This post is part of my mentoring conversation series which includes relatively short posts on topics that have come from a mentoring session. Often, these conversations produce insights which could benefit a wider audience. Any identifying information is removed and I always inform participants before posting anything we talked about.
In today’s mentoring session I addressed some concerns around starting a family while maintaining a tech career. While this post will focus on the specific challenges of pregnancy and raising children, some of the insights may be relevant to any kind of attempt to balance a career with other responsibilities and interests outside of work.
tl;dr: Balance is for people who don’t have a life or don’t have work. For anyone (everyone?) else – the most you can hope for is not to neglect either one too much.
The conversation started with the a concern specifically about how to manage the final months of pregnancy: Should she agree to reduce the scope of her tasks and responsibility? Should she start her maternity leave early? Does this internal debate mean she’s weak, and a man wouldn’t even consider reducing his workload just because he was pregnant?
After my last post on how I got my career back on track I was flooded with (at least 3) requests to share my advice on what I did to “level up” my work so other people could get ahead the same way.
The easy answer here would be “I can’t say”. Each person, each manager, each organization, each situation is unique and who am I anyway to be giving advice on things I’m still figuring out myself. That said, my “obvious” might be someone else’s “mind blown”, so here goes.
My career started pretty normally, I guess. I went to a respected university and finished a BSc. in computer science and an MBA with good grades. I was working as a student at a well respected international corporation and was offered a full time job. I was totally set up for success. Somehow, 12 years passed and I found myself in a dead-end job with a feeling that I’d missed out on my potential and I would never make up for lost time.
In this post I’ll share how I recovered from an unknowing attempt to kill my career, and how within a few years became a senior engineer with my eye on higher IC levels (maybe staff engineer in a couple of years? Keep your fingers crossed).
You may think a career is an old fashioned concept out of the 80s which could be safely ignored. I sure used to… I thought a career was for banking professionals in suits, not for me! I was young and cool and wanted to work for a living, of course, but I couldn’t care less about climbing up the career ladder. Well, I changed my mind.
I’m not saying that a career should be everyone’s focus at every point in one’s life. Just having a job is a totally legit choice. But if you want to to have a career, in the sense of progressing throughout your work life, expanding your horizons and opportunities for personal and professional impact, here’s a list of 8 things to avoid doing.
1. Don’t plan ahead
It’s easy to just flow with opportunities that present themselves, go on a few interviews, take the best offer you get, stay for a few years, rinse, repeat. That will probably work for getting small raises and some variety in your daily work.