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Mid-Career Crisis

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.

Target Acheived.

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”
  • Leadership

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.

Categories: Thinking Out Loud Tags: , ,
  1. July 31, 2009 at 4:56 AM

    Good luck with the transition to GM. IT project management is a tough gig indeed (speaking from experience). I wish you the best.

    I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you that I enjoy your blog, and wish you the best of luck with your MBA experience. I was in your shoes a few years ago, and can tell you that the Stanford GSB was two of the best years of my life (the application process, not so much, but that’s another story…)

    Anyway, I know how stressful the application process can be, and since a lot of your readers are in the process of applying to business school, I thought I might be able to help you provide a valuable resource to your loyal readers.

    I’d like to send you a copy of my complete applications for 5 top MBA programs (for free, seriously). Then, if you think your readers might like it as well, I’ll provide a link you can post on your blog so your readers can grab their copy as well.

    If you’re interested, drop me an email at josh.hohman@gmail.com, and I’ll have a preview copy of my application materials emailed to you ASAP, so you can check it out and make sure it’s something you’d feel comfortable giving away to your readers.

    Josh Hohman

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