7 deadly career mistakes developers make

Failure may lead to success, but unthinking complacency is a certain dev career killer.

By Paul Heltzel
May 17, 2016


“Moving into management should be a cautious, thoughtful decision,” says Talent Inc.’s Henderson. “Management is a career change -- not the logical progression of the technical track -- and requires a different set of skills. Also, I’ve seen many companies push good technical talent into management because the company thinks it’s a reward for the employee, but it turns out to be a mistake for both the manager and the company.”

Scott Wilson, product marketing director, Automic
“Everyone should be in management at least once in their career if for nothing else than to gain insight into why and how management and companies operate.” -- Scott Wilson, product marketing director, Automic

Get to know your own work environment, says management consultant Puri, adding that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this one.

“I’ve worked at some places where unhappy managers had no real power, were overloaded with paperwork and meetings, and had to play politics,” Puri says. “In those environments, it would be better to stay in development. Long term, I would recommend that everyone gets into management, because development careers stall out after 20 years, and you will not receive much more compensation.”

Another way of looking at this might be self-preservation. Scott Wilson, product marketing director at Automic, asks the question: “Who will they put in your place? If not you, they may promote the most incompetent or obnoxious employee simply because losing their productivity from the trenches will not be as consequential as losing more qualified employees. Sometimes accepting a promotion can put you -- and your colleagues/friends -- in control of your workday happiness. Everyone should be in management at least once in their career if for nothing else than to gain insight into why and how management and companies operate.”

Mistake No. 4: Not paying it forward

A less obvious mistake might be staying too focused on your own career track without consideration of the junior developers in your office. Those who pair with young programmers are frequently tapped when a team needs leadership.    

“I’ve found that mentoring junior developers has made me better at my job because you learn any subject deeper by teaching it than you do by any other method,” says Automic’s Wilson. “Also, as developers often struggle with interpersonal skills, mentoring provides great opportunities to brush up on those people skills.”

If experience is the best teacher, teaching others will only deepen your knowledge, says JAMF Software’s Edge. That said, he doesn’t hold it against a busy developer if it hasn’t yet happened.

Charles Edge, director of professional services, JAMF Software
“When senior developers don’t have the time to mentor younger developers, I fully understand. Just don’t say it’s because ‘I’m not good with people.’” -- Charles Edge, director of professional services, JAMF Software

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