Eight years ago, when I joined the IT bandwagon, all I knew was that I thoroughly enjoyed developing software. My first three years in the industry made me realize that there’s a lot more to IT than just writing code – there’s the management bit, there’s business development and of course, the ubiquitous “Quality”. At that point of time, the target to achieve was “becoming a Project Manager”. I had a fair idea that I would have to gradually transition from just coding to leading a small team, followed by progressively larger responsibilities – a long process if I was to believe the examples I came across everyday.
Then, in late 2003, I quit my first job to join another organization. In this process, realization dawned upon me – being a newcomer, I was given more opportunities than my peers in the new organization. Yes, the world is not fair, but for the first time I could sense that it was unfair in my favor. Boy, wasn’t that a feeling I relished! This experience set the stage for the next phase of my career – learn from the current organization and grow there. The moment you feel your growth options disappearing, switch jobs towards a better profile. 4 years and 3 jobs later I was indeed playing the role of a Project Manager in yet another organization. Then came the clincher – in early 2008 I earned the PMP credential – followed by yet another job switch. This time though, I was actually designated as a Project Manager.
But what next? It’s a frustrating feeling when you acheive the goals you had set for yourself, and have nothing to strive for anymore. I had the MBA dream charted out, but the doors were closed to me this year. As I have written earlier, I will not be applying this year and the next. By the time I’ll be ready to apply, I am not even sure whether my decision will still hold. So for now, the short term goal is to prepare for the next stage of my career – transitioning from a Project Manager to a General Manager. The process of reaching there by experience is a long one – at least another 3-4 years to go before I can even attempt such a drastic change in responsibilities. Yes, if I decide to market myself right I can achieve such a position in just 2 years. But if, after getting that position, I fail – even slightly, it will be career disaster for me.
In conclusion, I will have to tide over this mid-career crisis; I will also have to ensure that while I do so, my basket of skillsets grows meaningfully. For now, I have decided to concentrate on self-study; here are the areas of focus for 2009:
- Decision Making
- Understanding Business Finance
- Ability to look at the “Big Picture”
Of these, the first two will be essentially self-study, whereas the latter two will, to a great extent, be covered by in-house training sessions (I’m scheduled to attend one this week, but more on that later).
Apart from this, of course will be experience. Given a choice of opportunities, what kind should I prefer? Which opportunities will give me learnings consistent with my career goals? As of now I have no answers… But I do have a plan in mind… Keep watching this space.