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BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL
TECHNOLOGY CAREER
Dawn M. Foster
Community	
  Lead	
  at	
  Puppet	
  Labs
@geekygirldawn
dawn@puppetlabs.com	
  
WHOAMI
• Geek, vegan, traveler, reader
• 18 years in tech
• Past: sys admin, market
research, program
management, blogger, events ...
• Now: community, open source,
happy
Photos by Josh Bancroft, Don Park
AGENDA
• Get a great job
• Make the most of a job
• Be an expert
• Plan your career
Photo by Scott Maxworthy
NETWORKING
• Meeting people and learning
• Local user groups & orgs
• Professional organizations
• Industry events
Photo by Boris Doesborg
Not about being slimy and like a used car salesman.
About being genuinely interested in people and learning what they do.
If you aren’t genuinely interested, you probably need to find someone else to network with.
CONTACTS AND NETWORK
• Great way to get hired
• Almost all of my past jobs
• 40% - 60% of jobs found by networking
• Many jobs are never posted
Get a great job
Photo by Will Merydith
Getting a job: first job, moving to a new company, or new job at existing company
Many jobs aren’t advertised or aren’t posted until they have someone in mind.
Companies who are eager to hire smart people may invent a job for the right person.
Examples: Family contact, speaking at conference, tech side projects, free advising for local startup
“REQUIRED” SKILLS
• Usually flexible
• Should have most, but
not necessarily all
• May be willing to train
Get a great job
Photo by opensourceway
Example: Most jobs that I’ve been offered have included “required” skills that I didn’t have.
Often a wish list more than a reality.
May have been written by HR and not reflecting hire team’s real needs: 5 yrs exp in tech than isn’t that old.
DO NOT let a gap in a “required” skill prevent you from applying.
Be honest that you don’t have it during the interview, find out how important it is, and talk about how your other
experience will help you learn it.
Focus on competence in other areas. Hiring managers will overlook gaps if they think you can do the job.
LEARN NEW SKILLS
• Want to do something new?
• Self-taught vs. degree
• Demonstrate skills
Get a great job
Photo by Enokson
So many great, free resources to learn: http://www.codecademy.com/ https://www.coursera.org/ books, etc.
For most employers, a bachelor’s degree matters, but what it’s in may not matter if you can show experience. PL:
philosophy / sys admins, history / community.
1st bachelor’s worth the money, but others likely aren’t worth the cost. Best deal is to let employer pay (my MBA).
Make sure you can demonstrate new skills: GitHub links, open source projects, visible volunteer work.
Examples: open source metrics, PDX tech events.
PAY
• Get paid what you are worth
• Do your research and have data
• Past salary, experience, expertise, level
• Have a salary in mind
• Negotiate
Get a great job
Photo by 401(K) 2013
Money isn’t everything, but you’ll feel better about your job if you are paid fairly.
Do your research and have data. Use online tools, like salary.com or salary research in your industry.
Harder for your 1st job, but use your past salary, experience, expertise, job level to justify pay.
Know what you want to make and what you are willing to accept. Take full package into account (stock, etc.) Negotiate for pay,
stock and bonuses, but if they give you a good offer, don’t negotiate just to negotiate.
Example: For salary, I’m upfront about what I want to make.
* I tell them what I want to make - high side of what I expect, but still realistic. Sometimes they say yes.
* If they come in lower, ask for a little more stock, bonuses or other incentives in the package.
* I set a bottom number - usually slightly above current salary. won’t accept below without other incentives
* Say no if you don’t think it’s fair
MORE NETWORKING
• Internal and external
• Mentors
• Allies
• Learning
• Discovery and next steps
Make the most of a job
Photo by Michael Heiss
Talked about networking for getting jobs, but also critical for making most of current job.
Need contacts inside and out. If just outside, people in your company won’t know you. If just inside, you’ll be lost if you get laid
off or company has issues.
Find a mentor who can help you navigate company / industry or offer to become a mentor.
Not just about landing that next job, these people can be important allies when it comes to getting feedback or reality checks.
They can also often stick up for you if you are having issues.
Learn from people. Discover what other people do and what it takes to do a certain job and think about next steps for what you
want to do.
VOLUNTEERING
• Help with interesting projects at work
• Learn something new & prove your skills
• But, don’t get taken advantage of
Make the most of a job
http://xkcd.com/749/
Offer to pick up interesting work or be on work committees for interesting work.
Example: volunteered to pick up technical tasks to keep skills sharp. Volunteered to represent team on various
committees.
Should be really interesting and way to learn / demonstrate skills.
Don’t volunteer for crappy work and let people take advantage of you. We all get stuck doing those tasks from
time to time, but don’t volunteer for them unless *you* get something out of it.
BRAG A LITTLE
• Management isn’t psychic
• Tell them what you do
• Regular updates on progress
• Performance reviews
• Own best advocate
Make the most of a job
Photo byThomas Hawk
Manager has to keep track of a lot of people.
Will never notice what you do unless you tell them
Examples: regular status updates, manager 1:1s, quick brag emails with info about cool things you did.
Have some documentation that will allow you to easily prepare for performance reviews.
Make sure you send your manager a summary of what you did last year before your review.
You are your own best advocate. Have a realistic expectation of what you want out of your review (must be realistic), but don’t
get steamrolled. Good preparation and documentation is key to proving your worth to the company.
Focus on impact you had and not tasks or activities for updates and performance reviews.
Example: Task: Launched a new CLA app. Impact: Improved the process for accepting community contributions to Puppet and
reduced the time required from developers when accepting contributions.
SHARE WHATYOU KNOW
• Write about what you do
• People can learn from you
• Internal and external
Be an expert
Photo by Pete Prodoehl
We all have expertise to share.
Don’t have to be *the* expert to have valuable knowledge people can learn from.
Lessons you’ve learned, tips for doing something better, info people can use.
Sharing this inside & out - show expertise in both places.
Internal: write documentation, email information, present to your team & others at your company
Example: Write a lot of how-to guides that I can send as links to people for common questions, things people
don’t know how to do. Starting a user group.
More external on next slide
PERSONAL BRAND
• Personal website
• Info about you & your expertise
• Blogging, social media, etc.
• Code repos
• Manage online presence
Be an expert
Gives people a place online to learn about you.
Think of it like a resume++
Also one of the primary ways to share expertise.
Learn more by writing something for other people (additional research)
I also use it as a way to stretch myself technically to keep at least some of my web skills.
Example: Invited to SXSW panel because of blog posts.
Manage your online presence & be careful about what you post online.
PUBLIC SPEAKING
• Speak at conferences
• Share your knowledge
• Become better known
• Access to other speakers
• Get in free and learn
Be an expert
Photo by Brisbane City Council
We don’t have enough women speaking at technical conferences.
I run presentation selection for our conferences, and it’s hard to find women to speak.
Speaking is a great way to share what you know & become known as someone with expertise in a topic.
Example: When I was doing freelance consulting, I got quite a few inquiries from people who saw me speak at a
conference (often years later).
Also get better access to other speakers, so great way to network and become friends with really smart people.
As a bonus, most conferences give you a free ticket to the event, so you get to share what you know and learn
from others.
WHAT DOYOU WANT?
• Talk to people
• Learn what they do
• Read about other jobs
• Volunteer and experiment
Plan your career
Photo by RickTuroczy
Get out: other departments at your company or local user groups / events.
Talk to people, read - learn what other people do and find things you might be interested in doing someday.
Volunteer for small tasks in those areas to get a close-up of what people do.
Example: wanted to be a corp exec - until I worked with them. I like to do stuff, not just manage others who do
the fun stuff.
HAVE A PLAN
• Long-term goals
• Acquire necessary skills
• The next job
• Share that expertise
Image by Richard Stephenson
Plan your career
Set some goals. What do you want to be doing in a few years? What should your life be like?
Start building the skills required to achieve those goals, make sure that the next job builds new skills that you’ll
need.
Start writing / speaking / sharing so that people know that you have these new skills and make sure that the types
of things you are doing to share support your long-term career goals.
Example: when I decided that I wanted to work with open source communities, started blogging and talking about
it, which helped me land a job working full-time as a community manager.
DEVIATE FROM PLAN
• Revise based on likes / dislikes
• Don’t feel stuck in the plan
• Take advantage of random opportunities
http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-10-08/
Plan your career
Example: I’ve had a lot of random, unexpected opportunities that were great for my career.
Don’t ever get stuck in your plan - revise it and deviate from the plan when in makes sense.
SUMMARY
• Networking is really important
• Know what you want
• Try new things
• Always learn new skills
• Share your expertise online
and at events
Networking: Important when getting a job, making the most of your existing job, personal branding, career
planning, etc.
Know what you want: to do with your career (now and later), salary expectations, what expertise, etc. Thinking
about what you want will make you happier.
Experiment and volunteer to do something new and learn new skills to help in current or future jobs.
Share what you learn and know. Even if you think it’s not new, it will be new and helpful for some people.
QUESTIONS?
Contact	
  info:	
  Dawn	
  Foster
@geekygirldawn
dawn@puppetlabs.com
fastwonderblog.com

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Building a Successful Technology Career

  • 1. BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL TECHNOLOGY CAREER Dawn M. Foster Community  Lead  at  Puppet  Labs @geekygirldawn dawn@puppetlabs.com  
  • 2. WHOAMI • Geek, vegan, traveler, reader • 18 years in tech • Past: sys admin, market research, program management, blogger, events ... • Now: community, open source, happy Photos by Josh Bancroft, Don Park
  • 3. AGENDA • Get a great job • Make the most of a job • Be an expert • Plan your career Photo by Scott Maxworthy
  • 4. NETWORKING • Meeting people and learning • Local user groups & orgs • Professional organizations • Industry events Photo by Boris Doesborg Not about being slimy and like a used car salesman. About being genuinely interested in people and learning what they do. If you aren’t genuinely interested, you probably need to find someone else to network with.
  • 5. CONTACTS AND NETWORK • Great way to get hired • Almost all of my past jobs • 40% - 60% of jobs found by networking • Many jobs are never posted Get a great job Photo by Will Merydith Getting a job: first job, moving to a new company, or new job at existing company Many jobs aren’t advertised or aren’t posted until they have someone in mind. Companies who are eager to hire smart people may invent a job for the right person. Examples: Family contact, speaking at conference, tech side projects, free advising for local startup
  • 6. “REQUIRED” SKILLS • Usually flexible • Should have most, but not necessarily all • May be willing to train Get a great job Photo by opensourceway Example: Most jobs that I’ve been offered have included “required” skills that I didn’t have. Often a wish list more than a reality. May have been written by HR and not reflecting hire team’s real needs: 5 yrs exp in tech than isn’t that old. DO NOT let a gap in a “required” skill prevent you from applying. Be honest that you don’t have it during the interview, find out how important it is, and talk about how your other experience will help you learn it. Focus on competence in other areas. Hiring managers will overlook gaps if they think you can do the job.
  • 7. LEARN NEW SKILLS • Want to do something new? • Self-taught vs. degree • Demonstrate skills Get a great job Photo by Enokson So many great, free resources to learn: http://www.codecademy.com/ https://www.coursera.org/ books, etc. For most employers, a bachelor’s degree matters, but what it’s in may not matter if you can show experience. PL: philosophy / sys admins, history / community. 1st bachelor’s worth the money, but others likely aren’t worth the cost. Best deal is to let employer pay (my MBA). Make sure you can demonstrate new skills: GitHub links, open source projects, visible volunteer work. Examples: open source metrics, PDX tech events.
  • 8. PAY • Get paid what you are worth • Do your research and have data • Past salary, experience, expertise, level • Have a salary in mind • Negotiate Get a great job Photo by 401(K) 2013 Money isn’t everything, but you’ll feel better about your job if you are paid fairly. Do your research and have data. Use online tools, like salary.com or salary research in your industry. Harder for your 1st job, but use your past salary, experience, expertise, job level to justify pay. Know what you want to make and what you are willing to accept. Take full package into account (stock, etc.) Negotiate for pay, stock and bonuses, but if they give you a good offer, don’t negotiate just to negotiate. Example: For salary, I’m upfront about what I want to make. * I tell them what I want to make - high side of what I expect, but still realistic. Sometimes they say yes. * If they come in lower, ask for a little more stock, bonuses or other incentives in the package. * I set a bottom number - usually slightly above current salary. won’t accept below without other incentives * Say no if you don’t think it’s fair
  • 9. MORE NETWORKING • Internal and external • Mentors • Allies • Learning • Discovery and next steps Make the most of a job Photo by Michael Heiss Talked about networking for getting jobs, but also critical for making most of current job. Need contacts inside and out. If just outside, people in your company won’t know you. If just inside, you’ll be lost if you get laid off or company has issues. Find a mentor who can help you navigate company / industry or offer to become a mentor. Not just about landing that next job, these people can be important allies when it comes to getting feedback or reality checks. They can also often stick up for you if you are having issues. Learn from people. Discover what other people do and what it takes to do a certain job and think about next steps for what you want to do.
  • 10. VOLUNTEERING • Help with interesting projects at work • Learn something new & prove your skills • But, don’t get taken advantage of Make the most of a job http://xkcd.com/749/ Offer to pick up interesting work or be on work committees for interesting work. Example: volunteered to pick up technical tasks to keep skills sharp. Volunteered to represent team on various committees. Should be really interesting and way to learn / demonstrate skills. Don’t volunteer for crappy work and let people take advantage of you. We all get stuck doing those tasks from time to time, but don’t volunteer for them unless *you* get something out of it.
  • 11. BRAG A LITTLE • Management isn’t psychic • Tell them what you do • Regular updates on progress • Performance reviews • Own best advocate Make the most of a job Photo byThomas Hawk Manager has to keep track of a lot of people. Will never notice what you do unless you tell them Examples: regular status updates, manager 1:1s, quick brag emails with info about cool things you did. Have some documentation that will allow you to easily prepare for performance reviews. Make sure you send your manager a summary of what you did last year before your review. You are your own best advocate. Have a realistic expectation of what you want out of your review (must be realistic), but don’t get steamrolled. Good preparation and documentation is key to proving your worth to the company. Focus on impact you had and not tasks or activities for updates and performance reviews. Example: Task: Launched a new CLA app. Impact: Improved the process for accepting community contributions to Puppet and reduced the time required from developers when accepting contributions.
  • 12. SHARE WHATYOU KNOW • Write about what you do • People can learn from you • Internal and external Be an expert Photo by Pete Prodoehl We all have expertise to share. Don’t have to be *the* expert to have valuable knowledge people can learn from. Lessons you’ve learned, tips for doing something better, info people can use. Sharing this inside & out - show expertise in both places. Internal: write documentation, email information, present to your team & others at your company Example: Write a lot of how-to guides that I can send as links to people for common questions, things people don’t know how to do. Starting a user group. More external on next slide
  • 13. PERSONAL BRAND • Personal website • Info about you & your expertise • Blogging, social media, etc. • Code repos • Manage online presence Be an expert Gives people a place online to learn about you. Think of it like a resume++ Also one of the primary ways to share expertise. Learn more by writing something for other people (additional research) I also use it as a way to stretch myself technically to keep at least some of my web skills. Example: Invited to SXSW panel because of blog posts. Manage your online presence & be careful about what you post online.
  • 14. PUBLIC SPEAKING • Speak at conferences • Share your knowledge • Become better known • Access to other speakers • Get in free and learn Be an expert Photo by Brisbane City Council We don’t have enough women speaking at technical conferences. I run presentation selection for our conferences, and it’s hard to find women to speak. Speaking is a great way to share what you know & become known as someone with expertise in a topic. Example: When I was doing freelance consulting, I got quite a few inquiries from people who saw me speak at a conference (often years later). Also get better access to other speakers, so great way to network and become friends with really smart people. As a bonus, most conferences give you a free ticket to the event, so you get to share what you know and learn from others.
  • 15. WHAT DOYOU WANT? • Talk to people • Learn what they do • Read about other jobs • Volunteer and experiment Plan your career Photo by RickTuroczy Get out: other departments at your company or local user groups / events. Talk to people, read - learn what other people do and find things you might be interested in doing someday. Volunteer for small tasks in those areas to get a close-up of what people do. Example: wanted to be a corp exec - until I worked with them. I like to do stuff, not just manage others who do the fun stuff.
  • 16. HAVE A PLAN • Long-term goals • Acquire necessary skills • The next job • Share that expertise Image by Richard Stephenson Plan your career Set some goals. What do you want to be doing in a few years? What should your life be like? Start building the skills required to achieve those goals, make sure that the next job builds new skills that you’ll need. Start writing / speaking / sharing so that people know that you have these new skills and make sure that the types of things you are doing to share support your long-term career goals. Example: when I decided that I wanted to work with open source communities, started blogging and talking about it, which helped me land a job working full-time as a community manager.
  • 17. DEVIATE FROM PLAN • Revise based on likes / dislikes • Don’t feel stuck in the plan • Take advantage of random opportunities http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-10-08/ Plan your career Example: I’ve had a lot of random, unexpected opportunities that were great for my career. Don’t ever get stuck in your plan - revise it and deviate from the plan when in makes sense.
  • 18. SUMMARY • Networking is really important • Know what you want • Try new things • Always learn new skills • Share your expertise online and at events Networking: Important when getting a job, making the most of your existing job, personal branding, career planning, etc. Know what you want: to do with your career (now and later), salary expectations, what expertise, etc. Thinking about what you want will make you happier. Experiment and volunteer to do something new and learn new skills to help in current or future jobs. Share what you learn and know. Even if you think it’s not new, it will be new and helpful for some people.
  • 19. QUESTIONS? Contact  info:  Dawn  Foster @geekygirldawn dawn@puppetlabs.com fastwonderblog.com