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Monday, May 15, 2017

Focus On Your Next Career Move Not On Your Next Salary Hike

Most software professionals focus on the next salary hike they can get from a potential job switch or from an upcoming appraisal cycle. Due to this mindset of moving from one salary increment to another they miss the point of focusing on their career progression. There are other challenges as well. The software engineer title appears to be misleading at times. All that glitters is not gold, here are some bitter truths about Software Engineers:
  1. The job title may be Software engineer but you may not engineer any software at all.
  2. Some software engineers don’t write any code they just solve support tickets.
  3. Some software engineers don’t know what to do after they have become so called “Senior software engineer”.
  4. Some don’t realize that they need to reskill and upskill to become a “Lead or a manager”. They just want to become one without putting any effort.
  5. Some of them use this logic for getting salary increment per year: Salary should be more than or equal to the total number of years of experience. That is, if I have 11 years of experience then I should get 11 Lakhs per annum. Huge misconception.
  6. When there is a lay off situation most folks tend to blame the company and not look within themselves for areas of improvement.

Before we make an attempt to find a root cause or a solution to this situation of software engineers let us take a look at the history:
Offshoring of IT business started to grow in the late 1980s and 1990s. A lot of professionals from other industry/ domains jumped into software industry by learning Cobol and DB2, those were the days of mainframe computing. Few of them got a jolt in the layoffs of 2001–2002 when the dot com bubble burst occured. Some of them reskilled and survived, others went back to their original industry.
Few years later with the surge in ERP software a lot of professionals with experience in finance, manufacturing, retail etc. switched career into sofware industry by learning packaged software like Oracle Apps and SAP.
But now when the IT industry is 30+ years old a lot of IT professionals get stuck in their careers because they are challenged and pushed by a much brighter younger generation(who can provide the same service at a lower cost).
Imagine a 12 year experienced professional with above average software development and design skills but with no inclination towards people, process and project management. A software engineer with 6 to 8 years of experience can deliver the same work and output as compared to a 12 years of experienced professional. For the employer it makes business sense to get the work done by professional with 6 to 8 years of experience and hence the professionals with 10–15 years of experience get stuck.
Where do these people go?
While some of them are able to climb the ladder of success in management roles, others have to take a detour. Some of these professionals migrate to jobs overseas, few switch into training and education and few into research. For details you may want to read Anand Vaishampayan's answer to Why don't I see senior citizen in IT sector in India, even though one gets paid handsome salary in it ?
What is the solution or alternate?
Yes, some folks do take a decision to work at a low salary and survive and few others keep changing or upgrading their skills to stay relevant. Fundamental issue is the lack of focus in planning and making the right career moves. Just focusing on the next salary hike does not help in the longer cause. The scenario may be different in Non IT sectors but in IT the tough time for professionals with 10–15 years of experience has just begun. Its time for them to focus on Charles Darwin theory: It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Reference good reads:

You may also like to read this to find out some futuristic perspective…What Will Have A Bigger Impact On The IT Industry: Digitization Or Donald Trump?