Developing Your Career Part 4 – Control your Ego

Do you seek attention and praise for your work?  If you do a great job on something, and you aren’t noticed for it, does it lessen the value of what you accomplished?   How about if one of your co-workers does something and is recognized for it.  Do you envy the praise that person received?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your ego may be playing a bigger factor in your life than you think.

Our ego can be the driving force behind our success.  If left unchecked, it can also be the downfall of one’s success.  Ego can be defined in many ways, but simply put it is  “one’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”.  It is important to be confident and sure of oneself.  However, when starting to compare yourself to others, this is a warning sign that you are putting too much emphasis on how others view you.  Don’t get me wrong, we all seek approval and validation, but what levels are we willing to go to seek it?

In software development, there are so many different areas to learn it is impossible to know them all.  There will always be something that you do not know, and you must be willing to accept that and ask for help.  Earlier on in my career, I struggled with this and was trying so hard to prove my skills that I lost sight of what should have been my focus (self-growth).  I wanted to reach the next level so much so, that I failed to notice how well my progression was advancing.  As a junior developer, I wanted to be considered on the level with the senior developers around me.  I knew my skills didn’t match theirs, but that didn’t matter in my mind because that is what I wanted.   I just was not content with being a great junior developer, I just wanted to be a senior developer.

As time progressed, I started realizing the only way I was going to get those skills I valued so highly, was to just do it.  Those skills could only be obtained through experience.  The only way that was going to happen was to build software and not by myself, but with others.  I had to lean on other people’s knowledge to help push myself beyond my boundaries.  The only ones who could help me do that were the senior developers I wanted to be like.   So I began to ask questions and take their advice.   I learned, I studied, and most of all, I accepted that my ideas were not always right.  One technique that I started doing to help me figure things out, was to analyze why my ideas were different from theirs.  How did they come up with different solutions and why were theirs’ better?  One day it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Finding the best solution isn’t always about how much you know.  There will be times where a junior developer will come up with an idea that is brilliant and leave most senior developers standing in awe.

You see, the key to keeping your ego in check is not placing your self above anyone, regardless of your level or theirs.  It is the willingness to accept all ideas, to look at all possible solutions, and realize that yours probably isn’t the best, and many times will not be.  That is one of the main reasons why better quality software is developed by a team of people, and not just one person.  It’s not just about the quantity of work being done, but the quality of the ideas that are shared among a group of individuals.

There are many examples of how to control your ego on the internet, a simple Google search will show that.  When it comes to software development, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to get an idea of how much control your ego has over you.

Is it hard for me to say I don’t know something in a meeting?

Do I have trouble accepting others’ ideas over my own?

Do I feel bad when my ideas aren’t chosen?

Is it more important to me for my ideas to be accepted, versus providing a better quality solution?

If you can honestly answer them with no, then you probably have a pretty good handle on your ego.  If you answer yes, then you may want to consider looking closer at what is driving you.

Remember, ego isn’t just about trying to feel superior to others, it can also be a feeling of inferiority too.

Developing Your Career Part 2–Remain Active

This is part 2 of a 5 part series on growing your career.

How do you know if you’ve “arrived”? 

Have you “made it”? 

Do you consider yourself successful?

Do you need to do more?

These are questions that everyone will ask themselves at some point throughout their lives.  The key to answering these questions is to define exactly what “it”, “arrived”, or “success” means to you.  Are you content with reaching a certain level or goal and staying there until retirement?  Do you continuously want more with each level you reach?  Some people are never happy or content and always want more.  Others are content where they are and do not try to go any further.  There is a delicate balance between being content with your life and always wanting to achieve more and remaining positive throughout the process. 

As we go through life, we should be continuously trying to improve all areas of our life, not just our career.  Personal relationships can always be improved no matter how old we are.  When we are blessed and lucky enough to have children, we are constantly learning new ways to interact and communicate with them to help them develop into productive individuals.  During this process, we learn so much about ourselves and how to deal with different personalities. 

With regards to our careers, we should strive for continuous improvement.  There is always something to learn.  It could be about the business or industry, a specific technical skill, or soft skills.  We can and should always be working towards growing our skills.  The more we know, the more value we can add to the company / business we are working for.  This may be a large corporation, a small startup, or a sole proprietorship.  In each instance, the company benefits from an employee’s increased knowledge.  By adding this value to the business, we can increase our salary, benefits, and overall have a better quality of life. 

One thing to keep in mind is the reason behind our learning.  It should really be centered around self-improvement versus envy of others or trying to “compete with the Jones’”.  If we can stay grounded and focused, then we can remain content with our current situation, while simultaneously working to improve it. 

Avoiding Burnout

We all go through times in our lives where we have so much going on, we don’t have time to stop and breathe.  If we continuously do this, then at some point, we will give out mentally, and possibly even physically.  We must keep a balance in our lives that allows for us to remain healthy and happy, so we can remain active.  The following tips will help with avoiding burnout.

  • Don’t overload yourself
  • Manage your stress level
  • Work Efficiently
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Exercise
  • Take a break / vacation
  • Separate your work and home life (critical if you work from home)

There will be times when you need to take a break.  You may choose not to learn anything new for the next few months technically.  Instead, you can replace that time with other leisure activities.  I don’t have a lot of time to read for pleasure, so when I do take a break, I normally read a few books back to book to keep my mind and imagination active while taking a break from technology. 

One of my favorite quotes and something I try to live by is from the movie the Shawshank Redemption – “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” This reminds me to continue to learn and try new things.  If you sit still, life, and your career will pass you by. 

Developing Your Career Part 1 – Who owns your career?

This is part 1 of a 5 part series on growing your career.

When it comes to the work place, who is in charge of your career?  Is it your manager, or is it you?

Many people that I have talked to have had differing opinions on this.  Many, when asked, had a puzzled look on their face and were not sure.  This doesn’t surprise me.  For example, when students are coming out of college, they have usually mastered the art of studying for exams, passing tests, etc.  They have been guided on what classes to take usually based on a course curriculum developed specifically for the discipline they are studying.  Everything has been laid out for them, all they were required to do was complete it.  There are some lingering questions that you must answer now, and may not even realize what the questions are.

For example:

What happens when that course isn’t defined for you any longer? 

What happens when you are released out into the work force and have so many options to choose from?

How do you know what skills you need to work on as you enter the work force and continue on in your career?

If you are lucky, you are able to get into a good organization or work for a manager or mentor that can help you define these things.  But remember, it is not your manager’s responsibility to grow your career.  That ownership belongs to you.  Don’t get me wrong, a good manager should and will help you, but in many situations, that isn’t guaranteed.  Which means the only person left is you.

The following key points are critical to successful career growth:

Take Ownership of your own career.

Remain Active and continue learning new things and growing your skill set.

Build quality relationships with everyone.

Remain positive in all situations.

Control your ego and go forth with humility.

I’m Back!!!

After a long sabbatical from blogging, I have decided to start up again.  My old blog was focused on my journey into becoming a software developer.  It was more technical in nature and helped me grow as a developer.  The focus for this blog is going to be multifaceted.  There will be technical topics, but also topics that focus on the business side of software development.  This includes concepts related to soft skills that everyone needs to go further in their career.