Where are you going?

Last week I attended a management/leadership workshop for two days and this week I spent another two days in leadership training.  This week it was Basics for Team Leaders, which covered the majority of Team Leader-ish things we need to know.  Not surprisingly, I learned a lot.  Some of it was administrative: what we need to do within our goal management and employee review software, what steps we need to take if we are having behavioral issues with a team member, what the company financials look like.  But there was a fair bit of coaching and mentoring discussed as well, and the timing of it all is striking considering Steve Jones (blog | @way0utwest ) and Andy Warren’s ( blog | @sqlandy ) latest initiative, The Mentoring Experiment.  After this week’s session, there were a few items we covered that got me thinking.

Career Ladder vs. Career Path

When you think about your options at your current job, what do you see?  Is it a set of steps that you must ascend in order to earn more, be recognized and get more perks?  Or is it a wide open road that you can follow and go wherever direction you want to go?

People talk of climbing the corporate ladder, and that ladder leads to higher and higher positions in management.  What’s interesting is that in some companies, the people who are very good at their jobs are the ones promoted up the management ladder.  But I don’t know that those individuals are always asked if they want to go into management, or if they understand what management really means.

The idea of a career path is that the company provides employees with the right tools, and the right permissions, to allow them to create their path, based on what they really like and want to do.  For those who want to “do”, and not manage, this is heaven.

Where are you in your career, on a ladder or a path…and is that where you want to be?

Empowering Others

The word empower means, to promote the self-actualization or influence of.”

If I have a strong feeling about a particular area of our application’s database design, I can tell my manager about it, and have him work it through traditional channels, or I could go and talk to the developer directly.  What I do depends on my level of empowerment.

What’s tricky about empowerment is that it’s not something that people can give to you.  As a Team Leader, I can tell my team repeatedly that should feel empowered to utilize any resource in the company to which they have access, but in the end I can’t make them do that.  What I can do is create an environment in which I support their learning and development and train them how to find and use the right resources.

You can feel empowered at work, but it doesn’t end there, you can feel empowered in the SQL Server community as well.  Numerous people in the community will recommend that you join Twitter, start a blog or try your hand at presenting.  But they cannot do any of that for you, you must take that step on your own to create your presence within the community.

Develop Your Successor

When I was a Team Leader the first time around, I heard someone say that you should always try to work yourself out of your current position.  My first thought was, “But what if I like what I do?”  What’s ironic is that I got to the point where I liked what I did, and then there were all these new things I wanted to try, but I didn’t have much time to try them.

You need to think forward and start teaching someone else how to do what you do, so you can move on to whatever is next.  This is true whether you’re on a career ladder or career path.  If your goal is to be the CEO of a company, and you are in a lower-level manager position, your goal is to train someone to take your place so you can move up to the mid-level manager position.  If you’re a DBA, your next step might be Senior DBA.  To become senior, you need someone who is junior to you, and you might as well train them so that when issues come up, you know you can trust them.  Once you become a Senior DBA, what’s next?  It depends.  Yes, the age-old answer, but it’s true.

Do you remember the Microsoft ad campaign for Windows 98, with the tagline, Where do you want to go today?  Forget today!  Where do you want to go tomorrow?  Think there isn’t anything beyond Senior DBA?  Wrong.  I don’t even need to name names (and I won’t because there’s getting to be so many people who work as consultants, for vendors, who start their own busienss, that I would leave one of them out).  My point is this: You have the power to create your own career.  You know this, you’ve heard it from other bloggers in the SQL Server community, not just me.  You just have to know what you want to do, and you have to develop the skills to get there.  Your first, and hardest, step is figuring out where you want to go.

2 Responses to Where are you going?
  1. Rob Drysdale
    April 29, 2011 | 2:53 pm

    Wow so many great things in this post. I think the hardest part for people is to really put the thoughts together and figure out what they really want to do and what they don’t want to do. I have heard of some companies that have a technical development path (with increased earnings) for people that don’t want to be in management. And not everyone wants to be a consultant…

    I think the most important thing here is to make sure you aren’t irreplaceable. You don’t want to be the only one that can do it (the late night and overnight calls are brutal) and it can free you up to do other things and take some pressure off. You’ll never be able to move up or sideways if the company can’t replace you in what you do.

  2. Erin Stellato
    April 29, 2011 | 4:12 pm

    Thanks Rob! After I wrote it, I realized it could have been three separate posts, so I might go back and dive into each of those topics in the future. But you are correct in that not everyone wants to be a consultant. Someone might love being a Senior DBA, and they just want to become more knowledgable and skilled, and that’s ok. You just have to know what you want.

    Your point about irreplaceable is spot on. I used to think that was a good thing, I wanted to be irreplaceable. Then I realized that if I wanted to go on vacation, it was really hard. Now I’m all about redundancy.

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