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Building a Successful Technology Career


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Building a successful career involves way more than just doing the technical work that is your primary responsibility. In this presentation, we'll talk about the following topics: having a plan, but not letting it get in the way of serendipitous opportunities; applying for jobs when you don't have all of the "required" skills; getting paid what you are worth; volunteering for additional assignments without letting people take advantage of you; and becoming known as an expert.

Published in: Career, Technology, Business

Building a Successful Technology Career

  1. 1. BUILDING A SUCCESSFULTECHNOLOGY CAREERDawn M. FosterCommunity  Lead  at  Puppet  
  2. 2. WHOAMI• Geek, vegan, traveler, reader• 18 years in tech• Past: sys admin, marketresearch, programmanagement, blogger, events ...• Now: community, open source,happyPhotos by Josh Bancroft, Don Park
  3. 3. AGENDA• Get a great job• Make the most of a job• Be an expert• Plan your careerPhoto by Scott Maxworthy
  4. 4. NETWORKING• Meeting people and learning• Local user groups & orgs• Professional organizations• Industry eventsPhoto by Boris DoesborgNot 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. 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 postedGet a great jobPhoto by Will MerydithGetting a job: first job, moving to a new company, or new job at existing companyMany 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. 6. “REQUIRED” SKILLS• Usually flexible• Should have most, butnot necessarily all• May be willing to trainGet a great jobPhoto by opensourcewayExample: 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 otherexperience 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. 7. LEARN NEW SKILLS• Want to do something new?• Self-taught vs. degree• Demonstrate skillsGet a great jobPhoto by EnoksonSo many great, free resources to learn: 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. 8. PAY• Get paid what you are worth• Do your research and have data• Past salary, experience, expertise, level• Have a salary in mind• NegotiateGet a great jobPhoto by 401(K) 2013Money 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 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. 9. MORE NETWORKING• Internal and external• Mentors• Allies• Learning• Discovery and next stepsMake the most of a jobPhoto by Michael HeissTalked 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 laidoff 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 youwant to do.
  10. 10. VOLUNTEERING• Help with interesting projects at work• Learn something new & prove your skills• But, don’t get taken advantage ofMake the most of a job 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 variouscommittees.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 fromtime to time, but don’t volunteer for them unless *you* get something out of it.
  11. 11. BRAG A LITTLE• Management isn’t psychic• Tell them what you do• Regular updates on progress• Performance reviews• Own best advocateMake the most of a jobPhoto byThomas HawkManager has to keep track of a lot of people.Will never notice what you do unless you tell themExamples: 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’tget 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 andreduced the time required from developers when accepting contributions.
  12. 12. SHARE WHATYOU KNOW• Write about what you do• People can learn from you• Internal and externalBe an expertPhoto by Pete ProdoehlWe 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 companyExample: Write a lot of how-to guides that I can send as links to people for common questions, things peopledon’t know how to do. Starting a user group.More external on next slide
  13. 13. PERSONAL BRAND• Personal website• Info about you & your expertise• Blogging, social media, etc.• Code repos• Manage online presenceBe an expertGives 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. 14. PUBLIC SPEAKING• Speak at conferences• Share your knowledge• Become better known• Access to other speakers• Get in free and learnBe an expertPhoto by Brisbane City CouncilWe 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 aconference (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 learnfrom others.
  15. 15. WHAT DOYOU WANT?• Talk to people• Learn what they do• Read about other jobs• Volunteer and experimentPlan your careerPhoto by RickTuroczyGet 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 dothe fun stuff.
  16. 16. HAVE A PLAN• Long-term goals• Acquire necessary skills• The next job• Share that expertiseImage by Richard StephensonPlan your careerSet 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’llneed.Start writing / speaking / sharing so that people know that you have these new skills and make sure that the typesof 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 aboutit, which helped me land a job working full-time as a community manager.
  17. 17. DEVIATE FROM PLAN• Revise based on likes / dislikes• Don’t feel stuck in the plan• Take advantage of random opportunities your careerExample: 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. 18. SUMMARY• Networking is really important• Know what you want• Try new things• Always learn new skills• Share your expertise onlineand at eventsNetworking: Important when getting a job, making the most of your existing job, personal branding, careerplanning, etc.Know what you want: to do with your career (now and later), salary expectations, what expertise, etc. Thinkingabout 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. 19. QUESTIONS?Contact  info:  Dawn