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Should climbing the corporate ladder be the top most priority for software engineers?

 
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I work as senior software engineer in India and I have 7 years experience. Some of my colleagues and friends who had similar experience were given Team Lead designation in the next company on switching job. Even when I applied my resume in job portals the positions for which I am considered are mostly for Team Lead designation. I do not understand that the same resource whom the current company finds suitable for senior software engineer designation on switching the company the next company finds suitable for Team Leader designation. In India it is very common scenario I am seeing and I also saw the case of colleagues and friends. So in India its quite easy for developer to switch job and get Team Lead designation and jump up the corporate ladder. So climbing the corporate ladder this way is easy in India by switching job but should that be a priority? If learning should be the top most priority than is it not true that by switching and working as team lead designation, one will be forced to learn a lot more for the job.So should climbing the corporate ladder be the top most priority for software engineers or is it not so?
 
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I think this comes down to personal preference. For some people, getting the most money in as short a time frame is most important. For others, it is becoming a manager (not the same thing as a team lead). For others, it is the title. For others, it is work life balance. For others it is learning. Etc.

So it depends. Sometimes, you learn more when switching jobs. But sometimes you don't. Consider switching from a job that is technically challenging to one where all you do is fix trivial bugs in an application on an old technology stack. (I specified trivial because bug fixing can be learning activity to).

I'm in the US. I'm curious how people in India reply to this thread. If there is some sort of expectation that you become a team lead in X years, then it is problem to not do that.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I'm in the US. I'm curious how people in India reply to this thread. If there is some sort of expectation that you become a team lead in X years, then it is problem to not do that.


It's not just a problem in India. I work in the UK public sector, and until recently there was still a strong tendency here to promote people based on "time served" rather than aptitude/desire to do the job concerned, which means there is a similar tendency to de-value technical experience, because that's not what gets you promoted. Indeed, in my organisation there are no real opportunities to get promoted in a technical role, while middle management is getting ever more bloated with experienced people doing non-jobs. We have junior developer roles, mid-level developer roles, and then many many tiers of management. On the plus side, the current draconian cuts in public spending in the UK mean that nobody is likely to get promoted now for many years to come, so I guess this is no longer an issue for most of us!
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Thank you.


If there is some sort of expectation that you become a team lead in X years, then it is problem to not do that.



Whose expectations ? Do you mean the expectation of the employee or others?

to one where all you do is fix trivial bugs in an application on an old technology stack.



I have worked on both projects where I did development from scratch and also ones where I did bug fixing. I found the even bug fixing has different kind of challenge.Not much coding is required for it but identifying the issue is also a skill some developers are not good at.I found both having different kind of challenge. That is just my personal experience.

For others it is learning. Etc.



Is it not so that by getting a higher designation of team lead , the developer will be forced to learn more and raise his standards so learning will automatically be more?

I'm in the US. I'm curious how people in India reply to this thread.



Yes in US there are very good developers who are say 20 years experienced and still do development work.In India for some reasons it is not so. I do not know the reason.










 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:Whose expectations ? Do you mean the expectation of the employee or others?


Of the hiring managers. It you are viewed as "having something wrong" for not climbing, it could be hard to find a job later.

Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:I have worked on both projects where I did development from scratch and also ones where I did bug fixing. I found the even bug fixing has different kind of challenge.Not much coding is required for it but identifying the issue is also a skill some developers are not good at.I found both having different kind of challenge. That is just my personal experience.


Mine too. That's why I specified trivial. Suppose all bug reports were to fix spelling typos. That would get boring fast!

Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:Is it not so that by getting a higher designation of team lead , the developer will be forced to learn more and raise his standards so learning will automatically be more?
No. First, there is title inflation so it doesn't necessarily mean the work will be more interesting. Second, different jobs use different skills. At some companies, a team lead attends tons of meetings. Sometimes this is good - learning to interact with the business. Sometimes this is bad - ineffective meetings just waste time. I think often a team lead is learning more. I don't think it is universally true.









 
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It you are viewed as "having something wrong" for not climbing, it could be hard to find a job later.



I thought that if one keeps his skills updated and is good then some or the other company will always have job for him and he does not need to worry for this.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:

It you are viewed as "having something wrong" for not climbing, it could be hard to find a job later.



I thought that if one keeps his skills updated and is good then some or the other company will always have job for him and he does not need to worry for this.


I hope this is true. Also, note that I said hard not impossible. I've taken this risk myself. I've worked for the same company for 13 years. I like it. I'm still learning. And I've gotten promoted many times. But I can understand how someone looking at my resume might think something negative about my choosing not to move around. I've made the decision not to make career decisions for others. And I've accepted the risk that comes with that decision.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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I've taken this risk myself. I've worked for the same company for 13 years. I like it. I'm still learning. And I've gotten promoted many times. But I can understand how someone looking at my resume might think something negative about my choosing not to move around. I've made the decision not to make career decisions for others. And I've accepted the risk that comes with that decision.



13 years in the same company and many promotions, there cant be many things better than this for resume. In India, many employees with 6-8 years experience, its easy to get higher designation on switching. I do not understand this concept. If the current company finds you suitable for the current designation and current salary, how come the new company which barely know you expect for having taken your interview find you eligible for higher designation and a lot higher salary.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I'm in the US. I'm curious how people in India reply to this thread.


Being an Indian I can say that from day 1 of my job I am hearing from seniors that after some 8-10 years of programming, it is difficult to switch because in India(atleast in Indian companies) it is not accepatable that you are still doing programming when people of similar experience are managing projects.
And I have heard from friends who are in US that there it is not the case like India.
As I grew I started realising my strength and after 5+ years of programming I can say that I do not want to become a manager, I want to remain a programmer.
But when I see my fellow senior programmers doing an MBA and switching job as a Project Manager, I am finding myself asking everyday am I doing it right.

But recently things like this boosted my confidence and now I am quite confident in growing as a programmer without thinking about what others are doing.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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As I grew I started realising my strength and after 5+ years of programming I can say that I do not want to become a manager,



Thank You. My question is not for choosing whether to be programmer(technical) or a manager(non technical). Mine is whether to be senior software engineer (technical) or team leader (technical).In India for my experience on applying on job portals they consider for team leader positions. I do not understand this concept. If the current company finds you suitable for the current designation and current salary, how come the new company which barely know you expect for having taken your interview find you eligible for higher designation and a lot higher salary.


Being an Indian I can say that from day 1 of my job I am hearing from seniors that after some 8-10 years of programming, it is difficult to switch because in India(atleast in Indian companies) it is not accepatable that you are still doing programming when people of similar experience are managing projects.



I too have heard this again and again but there is another school of thought which says that switch a job when you want to for some reason.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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We have junior developer roles, mid-level developer roles, and then many many tiers of management.



In India most of the walk in interview are for "3-7 years experience on Java -J2EE". For software engineer/senior software engineer roles, they want <7 years of experience. This is what I have seen. I do not know the reason for this. May be that in India the work that comes is not as challenging as in US or Europe where there are guys with 20 years experience who are expert in coding.Being in India I will have to follow the rules in Indian IT.

 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:I do not understand this concept. If the current company finds you suitable for the current designation and current salary, how come the new company which barely know you expect for having taken your interview find you eligible for higher designation and a lot higher salary


what do you think, the new company should do to attract people to join them? It is common is US also, to get a higher pay while switching jobs.
Also, some times, if a company is paying a salary say X, it does not mean that the person is worth only X, (s)he may be underpaid and (s)he might have the qualities/capabilities of earning more salary and taking up more responsibility and the current company does not have that requirements and so many factors.
 
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what do you think, the new company should do to attract people to join them? It is common is US also, to get a higher pay while switching jobs.



Yes its common to get higher pay and possibly higher designation while switching company and that is good. I was just curious to know how this thing works.

he may be underpaid and (s)he might have the qualities/capabilities of earning more salary and taking up more responsibility and the current company does not have that requirements and so many factors.



So does the current company know incorrect worth of the resource, the company which knows him well , where the employee works for so many months,years or does the new company. And some company which has just taken his interview for 1 hour know the more correct worth of the resource? I think those who have spent months years with the resource (current company) would know the what he is capable of and what not , than those who have spent just 1 hours with him during interview(new company). I am just curious to know what exactly is the logic behind this.


 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:So does the current company know incorrect worth of the resource, the company which knows him well , where the employee works for so many months,years or does the new company. And some company which has just taken his interview for 1 hour know the more correct worth of the resource?



Different people may value things differently. Don't fall into the trap of believing that something has a value independent of what people are willing to pay for it. It's quite possible that Company A may value a resource more highly than Company B does, and there can be many reasons for that. For example Company A might have more money to spend, so they can pay more than Company B can. You can probably think up all kinds of other reasons if you try.
 
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t's quite possible that Company A may value a resource more highly than Company B does



Yes but company B spends months,years with you and company A know you just for 30 minutes.

something has a value independent of what people are willing to pay for it



What does this mean?
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:

something has a value independent of what people are willing to pay for it



What does this mean?



When you say "I think that thing there is worth 600 euros" that's your opinion. It doesn't mean it's worth 600 euros, it just means somebody would pay that amount. Or maybe not even that -- maybe you aren't going to put your money where your mouth is and actually pay that amount. And somebody else might be willing to pay 300 euros, or 1000 euros. Neither of those are "the value" of the thing. Perhaps I wouldn't buy the thing at any price, because it's worthless to me. That doesn't mean it's worth nothing, though.

So people may have different opinions about what a thing is worth TO THEM. The next step, according to the economists, is for an auction to take place and the thing to be sold to the highest bidder. That, according to the economists, is then the value of the thing at that moment. But note that the value was entirely derived from what people were willing to pay for it -- there's no intrinsic value of a thing independent of that.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:

t's quite possible that Company A may value a resource more highly than Company B does



Yes but company B spends months,years with you and company A know you just for 30 minutes.



Right. So maybe company B knows that you're a slacker and a troublemaker and they would be glad to get rid of you, but company A doesn't know that. Or maybe company B is in bankruptcy and they can't pay you any more than what you're getting now, but company A is well-financed and can pay you more. Or maybe Company A intends for you to work on Framework Q, where people are paid more highly, but Company B doesn't use Framework Q. Or... there are infinitely many reasons why the two organizations might not agree on your value.
 
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The next step, according to the economists, is for an auction to take place and the thing to be sold to the highest bidder. That, according to the economists, is then the value of the thing at that moment.





Its more like an auction price than the true value. If the employee is confident that if he goes for this 'auction', he will get 1.5 * X although he knows that his true value is approximately X only, will him taking advantage of this and getting the 1.5X price cause any issues for him in the next company where he will spend much time? Later when the employee spends months years with the new company eventually they may come to know that although this resource is good but he is not worth 1.5X but a lot lesser than that. What would happen in this case. This must be a very common case.

 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:Its more like an auction price than the true value.



You're still stuck on this "true value" concept, aren't you? Like I said, there's really no such thing.
 
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For something which does not have a set cost, or its cost to make has been lost in history, e.g. antiques, the auction price is the best available approximation to its real value.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:If the employee is confident that if he goes for this 'auction', he will get 1.5 * X although he knows that his true value is approximately X only


May be
current company: It will not pay more than X to the employee for the experience level and framework he/she is working on (as Paul said in a previous post)
And may be
new company: It is willing to pay 1.5X to the same employee on job switch because there is a requirement in the project and no one is willing to join below 1.5X. So company has to fill the position by paying 1.5X to whoever it is finding suitable in 1-2 hour interview.

Or may be (a personal experience)
company A is paying X to me, because the product/service I am working on is earning Y in the market with P resources.
But on job switch company B is willing to pay 1.5X to me, because the product/service I will be working on is earning 10Y in the market with P resources.

But the main thing is as Paul said correctly "There is no such thing as TRUE VALUE"
 
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Paul Clapham wrote

You're still stuck on this "true value" concept, aren't you? Like I said, there's really no such thing.



This might look very obvious information to some but in my case the reality is that all these years I had always been thinking that its best for me to work on my approximate 'true value' whereas now I am coming to know that 'true value' or approximate true value does not exist. My misconception is changed.


Tapas Chand wrote

But the main thing is as Paul said correctly "There is no such thing as TRUE VALUE"




My previous thinking on this was based on what I had heard few years back by my senior colleague. He had said that if an employee works at a salary approximately same or slightly lesser than his value, he does not feel too much stress of work and is at relative easy whereas if an employee(e.g after switching company) is working at a salary lot higher than his value, he will feel too much stress of work. Due to this thinking I thought that if I give interview now and get a too high salary, I would feel a lot of stress at work.Now in this thread I came to know that there is nothing like 'true value'
 
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But you as a software person do have a value in the eyes of your employer. So what your colleague said is not at all meaningless; you should interpret what he said in terms of your value to your employer.
 
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But you as a software person do have a value in the eyes of your employer. So what your colleague said is not at all meaningless; you should interpret what he said in terms of your value to your employer.



But will the employer not understand that the salary the new employee (after switching job) is getting is an auction price as the best available approximation to its real value and there is nothing like 'true value' of this employee?
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:But will the employer not understand that the salary the new employee (after switching job) is getting is an auction price as the best available approximation to its real value and there is nothing like 'true value' of this employee?



I'm sure the employer understands that perfectly well, as they have to decide if the cost of employing somebody is justified by the benefits of doing so. Both of these are relative to the needs of the company and the state of the wider job market, and these are always changing.

So let's assume that when we talk about "value" here, we are really talking about financial value, as that seems to be the way we measure and compare people's "value" as employees anyway.

As an employee, you have no absolute "true value" to your employer, but you do have a relative market value i.e. the amount of money they are prepared to pay for your services in the current market. This value may be determined by many different factors: how much money they can make out of the products of your labours, how rare your skills/experience are on the job market relative to the demand for those skills, your personal compatibility with the organisation, and so on. Overall, they need to be able to make more money through your work (even indirectly) than it costs to employ you.

So there is certainly a maximum market value for your skills/experience in a given role for a given organisation, beyond which it is not worth employing you.

But the value of your skills/experience/qualifications etc changes fairly fast in the IT industry, and it is very easy to find your market value has decreased rapidly without you realising it. Some skills may still be relevant, but they are now available much more cheaply offshore i.e. their market value has fallen. Other skills might be completely redundant. For example, 15 years ago, my (then) skills were very valuable on the job market, and I earned a good salary as a developer. Today those specific skills are completely irrelevant and obsolete: they are literally worthless and have no significant market value at all because nobody wants to pay for them.

So your minimum market value can be as low as zero.

All this means that your market value can vary hugely, depending not just on your own attributes but also - and perhaps primarily - on the market itself. For example, your company may be in trouble, in which case it may be firing staff to save the business, so your skills are no longer valuable to your company, but other companies may value them differently.

So when you are looking at your current role and considering whether to change jobs, it's worth looking at the current market value of your skills/experience with other employers and comparing that with the value your current employer places on those skills. And you should also think about how you value your current job compared to another job: you might decide that flexible working hours and generous vacation allowances are more important than a higher salary, for example.

Your job and your skills etc have no absolute "true" value, only the relative values that you and your employer place on them according to your respective needs.
 
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After all the discussion, I feel the answer to Should climbing the corporate ladder be the top most priority for software engineers? is " Not necessarily yes"
 
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I would probably have said, “Most definitely no.”
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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I would probably have said, “Most definitely no.”




So I think the top most priority for software engineers should be constant learning and becoming very good in what you do, instead of worrying about moving up the ladder.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:So I think the top most priority for software engineers should be constant learning and becoming very good in what you do, instead of worrying about moving up the ladder.



Yes indeed. If you want to move up the ladder, then being good at what you do is an excellent strategy. On the other hand if you don't want to join the rat race it's still a good idea to be good at what you do, because in our industry if you don't do that you very soon fall behind and then your value to your employer starts to decline. You have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Yes indeed. If you want to move up the ladder, then being good at what you do is an excellent strategy. On the other hand if you don't want to join the rat race it's still a good idea to be good at what you do, because in our industry if you don't do that you very soon fall behind and then your value to your employer starts to decline. You have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place.



So what I am thinking is that if in either case if one has to "run as fast as one can", they why not earn more money for doing it (after taking part in the 'auction').
 
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I don't see anyone who said it isn' good to earn more money. (Although sometimes it isn't worth it depending on what is expected of you. I wouldn't want to work an 80 hour week in exchange for more money.) I think it is more of an emphasis thing. Is the emphasis money/climbing the later vs learning/doing your best. There's certainly a correlation.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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I wouldn't want to work an 80 hour week in exchange for more money.)



I too believe in this but how do we know whether in next company it will be 40 hour week or 80 hours week. Generally big companies have 40 hours week, and smaller ones have employees coming regularly on weekends but it depends on project to project.

When I talked with my senior colleagues (over a period of time), they said that in Indian IT, the general rule of package is :


If the employee switches company: The new salary given to him is around 2 * number of years of experience or 1.5 * number of years of experience.

E.g if someone is 7 years experience and he switches the job the new company will give him approximately a package of 7 * 1.5 to 7*2 = 10 Lakh per annum to 14 lakh per annum.

However this does not apply when one remains in the same company. In the same company the salary increases but it may not be x * 1.5 to x* 2. The rules will be different if one remains in same company. Even my manager told me that in same company it does not increase much . He gave his own example and said he is in same company since last 9 years so he knows this better than me and it happens so when one remains in same company.

Is the emphasis money/climbing the later vs learning/doing your best. There's certainly a correlation.


My emphasis has been the second one :learning. So I am thinking why not make a calculated move and try to achieve both: Get a salary according the the approximate value ,rising a little higher( calculative move only) up the ladder , take that as a reason to continue with my constant learning in java even more (If I do not get good work in office then work at home for sample projects on weekends).
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote: . . . Generally big companies have 40 hours week, and smaller ones have employees coming regularly on weekends but it depends on project to project.
. . .

Regular weekend work will reduce the quality of the work.
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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