Dear Jobsblog: Long Term Career Path

Can I stay a geek and code, or do I need to become a manager?


Dear JobsBlog:

What’s the long-term career path for a developer – can I stay a geek and code or do I need to become a manager?

-Finding My Path

Dear FMP:
This is an important question as coding and managing other developers require different parts of your personality. Let’s see what some of the JobsBloggers said:

This is a common question I receive from engineers, especially those who just want to code and don’t have an interest in management. At Microsoft you can definitely remain a “geek” and follow what we refer to as an IC (Individual Contributor) path.  As an IC at Microsoft, you can still progress on the same career trajectory as your fellow engineering counterparts in management. You can remain highly technical and really focus on solving complex technical problems.

When engineers outside of Microsoft learn about the IC path, their eyes light up and they have a wave of relief in hearing they don’t need to manage people. At many other companies, highly talented engineers who just love to code are often “gently pushed” into management when that is not where their interests or natural skills lie. This is not the case at Microsoft.

Cindy & Heather
Figure out what you want from your career by developing a career plan. But yes, you can have a long successful career as an individual contributor in a development role; the choice to move into management is one that you can own.

So if you decide that developing/coding is the only thing for you, you will need to continue to learn, evolve and stay current in your field and this is where the career plan comes in. Working as a developer should continuously bring you job and role satisfaction. But the field of development is dynamic and not static, so you have to remain at the top of your game.  I feel it’s safe to say that you are going to need to continue to accelerate in your role as a developer to keep your job as one.

A career plan can help you with this by providing you a clear picture of what you need to do. Elements for your plan as a developer should include time frames for getting the most industry experience, current certifications, schedules for learning the newest/latest/greatest code, etc. Two other key points to consider for your plan: Where do you see yourself in 5/10/15 years?  What do you need to do to get there?  The exercise of creating a career plan can also help you answer your question on whether you want to stay in developing or move to management.


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