Most of us in the IT field are very familiar with the concept of scalability — often we’ll think in terms of scaling up (add more resources into a single system) or scaling out (adding more systems into the mix and splitting up workloads).
Recently I’ve been thinking of the concept of career scalability — much thanks to Damiaan Hamilton (got talking in the Moscow airport after he graciously let my wife and I jump in front of him at the security checkpoint line with our somewhat fussy twins….had a nice conversation in between Moscow and Houston as we happened to be on the same row), Brian Gracely, Scott Drummonds, Matt Hensley (during my yearly performance review no less), Matt Gardenghi, and others for recent conversations on this topic.
Consider what you’re doing now and how you’ve gotten here from a professional level — whether that’s passing certifications, acquiring new skills, having fast, in-depth responses to sales/engineering questions, regular blogging, Twitter, willingness to travel, presentation abilities, soft skills in working well with customers/coworkers — it can be a TON of stuff. In short, take all that analytical engineering ability we engineers are known for (hopefully 😉 ) and apply to figure out how you got where you are.
Now, consider where you want to go from a position or responsibility perspective. What will it take for you to get there? AND….can you layer that on top of what you’ve been doing already without killing yourself or your family? (I speak only somewhat tongue in cheek given some stories I’ve heard recently.) Will that new position/responsibilities require a lot more travel? Will it require more frequent blogging? Or possibly less frequent blogging? Will it require better presentation skills and what will be required for that? Will it require a large amount of new technical skill or certifications? Is there anything you’ve already been doing that can be deprioritized or will you just need to work longer for a while to get over the “new job hump”? If so, how long?
I realize this is nothing more than simply “counting the cost” wherever you choose to find the concept. BUT….how many of us apply it to our career in the excitement of looking at a new position or responsibilities? I’ll be the first to admit it’s difficult.
Finally, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith (Amazon link) has some good food for thought in this area. As well, Nick Weaver’s post “Change is good: Fear and Atmosphere” played into this whole thought process for me as well (I will 100% recommend that post…good stuff).
Note: from my perspective, this thought process doesn’t really have all that much to do with changing employers — hopefully as you continue to grow and mature you can do so within your existing organization (and frankly the organizations’ needs will dictate what’s worthwhile to pursue given a healthy work environment overall…I’d say you’re much more likely to get an accurate take of what’s truly involved in a new position/responsibilities looking from the inside rather than the outside).