Last week we published TWiST#30
- a live discussion from Tester's Dinner in the San Francisco Area.
Toward the end of the interview I asked a totally unfair and silly question of everyone at the table - what would you recommend someone do for the next ten years of their career.
It's an interesting question because (A)
we can't predict the future -- imagine ten years ago -- could anyone have predicted Facebook, Mobile, or the resurgence of Apple Computer? Probably not. So any technical advice we could give would be a bit vapid. What does ".NET is really hot right now" mean
, anyway? What should you do about it? And even if you could, what are the odds that it'll still be hot ten years from now? (Ten years ago, some folks at the table might have said "XML is really hot right now." Gee. How would that have helped you?)
More importantly, though, (B)
The question is context-free. By which I mean, it's unclear who the speakers are trying to help -- an aspiring tester, a senior tester worried about his long-term career prospects, a programmer, a manager -- what? Even for two testers with the same job title, imagine one works at Facebook and the other at Liberty Mutual Insurance
in Indianapolis. The system forces around their work and career are going to be very different.
That said, I challenged the folks to do the best they could.
I was a bit unhappy with my own own answer.
Oh, I think the answer was good, but the food was coming and I felt very rushed -- so allow me to elaborate here.
My advice was to try a lot of different stuff, which I think begs for an explanation.
Say you are serious about your career and invest ten hours a week in professional development of some type - reading, writing, learning new technologies, maybe freelancing -- perhaps studying different careers.
Now think about the difference between exploring a half-dozen things over the course of a year and going back to school to get an MBA.
For the "try lots of stuff" approach, you pay nothing (or very little). You'll invest five or ten hours in a subject -- but you'll get a feel to see if this idea is returning value to you. If it works for you, invest twenty or thirty. If that keeps working for you, invest more.
Ideally, look for something that will pay some sort of dividend (reputation, differentiation in your career, maybe cash money) relatively quickly.
So by the end of the year you've had a half-dozen ideas, some of which are already yielding dividends.
Meanwhile, on the MBA front, you're going to school at night, paying money, and will keep paying money for the next four years or so. Now, when you're done, you'll HOPE that you've got the degree and it will lead to the job you want -- but you don't really know
. It might turn out that you really don't enjoy the job that you worked so hard to get.
The worst case of this is the 30-year-old doctor who decided he wanted to be a doctor at twelve, that made all the right career moves, that wakes up one morning and realizes that twelve-year-olds often make poor career decisions. He's now spent eighteen years sacrificing to have a job he dislikes, and is in so much student loan debt that he can't afford to start over.
My advice was simple: Don't let that dude be you.
So you might want to get an MBA, and that's fine, but look before you leap, ideally by small time investments that individually pay benefits.
In other news
I've tried to keep busy lately, publishing an interview with Ken Pugh
on Infomit.com and also creating an article for SearchSoftwareQuality on Transitioning to Large-Scale Scrum
. (A free registration may be required for that last one. Sorry 'bout that.)
More to come.