Draw Your Own Map

This week, I’ve been thinking about an apprenticeship pattern that brought up something I had never considered. It opens with a quote suggesting people might say programming might not be sustainable in the long-term. News to me!

The crux of this pattern is that you won’t always be provided with the career path that you want. To be successful, you have to fight the urge to follow the path an employer gives you and take steps toward the path that you want. This is your map, and it can be redrawn at will. The goal is not to narrow your experience just because of a comfortable salary and your attachment to a fancier title.

This pattern seems to stem from the loss of many great developers to the world of management. The author seems a bit biased in wanting to prevent this. Unfortunately, many people might find their salaries necessary to maintain a lifestyle, or support a family. Furthermore specialization, or “narrowing” as they describe it, can be a good thing.

Of course, if narrowing is part of your map, I suppose it still fits with the pattern. But the book also suggests looking at the possibilities, which I agree with. After all, a map doesn’t have one path; it has many from which to choose. Listing many potential paths and following the one that looks best for you is likely a good tactic to get where you’d like to be in your career.

I’ve always felt a pressure to choose a single path and stick with it. Being able to change my mind is a nice idea. Luckily as far as I know now, I’ve mostly figured out my career path, but I will also follow the suggestion of the book to plan many alternatives. Experience in multiple different positions has given me insight into the aspects of each job I like. With this knowledge, I’m only interviewing at positions that I trust I can stay with long term, and I’ll only accept a position if I still believe that’s the case. Nevertheless, the rest of my career is a long time. Companies change. Individuals change. Sometimes they have to move in different directions.

The quote at the beginning of the chapter is meant to say that if people tell you to stick to one thing — to move to the safe, normal career path — you don’t have to. If a company prevents your own professional growth, it’s time to jump ship.

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