants" = success)are those born in US from immigrated parrents, or who was brought here at a very early age (1-5 years old). Their parents are nose down to assimilate in this country, they have a drive, their kids have perfect english, and usually go to great schools, etc. That's how it all starts. Yes, some people come here with money, and some make it here on their own, but not even close to first-US-born generation.
I owned a small business in my country...And I am launching sort of a web startup now. Hopefully, this will happen before I run out of money and will have to go work for someone else (which will happen very soon, thanks to high cost of living ). The problem here is that noone can (or will) tell you what is it that you should do to have successfull business. Idea is everything; I worked for companies where people had a real kick of calling themselves CEOs, until they ran their business to the ground.

Originally posted by Cindy Glass:

Is it JUST the money?? You would be suprised how many people abandon a career that they love just to "get ahead" so that they earn the big bucks :roll: .


Of course it is. Most of us (I can safely bet - almost all of us) will not do the same thing we do now should we have other source of income ("JUST the money"). Most of the times we, geeks, are a lot more comfortable working with "hardware" then with people (maybe we are geeks because we never actually been comfortable with people). So there goes Mark's reason why so many good technical people become lousy managers. Again, maybe it's my wild imagination talking
Shura
 
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Originally posted by Shura Balaganov:

Whatever they do, shmoozing, arse kissing, scareing tactics, etc., but their goal is to close the deal (that's what they get paid for). Now, in most cases they'd get a % of the deal right of the bat, no matter if the project has been successfully completed or never started.


This is true, but primarily in companies that don't know how to build proper compensation schemes for their sales force. Revenue-based compensation is a weak approach, has been known to be a weak approach for decades. It should be combined or replaced with compensation based on activities or financial characteristics that really matter to the company (gross margin, profit, project success, growth in new product lines).
[ May 21, 2002: Message edited by: Reid M. Pinchback ]
 
Shura Balaganov
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Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:

This is true, but primarily in companies that don't know how to build proper compensation schemes for their sales force. Revenue-based compensation is a weak approach, has been known to be a weak approach for decades. It should be combined or replaced with compensation based on activities or financial characteristics that really matter to the company (gross margin, profit, project success, growth in new product lines).


Agreed, but this might back-fire. I worked for a company (IT consulting) where one salesman would sell mostly maintenance projects (he also loved to body-sell people for a year or so to clients). Since maintenance contracts are easy and long-term, it would go directly to the bottom line, and he'd get his big bonuses. Unfortunately, most people in our group really hated doing maintenance, especially for a long periods of time....
Hey, maybe I sound too much like I know what I'm doing...I suck at a lot of things too
Shura
[ May 21, 2002: Message edited by: Shura Balaganov ]
 
Rufus BugleWeed
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IMHO
No, the first generation are the ones that speak in broken English. They still have fire in the belly.
The second generation end up being very good at asking for 10 years of real-world Java experience.
It takes an idea or a customer, that's true.
 
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maybe they should start a personals-style meet-and-greet website... "techie looking for programmer to hang out with and maybe pick up some tips. i have a good sense of humour and am very outgoing"..."CEO looking for analyst/programmer to discuss everyday conversational topics with, maybe with a progression of meeting the family and who knows, we may have some mutual friends!".... "programmer looking for senior management people who are into sailing and fishing, with a view to playing golf"...
 
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Most techies are too quickly labelled as introverted and quiet people that like to be by themselves. The reason we are that way is because we can not fix a serious bug unless we stay focused. We can not go around chatting with the alpha-executives because we value what we do and we want to do a good job of it.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Jasper Vader:
maybe they should start a personals-style meet-and-greet website... "techie looking for programmer to hang out with and maybe pick up some tips. i have a good sense of humour and am very outgoing"..."CEO looking for analyst/programmer to discuss everyday conversational topics with, maybe with a progression of meeting the family and who knows, we may have some mutual friends!".... "programmer looking for senior management people who are into sailing and fishing, with a view to playing golf"...


Not a bad idea in principle. The key to successful software is having a good team. DeMarco and Lister talk about teams "geling." There is no known way to cause teams to gel, you can only find people who seem like they'd fit together well, and hope for the best. In that sense, someone's work personality is a key piece of information.

--Mark
 
Shura Balaganov
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Long gone thread is revived, huh?
I started noticing this about programmers too. It usually takes some time (say, 15 minutes) to get into the issue, as well to get out (sometimes it takes even more to get out, i.e. it might take me 2 hours in the evening to clear my head and "see the daylight" after intence thinking). At that period any "socializing" is just annoying and distractive. So from an outside point of view (as well as slowly from inside) such a person seems to become an intravert. I don't think famous "multitasking" slogan works very well in programming.
On second thought, unless one can multitask and deal with people, he'll stay in that cube forever.
I am slowly becoming a believer in "computers are evil" theory :roll:
Shura
 
Shura Balaganov
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Oh, and as I promised, I've launched my small internet venture, it's in my signature. Ideas and suggestions are desperately thought...
[edit]...not to highjack the thread, but to add to "how to advance your career" topic...[/edit]
Shura
[ February 07, 2003: Message edited by: Shura Balaganov ]
 
Jasper Vader
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

There is no known way to cause teams to gel, you can only find people who seem like they'd fit together well, and hope for the best. In that sense, someone's work personality is a key piece of information.


and the ability to judge whether someone's work personality will work well in a particular is a key management skill.
talking 'sport' with the right people seems to be a way that works for australian and english management ... talking about the right sport at the right time, knowing what's going on, making other people feel confident, while emphasising one's own importance/currency ... i don't know as i am not in management but these things seem to help.
But it seems like an ability to carry off the appearance of slick/professional easy-goingness whilst remaining focused is a task that must be mastered by management. they also have a lot to think about as does a programmer, but their concerns require more human interaction - they are working with the interface mechanisms of human objects which are just as if not more encapsulated as Java objects.
I think everyone multitasks by breathing at the same time as doing other things. However if one task has been done concistently for hours like programming, then i like the yoga-approach - do the opposite, like some physical excersize to balance out. Even at lunchtime!
However if one has been breathing for a long time, i would not recommend doing the opposite of that!
 
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Hi all,
I am new in this group. This topic is really interesting for me because I'm struggling with what I should do next.
Ok, this is my case, I am a Java programmer and I don't want to spend the rest of my life doing programming. I think I like to give a technical/non-technical advice and let progammer implements it. I also like to manage a project. So..based on my interest it seems like my career goal is to be a technical leader or project manager. What do you think?
Also..could someone tell me what different between project manager and technical leader/architecture and system analyst??
After having programming experience, what role I should do next in order to be a technical lead or project manager??
Thanks so much..
 
Aruna Raghavan
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There is a ***lot of****difference between the two paths. I decided to stay on the technical path after 9 years. It is not easy, but it has been fun. It requires a lot of patience, reading up on the latest technologies, setting up your own lab at home, trying out things, learning new things, taking certification tests, etc.
If you choose to go on the management track, you have to schmooze, play golf well, communicate well, manage schedules and meetings well, dress better, possibly get an MBA from a reputable University, learn to talk with higher level executives, manage projects/people in an efficient way.
 
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Originally posted by Shura Balaganov:
Long gone thread is revived, huh?
I started noticing this about programmers too. It usually takes some time (say, 15 minutes) to get into the issue, as well to get out (sometimes it takes even more to get out, i.e. it might take me 2 hours in the evening to clear my head and "see the daylight" after intence thinking). At that period any "socializing" is just annoying and distractive. So from an outside point of view (as well as slowly from inside) such a person seems to become an intravert. I don't think famous "multitasking" slogan works very well in programming.
On second thought, unless one can multitask and deal with people, he'll stay in that cube forever.
I am slowly becoming a believer in "computers are evil" theory :roll:
Shura



Actually, the "Task switch overhead" (to use the techie term) for multitasking is generally accepted at about 10 minutes, but that was for any job. Computers may require more. At any rate, I realize long ago that after being immersed in code for an hour or 3, it was actually painful to return to the real world.
"Multi-tasking" is one of the latest Stupid Business Fads. Yet another "silver bullet" to gain apparent productivity while spinning one's wheels. Flexibility is critical. But part of flexibility is knowing where the limits are.
Or to put it another way, consider Palm's motto, which they forgot to their detriment: "Do one thing. Do it well". The multi-tasking motto should be "Do many things. Do them poorly".
BTW, I thought that the JavaRanch was a "meet-and-greet" BBS!
 
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hmmmm..... When I seen your post title, I thought YIKES!!! I know for myself, I am absolutely positive that I make numerous spelling errors and numerous gramatical errors on this board.
But since none of the posts here mentioned this - I wonder if you are aware of it?
There is no such thing as a "Glass seiling", and many people would be aghast if you asked them in person for for advice on how to advance "you" career.
Kevin
 
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Kevin,
Don't be so harsh on him, he is from Russia. His english may not be perfect but his ideas are sound.
 
Kevin Thompson
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Peekaboo: That is my point.
He has asked for advice on how to advance his career. And the most painful and obvious thing is something that nobody here has mentioned. ???
I have no doubt that people from Russa are smart, I have worked with them and they are great.
But if his written communication with prospective employers (resume, cover letters, whatever) have these kinds of errors, it would definitely affect his career.
 
Cindy Glass
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Only in English speaking countries :roll: .
 
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Originally posted by Kevin Thompson:
I have no doubt that people from Russa are smart, I have worked with them and they are great.


Hello Pot? This is Kettle.
Seriously, I can see your point if this were a resume being submitted to an employer. However, we are on a message board with no spell checker. Not everyone spells perfectly. Lighten up a bit.

[ February 18, 2003: Message edited by: Christian Schnepf ]
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Kevin Thompson:
There is no such thing as a "Glass seiling", and many people would be aghast if you asked them in person for for advice on how to advance "you" career.


I would beg to differ about a lack of a glass ceiling. So would many researchers.
I'm wondering who would be aghast if someone asked them for advice. Certainly no one here, the whole point of JavaRanch is asking others for advice. (Unless you were taking a jab at Shura's spelling. In which case, well, it's never impeded anyone from answering my mispelled postings.)
--Mark
 
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