Posted on June 26th, 2016
Nobody should get too comfortable in their job, especially in the tech industry. Getting too comfortable normally means a decrease in learning. The learning curve has started to level off and you’ve become content. This may suit your situation, but it shouldn’t.
I’m far from a seasoned software developer, but I’ve worked with enough people to identify those who are just stagnating, and those that are pushing themselves to be immersed in new tech, interesting situations and taxing positions. Those who are stagnating are normally in a situation suits them. They usually aren’t interested in learning anymore, and I’m sad to say that it isn’t typically the younger developers that I’ve seen this in; it’s mainly the older ‘seasoned’ developers. This may suit their situation now, but what happens after the project that they’ve been on since greenfield up until support several years down the line has ended? Those years will have been spent with the same code base, with the same technologies, and they will have learned all they can. I don’t mean to language ‘expert’ level, more expert to the confines of the project. They will find themselves completely out of their depth when confronted with newer technologies, or even worse their years of experience won’t match their corresponding level of experience. I recently found myself in that situation.
I looked great on paper. Young, yet considered a ‘senior developer’ on the team, a subject matter expert, and the only full-stack developer in sight. I was involved with doing low-level documentation, estimates, and feature implementation. But I was bored. I knew the system inside out, I’d see the code base in my eye-lids when I blinked, and i’d learned all I could within the confines of the project. My team lead didn’t want me to go but I’d recognised that if I didn’t make a change, I’d flat-out stop progressing and stagnate.
I’m now UI lead on a high-pressure proof-of-concept project with a tight first deadline. And I love it. I come home at night, crack open the laptop and continue doing research that I didn’t get around to doing during the day. If I don’t, I’ll fall behind on the learning curve. I’d previously been mocked by an older team member for doing this which was then openly discussed with another like-minded older developer that they sat next to. “That’s just how that generation is”. No, I don’t accept that. It is recognised that 10% of your learning should be done in your own time, and I possibly go a bit beyond that, but you should never flat-out stop learning.
If you’re in the tech industry, you’ve signed up for a career of constant learning. If that doesn’t suit you, then perhaps a career teaching Math might suit you. Pythagorean theorem isn’t going to change any time soon.
Are you stagnating?
If you’re stagnating in your job, it’s better to realise it sooner rather than later. I felt every single one of these towards the end of my time on my previous project. How much of the following do you identify with?
- I’ve stopped learning new things
- My work doesn’t excite me anymore
- I’ve become negative about my work
- I don’t have much more scope for growth
- I’m no longer being challenged
- My years of experience don’t match my skill level
- I dread coming into work in the morning
- I’m working with old and/or redundant technology
The lack of willingness to learn is perhaps just tech natural selection. The industry is accelerating beyond the point of terminal velocity and if you don’t keep up you’ll be phased out or not make it at all.