Ways Programmers Can Move Up Professionally

I am a .NET developer working in one of the financial companies. Could you please guide me as to how to scale up my professional life and compensation?

As a .NET developer within the Financial Services industry, you are well positioned for future professional growth by having knowledge of a great technology and experience in a great industry.

I’d like to begin by answering your question with a series of questions based on where you would like to be professionally in ten years:

Do you want to stay technical? If yes, do you see yourself in ten years as a: • Highly experienced .NET programmer? • Technical specialist in a particular financial services application area, such as equity trading? • Technical leader with “hands on” programming responsibility in a leadership position over newer programmers? • Microsoft technical specialist with knowledge of .NET, SharePoint, SQL Server, and other Microsoft development products? • Technical instructor teaching .NET? • Microsoft technical specialist in a technology other than .NET, such as SharePoint or SQL Server? • Software tester, rather than as a software developer? • Technologist specializing in a non-Microsoft technology, such as Java or Oracle?

Do you NOT want to stay technical? If yes, do you see yourself in ten years as a: • Financial services professional who happens to have a strong background in technology? • Business Analyst acting as the intermediary between IT and the business users? • Project Manager leading software development efforts, without “hands on” programming responsibilities? • An IT Manager with general IT management responsibilities?

It may sound like a cliché to ask the age-old interview question of “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”, but when deciding what to do next professionally, it’s a very valid question.

The best advice I can give you is to first try to decide your long term professional goals. In making this decision, know there is no right or wrong answer, only answers that are right or wrong for you. Don’t stay technical just because your friends tell you you’re selling out if you want to be “one of those guys in a suit”. Don’t move into management just because you think it’s required to move ahead professionally.

All that said, if you want to stay technical, consider the following: • Do your research and pick a specific direction you enjoy and become an expert. One way techies move up professionally and financially is by being the most knowledgeable, experienced, and reliable techie in your given field. • Take soft skills classes, such as “Leading without Authority”, “Vendor Management”, “Negotiation”, “Conflict Resolution” and other similar type courses. This may sound counterintuitive if you want to stay technical, but in today’s business world being technical isn’t enough. You must also have the ability to get along with others. In many ways, it’s these soft skills that will allow you to move up professionally. • Learn about the business you serve. As an IT professional, particularly if you are programming business oriented applications, learn about your industry, your company’s internal processes, and your company’s products. This business knowledge will help set you apart from other technical professionals.

If you do NOT want to stay technical and want to move into the business role, do everything possible to learn about the professional area you aspire to join and use your technical position to help you get there. For example, if you want to work in Financial Accounting, try to work on programming projects that support the Financial Accounting area. This has the dual benefit of helping you learn about this profession through the technical support you provide and you will get to know the people in the group who can help you transfer into their ranks when the time is right.

If you want to become a Business Analyst, Project Manager, IT Manager or other non-technical professional, begin to volunteer for projects and tasks that will help move you in the right direction. Also, if possible, begin taking classes online, in person, or webinar-based to learn your new craft. These jobs look much easier than they actually are. Getting the right certifications and credentials will help you get there. Then, once in your new position, the knowledge you have gained studying for these certifications and credentials will help you succeed.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom and @MgrMechanics or at www.ManagerMechanics.com.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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