After many years in IT industry I have personally experienced and learned from other’s experience that; it’s up to us that how someone can make us feel about our self. In my long tenure in IT industry there is not a situation I have not been through. Today, I thought of providing some insight and share some common issues and counter approaches to those.
Be informed that I didn’t mean to target any person or group or a title or role in IT industry. All the points below are my personal experiences and what I keep hearing from my connections in various continents across the globe.
I hope you will be able to read between the lines and apply some of the suggestions and work on building a better career.
My wish for you
I do wish all the success and happiness to all of you, and I really do. I also wish that you have a great future and career path.
Learning from Past
Resolution for New Year 2016
Don’t sit late in office. When you do that, you encourage wrong expectations. However, there are always exceptions.
Reach the office on time and leave the office on time. This will allow you to spend time on yourself or with family. Be aware that sometimes critical deliverable, production issues, etc. may push you to start early and finish late.
Don’t be afraid of losing job and live with this fear year after year.
Always remember that companies need good resources, so your job is to bring value to the company and team and stop worrying about it.
Be nice but not weak
Don’t encourage bossy behavior in the team from anyone. Be nice and polite, but stay strong at the same time.
You say “YES,” when actually you wanted to say “NO.”
Listen, plan, and then act accordingly. Even if you have to say “Yes” then understand the expectations before you commit on such a task.
Asked to work on an unrealistic deadline
Your hard work bring value to company and team. Many times working on tight and critical deadlines require a lot of planning, dedication and focus. Be ready to go above and beyond and if this is not your cup of tea, then let your superior know.
All your work’s credit was either stolen or given to others.
Make sure that your work is properly recognized and appreciated. Don’t allow anyone, I mean anyone, to steal the credit of your GREAT work and white label that with their name.
You don’t think proactively and plan your career.
Come out of this “job” mindset and think more in terms of a long term career.
You learned nothing, or very little.
Learn the technology of your focus area; this year buy more books and read at least 50% of each book(s) you have.
You didn’t focus on your weaknesses.
If you know your weaknesses, then work on those this year. A little progress on a daily basis will reap great results.
You don’t have a link with LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a good social media resource to connect with like-minded people, join technology groups and read articles etc.
You have no time after your job.
I would agree that you must have been very busy with office work. I suggest that stop time-management; instead, manage your focus this year.
Shift your focus from job to career, and every day when you go to work, look for what will help you build your career.
Everything is good and you are comfortable.
Remember, the enemy of the best is not the worst, it’s what is merely good. So if you think you are doing well and you’re comfortable then you are at the wrong place, and this comfort zone is a sweet poison. So seek knowledge, challenges, and growth in your career.
Seek challenges in your current role, try to learn what it takes to own/observe more responsibilities.
Based on above points, I trust that all of the points may or may not be applicable to everyone and it would rather be case to case basis; and upon self-realization of an individual. Hence, I do suggest that use this information as a tool and seek if you can get benefited. It’s very important that you read between the lines and get the right context from each suggestion I have provided.
Many technical people have the dilemma at some stage in their technology career, whether they should choose a technological role, like Lead, Architect and so on or Managerial role like PM.
In my view all the roles are good and have many great career opportunities. But it’s up to you do decide what you want to become and what steps you have taken to fulfill your career aspirations.
Define your own Career
In my view, it’s up to an individual to plan his/her career. It may happen that you are influenced to accept the role that you didn’t want to take. I believe that, rather than being influenced by someone, you should develop the skills to influence others and put you into that role.
“Any organization can define your Job, but only you must define your Career”
Job Vs Career
Many people don’t understand the difference between the two and that’s a very common thing. Let me help you.
A career is the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the general course of progression towards lifelong goals that provides you a sense of fulfillment and comes out of you naturally with all your passion and creativity. Besides, you get paid well while doing that.
A Job is just an activity through which an individual can earn money. It is a regular activity in exchange for payment. But you have no passion for that work, it doesn’t matter if you don’t do that for a few days. You don’t miss it and you don’t seek any areas of improvement in that.
Many times people are influenced to become what they never wanted to be. In my long tenure in the IT industry I have learned that most people just accept a role because their manager told them to slide into that role and then that becomes their career path.
I am not saying that it’s totally wrong. I have been into such situations and I did all I could to detour from that and return to the right track and keep moving towards where I wanted to be.
“So it’s not always people who drag us into a situation; it’s us who must come out of it.”
How to come out of Trap
I get many emails and messages from people saying that their employer is forcing them to become a test engineer, handle a team, work on maintenance and many other off-track tasks that they have no interest in.
Now, in many situations you can’t avoid it, because you need a job and money and this is a bitter truth of life. However, the key is what steps to take to get out of it.
Before accepting such role/assignment, discuss the duration with your manager and so on.
Provide yourself limited time to come out of that and share that with management; have it in writing and include HR also if you can. In many cases the company will say 2 months but you dragged yourself for 2 years in that.
If nothing works then it’s time to move on.
Deciding Whether to Move On
In general, people look out for options when they are frustrated and not prepared at all. Being not prepared causes a delay in getting shortlisted for jobs in the industry and this causes further frustration. People often end up in the same place and doing the same thing.
In my opinion, changing a job needs to be well-planned, unless you are lucky that you have the tendency to land into the right opportunity every time.
The following procedure will help you.
Your decision to move must be driven by motivation rather than frustration.
I have observed that many people just wait until appraisal and soon after that they look for a job change. Well, this is right, since as I said above, due to the need for money, but money is not everything all the time.
Always have your resume/cv ready and updated, I still do that. I continually update it for the projects I do and new skills I develop.
Have a LinkedIn profile, you can’t build it overnight. Seek good like-minded connections.
Continue applying for jobs, even when you don’t want to change immediately. So you know if your CV / resume is getting some traction in the job market or not.
Also focus on non-technical skills and continue to refine skills like communication and presentation and so on.
Techniques to work on your career goals
Have a road map in place that defines all that is expected from your desired role.
Think global, people often only focus on job-related skills that are local to their country. This again can’t help you to build a career.
Invest in learning the right technical / non-technical skills.
Find a mentor who can help you elevate yourself, preferably who has done it by him/herself. Learning from people who havn’t experienced what you want to be will lead you nowhere.
Invest in learning, skills building and the right type of social networking.
Your current job is the best place to learn and experiment with new skills you are building.
Make yourself visible at the organizational level.
Seek for opportunities and meet like-minded people.
What I do to take charge of my career
Always focus on your career goals.
Work on cultivating skills for that role
Invest in learning
Apply your learning and skills
Always focus on your career goals
Let’s say you are a developer and you want to be a Tech Lead, or a Tech Lead wants to be an Architect. Then you need to understand what the industry expects from that role, regardless of what people tell you to be or become.
Work on cultivating skills for that role
You need to understand that each role requires some specific skills and personality traits and that’s why some people are in Sales, Marketing, Management, Technology Leadership and so on. They all have their own place and I believe that is what they always wanted to be.
But at least we need to try what we want to become, after knowing what we want. We need to start working on those skills, whether technical or non-technical. Be aware that each role in the industry expects some different level of technical knowledge and different personality and behavioral traits in a candidate. This is how people are offered positions like a Dev, Lead, Architect, Project Manager and so on. I highly recommend a proper road map for your desired career path.
Invest into Learning
Investment in learning gives the highest return, not always in terms of salary but how people look at you and what perception they have of you. Every year I spend a good amount of money on books, courses, certificates, conferences and so on and many other things that keep me polished, sharp and competitive with the latest industry trends in my area of technology and career aspirations.
My latest accomplishment was the TOGAF Certified Architect level. This certification exam itself costs anywhere between US $495 – $640. What I want to share is that even after having so many Microsoft and other certificates I didn’t stop. Well, this is my personal thing and perhaps someone will find motivation from it. That’s’ all.
Apply your learning and skills
After you have learned what the industry seeks in a candidate of your desired career goal then look for such opportunities to apply those skills. For example, a tech lead role demands the following:
Participate in technical discussion with client and onsite manager
Perform code review and resolve the team’s technical queries.
Now, if you are just a developer then start learning these things and see if you can either shadow or pair with your lead or silently observe how someone is doing it. Then look for the opportunity to do this by yourself. Make sure you don’t make a mess of a client call, so take it slowly.
You need to be a goal-oriented person, so set targets for yourself and ensure you are working on those goals, for example:
In the next 30 days I will learn to communicate in English.
In the next 15 days I will learn to kick off client calls.
In the next 30 days I will make a sample application using MVC concepts.
In the next 60 days, I will apply for jobs and see the response from companies/recruiters.
So, now you have a plan but remember “Plans won’t work until you work on the Plan”.
Don’t seek comfort
Sometimes, people think my job is all good and I am all set to be here as long as I want; you feel like you have just settled in. My last job was for 8.7 years in the same company. But I made sure that I kept moving and I made quite a shift in the organization that required similar efforts in terms of learning, applying for a job and being interviewed. I made my own way and made progress towards my career goals.So if you really interested in getting promoted and receive new shiny titles on your promotion letters and experience letters and so on then you must work hard, regardless of whether you are seeking that change within or outside the organization.
So always be restless, seek knowledge and motivation to get closer to your career goals and keep learning.
Today’s IT industry is all about foreign clients, anyways you are dealing with them now and then, but working in their own land with them is a different experience altogether. This article will help you learn about working in USA and many other related things.
Note- Please don’t write any comment or ask me for any Visa Sponsoring, how much money you can make particularly and what you can do to fly to USA etc.
Ways to Enter USA
There are various ways to enter USA, but as a “work” professional following are visa types which allow you to enter USA and either live for some time or live for long term and earn in US$.
Who Sponsors It
How Long Can you Stay
Validity for Years
Transferable to other employer
6-12 months in one visit
Employer or Self as an individual
H1B visa allows you to change your employers once you are in USA, so if you don’t like CompanyA then you can transfer your H1B staus to CompanyB and continue to live and earn in USA.
L1 Visa holders can’t do this as L1 is intracompany transfer visa, means an India office of CompanyA is sending you to its US office for work.
B1 visa holders are usually those who travel for KT (Knowledge Transfers), conferences and client meetings etc.
What skills are required?
Well, my core skill are has always been Microsoft so I can share those with you, but skills can be easily discovered via some job site portals.
Soft Skills – Good communication, listening skills, ability to present your ideas on whiteboard, team player, ability to collaborate with others within and outside team.
Cultural skills – Ability to bear culture shock, ability to communicate with local people and understand their accent and way of living, accept that you are far-far from your home land, ability to live alone for months with no one to talk (at-least until you make some friends).
Show me the money; honey
This is something everyone might be interested in; but salary range varies from job profile, experience and skills you have. Salary is also driven by nature of your company and your Visa type, for example,
B1/B2 visa travelers are paid approx. US$ 40-100 per day + Home Country Salary as is.
L1 visa travelers are paid in the range of $55K – 75K per year + No India Salary at all.
H1B visa holders are paid more than L1 and ranges from $55K – $140K per year or even more + No India Salary at all.
Expanses and Deductions from Salary
USA is an expansive country and you pay for everything and it’s pretty expansive. Let’s see some basic deductions and expanses per month
US$ Per Month
$700 – 1500 (Based on 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and location)
Water + Garbage
$75 – $110
$50 – $115 (bill is on higher side in winters)
$50 – $120 (higher side is for two lines unlimited calling with in USA)
$29 – $80 (based on speed you want)
$ 250 – $2000 (based on number of family members, their age [especially if you have kids then you have more expanses] & your life style)
$50 – $500 (depending upon your travel pattern and type of vehicle you own)
Deductions from your Salary per month. Amount will be based on your Salary
Federal Income Tax (in general it’s Income Tax, In USA you can’t show investments etc. to have some rebate. Like India has limit for 1.5 Lakh.)
Social Security Tax (tax deducted by government to pay people how have retired)
Health Insurance Premium – Optional (it is usually offered at discounted rate by employers)
Dental Insurance – Optional (it is usually offered at discounted rate by employers)
Vison Insurance – Optional (it is usually offered at discounted rate by employers)
State Tax (some states like New Jersey, New York and many others have extra deductions as State Tax)
401K – Optional (Like PF in India)
In USA medical is very expansive, a Dr’s visit can cost anywhere between $100 – 100,000. So it’s better to analyze your and your family’s health trend and take necessary insurance plans. Health and Dental are a must according to me.
How to apply for work permit (Visa) for USA
Well, easiest way is that your current employer send you on a project. But that is not the case in many scenarios and with some employers. Then you can file your H1B by yourself. H1B is lottery based and every year in April 65000 H1B visa are granted to selected professionals.
If you want to apply yourself then find a company (search on job sites there are many) who can file H1B for you. They will charge you approx. $5K – $6K to submit your H1B application. As H1B is totally lottery based so your application may or many note be picked in lottery. If your application is not picked then some employer may return some of the money and they may or may not return your money. So consider it a GAMBLE.
Do I have Job Assurance?
Well, even if you have got visa and travelled to USA; many times there might not be a job for you and that may last for months. I know some candidates who are on their own and have no job. Besides, to live in USA you need medical insurance etc. which is very expansive and other expanses you have for your living, food etc.
Work Life Balance
US work culture is officially 40Hrs a week, so in your timesheet you fill 8hrs per day. If you have a decent manager then you have a good life as many of them are. People here have a culture to work from home (not always unless you are a remote worker officially) on instance based scenarios, respect of family and personal needs, kids school meetings etc.
But all these freedom comes with great responsibility; and people are not supposed to abuse that. If you do so then you will be restricted and you may have to take holiday to fulfill your family or personal commitment.
What if I am not able to go to USA
Personally, I came to USA at very late stage of my career. So work on your skills, client relations, and many other things and be happy. Everyone has a different path to follow and destiny chooses people time to time. So don’t be disappointed that you are not selected, or couldn’t got to USA etc. Rather think what you can do to go to USA.
Save money, make some sacrifices, don’t buy expansive mobile phone, don’t eat outside, and don’t buy extra clothes, shoes, accessories and save money to apply your H1B next year.
Also, keep looking the pattern your company has, do they have client in USA, do people travel to USA from your company etc.
What happens when I return from USA to my home country
Well, in terms of your job and career; this certainly has a boost. I have experienced that personally. Besides that your way to seeing things and applying skills will change a bit.
Besides, many companies prefer candidates who has travelled and lived outside as this allows them to present themselves better to a potential client and showcase skills their team has in general.
Today’s world is about distributed teams across the globe; a team member sitting in Indian Silicon Valley or a software company of financial capital of India might be reporting to a manager sitting in Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond WA. (a suburb of Seattle WA, USA). This is almost like you travelled how of the world. Hence, long-distance communication has become prominent over the last couple of years.
But I am Technically Strong; so how does it matter to me:
Well, if you are really interested to move up on the career ladder then communication is the key. For instance, if you want to be promoted to be a Tech/Team Lead; then Good Communication skills will help in the longer run.
Good communication demonstrates good leadership skills and so helps you to pave the road to new roles and responsibilities. Would like to send a software architect to a client or listen to him on phone when he can barely communicate; would you like to work with a team/tech lead or onsite coordinator who can barely communicate what client wants? I am sure NOT.
Why English has become so important?
Do I really have to answer it? If you are reading this article of mine, then you are on the same boat like me. I.e. software development field. English is a global language to communicate with anyone whom you don’t know how to connect with. Besides, if you are planning to travel, work abroad, deal with higher management in your company and pave your road in a highly competitive society then good command over English is like “Cherry on the Cake”.
Many deserving candidates are rejected every year for USA visa (H1B, L1B even study abroad) in their interview because they can hardly communicate well and can’t impress the consulate person who is interviewing the candidate?
Consider; even technical interviews; how do you express that you are good candidate and know the technology; that time is gone when you can cram the questions and spit those over to the interviewer; trend of interview has changed. For instance, now people don’t really ask difference between “Abstract class and Interfaces” instead they will ask you a scenario where you chose to implement an Interface instead of an Abstract class or vice versa. Even, based on your project description they drag you into a totally un-imagined situation and ask for your views. Such just in time situation, scenarios are hard to cram or even prepare for; so you end up sharing your thoughts or thought process during interview; do you feel little sweating in your palms or forehead J.
So what’s the technique to have good English communication skills?
Thumb rule- as it implies to those candidates whose mother tongue or native language is NOT English, just like me.
Don’t panic or afraid of English Communication; rather work on it. I can share how I (a small town’s boy of Hindi medium from northern India) made it possible.
Rule#1 – Focus on Learning English grammar to strengthen the fundamentals; if there is a need to improvise on English grammar then work on it for some time and remaining can be learned by listening and speaking with others. Here is a good E-Book to strengthen the fundamentals from basics to extreme expert level.
Rule#2 – Don’t focus on Accent (American, British etc.) immediately; instead focus on grammar for correct usage or words and accurate sentence formation. Accent will come automatically later when you work with people across the globe and have developed good grasp of language.
Rule#3 – Your skills building I.e. Learning must be using English only;For instance; I see some people prefer to learn technology in their native language; I don’t understand how learning .NET or any other topic will help you better in your native language; because most of the terms are English only; C#, CLR, Framework, Language, Compile, Code, Debug and so on. So why to worry so much for some of the plumbing/gluing words in the middle to make sentences.
For example, if I had to learn what is .NET then what is it you won’t understand in this “.NET is a platform and framework which allows you to build applications using many .NET Complaint programming languages and even deploy and run those on many non-Microsoft Platforms Oss”.
I am totally against of reading novels etc. to build English vocabulary; rather start a book of your choice MVC, .NET, C#, ASP .NET, WCF etc. cover to cover; yes, cover to cover read right from About the Author to About the Technical Reviewer to Acknowledgement, Dedication etc. to the chapters of your choice. I guarantee 1st few sections has a lot to teach you about general purpose English communication. So your time is better invested into building your skills with books of your areas instead of reading a 1000 pages fiction novel like Harry Potter especially for this cause.
However; if you wish to read a book other than your technical area then reach out to mea I can guide you for some good books which might be helpful in various ways.
Rule#4 – Listening is very important;when I was in college I heard people saying that listening to English songs will help you to learn English; well to be honest I never found time to double up my efforts to listen to English songs and then learn my study topics in English. BTW, I also don’t recommend listening to English music and trying to read English material at the same time; it could turn out to be pretty messy especially at the beginner level.
So listen to some of your favorite speakers for the topic of your choice; Listening causes great learning especially in terms of usage of words, sentence formation, accent, pitch, pace, sound quality etc. My YouTube channel MyPassionForDotNet has couple of videos from 10 minutes to 2+ hour long sessions.
In free time even listen to the people in your office, market, shops, conference calls, elevators, parking etc.
Rule#5 – No slang language; Say “Yes”, many times I have seen people saying “yeah” “bro”, “You know after each line”, “cool” and many more terms. Well, I suggest always say “Yes”; believe me this has an impact on your way of building skills. When you are good with English communication then occasionally usage of yeah is OK. Basically; this puts you into a habit of strictly respecting the core of the language and also teaching your tongue what to utter; which is very important.
Rule#6 – Hang out with right people, if you have someone who can help you to polish your communication skills then find such people if possible. Well, I was not able to find any because I grew with people like me J but time has changed. I am sure you might have someone around you.
Rule#7 – Think big, Start small; if you are in a discussion then start whatever you can using English and see how far you can go. Anyways; in native land we speak in Mix-mode (some English and some native language) so you focus on speaking the English part as precisely as possible.
Rule#8 – Go slow; I have observed that many people think that Good English Communication is all about speaking fast; actually it’s a myth; I have earned large amount of my professional experience working out-side India with people from various English speaking continents; one thing I found common in all of them is that they speak slow; soft and clear.
Rule#9 – Pronunciation, when speaking no matter what language you are using; way to utter a word is very important; it become very important when you speak in English. Here is a great pronunciation tool to help you learn how a particular word is pronounced.
Some examples; I would like you to try and see what you thought was and actually how these must be pronounced. E.g. Scythe, calcium, pronunciation.
Rule#10 – Come out of native way of pronunciation; our native place (town, city, country) has huge impact on our way to learn pronouncing a word; many times we continue to speak the same way; but the associated cost with this approach; if you have been speaking wrong is that it takes a while to practice speaking it right.
For example, Most of the Indian people even Drs pronounce Calcium as “Cal-Shi-um” but actually there is no “Sh” sound in it. It’s just a very small example of how our native culture have impact on our way of speaking. Many people have tendency of adding sound of other letters when speaking something. Try again how most of the people say “Pronunciation” and compare that with the tool I referred in Rule# 9
Such issues can be fixed with caution, awareness and practice. There is nothing a human mind can’t conquer or achieve.
So let’s summarize the rules:
Rule #1- Learn grammar for better English communication.
Rule #2 – Don’t focus on Accent immediately
Rule #3 – Learn Technology in English only; strictly (books, audio, video etc.)
Rule #4 – Listening results in great learning.
Rule #5 – No slang, use words which reflects respect for the language.
Rule #6- Right company, connect with people who speak good English.
Rule #7 – Think big, Start small.
Rule #8- Speak slow but steady and you will win the race.
Rule #9 – Pronounce right; this is impressive in its own way.
Rule #10 – Go global; to some extent; come out of native tongue; way of pronunciation.
Q. Always have the dilemma like want to be a Architect or Manager.
A. As you wrote you are in dilemma, so I assume you are equally good in both. Which is a plus point for you. Now take it other way, someone is not good in both and want to plan a career roadmap in one of these options. What I have observed, seeing and doing is that, couple of managerial skills are needed in Architects and couple of architect skills are needed in Managers. But you still hold the big piece of your defined role I.e. manager or architect.
Lets consider a scenario when managerial skills help a technical architect.
I can tell you from my experience being a Sr. Technical Architect in my company and job demands that you have to work with other teams, people, senior management etc. and these are people you have never met, seen. But your collaboration power, people handling skills, written and verbal communication will help you to succeed in such instances.
Lets take another scenario when architect skills help a manager.
There is always a gap between managers and technical people. Many companies have stopped hiring plain “managers”. I.e. they want technical people to be manager and handle other technical staff. How does it help, well the truth is that if you have technical manager then transparency is more, he/she may better understand the pain of developers unlike a plain manager.
Its easy for team to discuss and explain technical show stoppers to such manager as they understand technology. I would say no matter what you become, but continue to nourish both the skills, but yes focus on your strength (technical or managerial) but the good mix at-least 30:70 will help you go places. In today’s fast growing IT industry, Global delivery model, on-site/ off-shore model etc. no company wants just a technical guy or a manager at senior level. They want you to be able to handle various situations. I personally have learned that you grow when you accept more responsibilities. Good luck for future endeavors.
A giant ship engine failed. The ship’s owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure out how to fix the engine.Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a young.He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.
Two of the ship’s owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do.
After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something.Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed!
A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars.“What?!” the owners exclaimed. “He hardly did anything!”So they wrote to the old man saying, “Please send us an itemized bill.”
The man sent a bill that read:
Tapping with a hammer…… …… ……… $ 2.00
Knowing where to tap……… …… ……… $ 9,998.00
Moral :- Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference! Keep studying hard. Don’t give up!
I love reading books and I am a bibliophile (great lover of books). I have also noticed that many IT profesionals don’t like reading books as they have someone who does all the work for them, and provides direct solutions, so they do not need to put long hours in reading and learning; thanks to Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle.com 🙁
But I am feeling that in order to grow someone has to learn constantly and books are the best medium to do so.
I came across a link which contains an article about “In Defence of Books” and this article is written by Douglas Reilly, he himself has shared his experience about books in the article.
This article talks about that why software professionals need books 🙂
Vidya Vrat Agarwal, Software Architect, Author, C# Corner MVP, Speaker, Trainer and Microsoft .NET Purist. Certified Scrum Master (CSM), MCT, MCPD, MCTS, MCSD.NET, MCAD.NET, MCSD and lifetime member of the Computer Society of India (CSI). Currently working as Sr. Technical Architect in a US based software company. I started working on Microsoft .NET with its 1st beta release.I am passionate about .NET technology and love to contribute to the .NET community. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @dotnetauthor