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Who is responsible for your career?

There has been a lot of talk on a lot of the blogs over going to PDC, the cost of PDC, etc.  There is an argument made that the cost of an event like PDC is prohibitive, preventing folks working at smaller employers, or even the self employed from attending.  This sort of begs a question:  Who is responsible for your career?

I have worked for larger employers, smaller employers, and am now happily self employed doing software development.  In all cases, I have discovered that as nice as my employers may be, they are by and large not that concerned about my professional growth.  They are concerned about what I can do for them, and in a couple of cases where it was clear a conference was an advantage for the facility I worked for (for instance, a Microsoft Healthcare Users Group conference) my employer happily paid for my trip.  I gained something from the experience, but clearly the hospital system gained more, as I was able to bring back an understanding of several technologies that helped the hospital for years to come.

In other cases, I had to negotiate a deal that made both my employer and I happy.  I have spoken at several conferences, and arranged for my employer to pay for my time, I ate the travel expenses, and got into the conference for free as a speaker.  In other cases, I just arranged to pay for everything, and just negoatiated to take the time without pay so as not to disturb other vacation plans.

In any event, I am doing better, career wise, than folks who did not make the same kind of effort to ensure my continued value to employers and clients.  I am not sure it is fair, and it certainly would be great if your employer would be deeply interested in your career, but these days, most folks do not stay at a single employer for more than a few years, either by their choice or at the insistance of their employer.  As an independent consultant doing work for a number of clients, it is even more critical to be percieved as someone who is up to date and able to move to new technologies as they arise. 

It is not only conferences, but books, magazine subscriptions, etc., that can help you maintain a career even in this chaotic world known as software development.


Sam Gentile said:

Well said Doug. No matter who I work for I, and ONLY myself, am responsible for my tecnical career, just like only I am solely responsible for my self-growth. Whining isn't the soulution. Figuring out where you want to be, and making it happen is. I am working for a client now, and I eat all my costs. I eat the dozens of books I buy a month. I eat the whole week I am at MSFT next week. I eat the whole PDC. Why? Because every single one of them is a *vital* piece of my technical career growth and I am responsible for it. In this day and age, no company is going to pay for *any* of this, and if they do, you are lucky. People say things are handed to some of us, leaving out the 19 years of work that some of us had to do to get here. Make a plan where you want to be in a year, 5 years, etc. and what it will take to get there. Then work on it. Write code, write articles, blog, whatever.

Thanks for stating this so well Doug.
# August 9, 2003 2:33 PM

Dave said:

And while I completely 100% agree with everyone here that I am responsible for directing my own career, I see absolutely no value in attending the PDC. DonXML, the is not whining (I assume that's what you meant in your comment) in the least. It's an objective sobering opinion I truely hold. If I am wrong, then I pay for it. Isn't this really what being responsible for yourself is all about?

I've been in this industry much longer than many. I'm in my mid-40s and have seen many things come and go. I've seen hype, fanaticism, unexpected turnarounds, evolutions and revolutions in my 25 years in it.

If what I commented on a few days ago comes across to some as whining, they just don't get it. It's not the cost of the PDC that I was referring to at all. It was not the quality or vision of the products either. Plain and simply, it is this chorus of MS and MS-affiliated bloggers who seem to make the rest of us feel like we're about to be left behind - and possibly even lose our jobs to "someone in India" - that rubs me the wrong way. It's hype. Hype for what is today and will continue to be for 1-2 years vaporware, however revolutionary these products will be.

I subscribed to various RSS feeds on and to learn tricks and nuances to accomplish things TODAY. Guess I'm going to have to recede from commenting anymore... and seriously reconsider the value of these RSS feeds for my career.

Harsh words, I know. But I truely am beginning to feel this way. No offense meant to anyone. I also wish everyone attending the PDC the best. There is much happening there, and like I commented to Scoble, for true industry leaders it is money well spent. But for us 'grunts' who work daily to provide solutions today, it is happening a months/years too early and I'll leave it to those leaders and their blogs to give the glimpse of the future that is needed to keep my career on track.
# August 9, 2003 5:44 PM

DonXML said:

My comment about whinners was due in part to Sam's reference to the word whinner. And yes, a bunch of folks who are complaining about the price come off sounding that way. If you feel that the cost versus the potential benefits of going to the PDC is not worth it to your career, don't go. I don't go to these events to just learn the new technologies, because I can pick that up other ways (as previously stated), I go to network, and to try to infulence the direction MS is going. In the days before blogs, this was the only way to do it. Now with the power of blogging, it isn't as important. Sounds like a blog entry to me, so I'll continue on with that idea in my blog.

# August 9, 2003 6:39 PM

Douglas Reilly said:

I certainly understand someone's concern over the content at PDC, and whether it will be too much of an MS event. That said, I do not think the cost involved should be much of an issue, for a professional developer.

There are many other very good conferences out there, along with many good books (mine included<g>) that can help folks continue to advance their career.

There is a group of 5 men that I have been a part of for the last 30+ years (I am also in that 40+ age group). Of the 5 of us, all have been laid off at least once over the last 3 years or so.

Three of them are just now or still unemployed. One other got another job relatively quickly, and when I was laid off right after 9/11, I had consulting projects starting the Monday after I finished up at the .COM that died. Layoffs are a fact of life in the US these days (maybe even a good thing - See "More Like Us - Making America Great Again" by James Fallows). That two out of 5 of us bounced back more quickly is not an accident. I am doing work now I was never officially trained for or prepared for by any employer.

And Don, I concur that the networking of such a conference is just as important as the actual information that is delivered through "official" channels.
# August 9, 2003 6:58 PM

Stephane Rodriguez said:

"Who is responsible for my career ?"

>>I have discovered that as nice as my employers may be, they are by and large not that concerned about my professional growth.

Depending on the country you live on, this changes a lot. In France, employers have to make sure you have a high employability level, which means that a fraction of the employer tax + employee tax in the wage each month is just purposed to this.

> They are concerned about what I can do for them

If those I have worked for were less stupid, they would have considered a rest between task forces so that the team I have worked in would have been able to get new fresh air instead of being highly focused on a very specific thing for a significant time which, as a lot of experienced people, is terribly bad for the creativity and responsiveness.

# August 10, 2003 5:25 AM

Stephane Rodriguez said:

"No matter who I work for I, and ONLY myself, am responsible for my tecnical career, just like only I am solely responsible for my self-growth."

Sam, don't forget this applies because you are contracting. A lot of people are full-time, so it's different.
# August 10, 2003 5:30 AM

Stephane Rodriguez said:

>> I try to infulence the direction MS is going

Stupid a thought. You are living in the MS world. It needs someone OUTSIDE to achieve a change in direction.
# August 10, 2003 5:33 AM

Robert Hurlbut said:

Stephane -- both Sam and I work in the consulting/contracting world, but we have also had our times in the full-time world as well. The idea applies the same. We have both seen good and bad employers, but in either case, we are still personally responsible for our own development.
# August 10, 2003 7:21 AM

Douglas Reilly said:

Stephane, while I am also an independent contractor now, I have to concur that the same responsibility to manage your own career, and to develop your own career is on you even as an employee. In fact, it might even be more important as an employee.

As a consulting developer, I get to see how things work in many companies. As an employee, I might see less technical diversity. In this case, it is even more important to figure out what, technically, is going on in the larger world. And again, cultural/national differences aside, in general your employer will not have your best interests at heart, except to the extent that those best interests match the employers.
# August 10, 2003 9:06 AM

Stephane Rodriguez said:

>> it is even more important to figure out what, technically, is going on in the larger world

This sentence looks as if the technology is moving fast.

C/C++/VB/COM/Java everywhere, that's the only thing you end up to.

Take .NET, in most cases you won't do pure .NET, you will interop existing code. Again, it's C/C++ plumbing.

What is changing faster is what is at the application level. Even in this area, large and wellknown applications and back ends don't change much over time (oracle, sap, db2, bea, vignette, sqlserver, business objects, ...).

# August 10, 2003 9:33 AM

Douglas Reilly said:

Think back 5 years ago. For myself, I just went into my much older emails to research, and in 1999 I was doing perhaps 50% Web work using ASP Classic and COM objects written in C++, 30% Windows Services work using the Win32 API, and 20% Btrieve database work(!). Five years before that I was doing lots of Btrieve database work, all in DOS, using C++ before C++ had templates. Looking at my ASP code from 5 years ago, not only was it ASP code, but by current standards it was not even terribly good ASP code. Even with existing technologies, you can either stick with exactly what you first learned to do, or continue to grow and make better use of the same tools.

Today I am doing lots of pure .NET applications (hitting SQL Server as a database most often), creating Windows services using the .NET framework, and doing less interop every day.

# August 10, 2003 9:47 AM

Sam Gentile said:

Actually I have been a full time employee for most of my 19 years in the industry and the only company that fully paid for education and training was Digital and we all know what happened to them don't we? The thing is personal responsibility. It applies to life in general as it does to technical growth. Once I figured out in life that only I alone was responsible for my actions, my well being, etc. life worked better. Same thiung on my technical growth. I can't depennd on some company to set the way my technical growth should be. If I did I never would have gotten into the .NET Aplha in 2000. It is up to me. I decide where I want to go. If a company is going there at the time, great. If not, I still go.

The thing that disapoints me is the whining and the blame everyone else (the Oprah syndrome) has totally infected these blogs (thats another subject that constantly bothers me) and the community comes off badly. Not everyone can go to PDC. Live with it. Not everyone should go to PDC. Many of these technologies are for people who live on the bleeding edge only and have to architect out directions and stragtegies for the next few years. Those comfortable in a 9-5 job dragging datagrids around need not apply. You go if you want to. Then you bite the cost. I am paying $4000 out of my pocket and loosing another $3-4K in pay for the week. Why? Because I feel that this knowledge is worth a great deal to my future business. So I pay it and don't whine about. It was my decision.
# August 10, 2003 10:54 AM

Sam Gentile said:

See above. I think I've finally had my fill the last week of the posts on dotnetweblogs -)
# August 10, 2003 11:15 AM

Stephane Rodriguez said:

>> So I pay it and don't whine about. It was my decision.

I personally don't whine about it. Just don't care. It's probably a bad thing a logo I purposedly tweaked only to laugh at it and posted on my RSS got reused in several "high-flying" weblogs. But I blame the hype around those weblogs, since it is off the ground. Just listen : the funny thing is that Scoble and a few others have taken the url to the logo and posted on their weblogs. So as you guess I have had a unique opportunity to check out the site audience. How many visits?


We are not talking 55,000 people (this one comes back rather often). We are not taken even 1 / 10 of that. We are only talking 200 people. Enough said.

Final words, my customers are daily using early 90 technologies. The money comes from the customers. So I am afraid at this point the "bleeding edge technologies" does not much exist for them, and for us. Who cares?
# August 10, 2003 12:25 PM

Douglas Gennetten said:

Sam said: "Actually I have been a full time employee for most of my 19 years in the industry and the only company that fully paid for education and training was Digital and we all know what happened to them don't we? "

Well, Sam, you might be surprised to know that the company which includes what was once Digital is sending folks like me to PDC, fully funded.

...and after reading this thread, I am much more grateful for that fact!

Douglas Gennetten
# August 11, 2003 12:00 AM

ErikZ said:

You should add a note to your article, "All those starting out in the technical field should just give up now and retrain into something else."
# August 20, 2003 12:14 PM

Louis Gazave said:

Doug, your blog post of who is responsible for your career is right on. My most recent employer was Sony Ericsson Mobile Comm in RTP NC. and the whole division was just shut down leaving an aweful lot of us unemployeed. But, hey what an opportunity to get skills I've been wanting to go for! Fortunately, our family expenses is very low and, I'm not scrambling to take the first job that comes my way. Hum, can't say as that has always been the case, but at least this time it is, and its a real lift to read the blogs from the likes of yourself, Eric Sink, and the others who have taking your position. Now I have no stake in the whole PDC thing, as most of my career has been in embedded development. However, I've allowed the corporate employer to direct my career for long enough, and now's the time to take control of it myself. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that I can live with significantly less income if it means more skills, and more control of my own career. After all, I got in this business because I love it, not because I thought I was going to get rich. I think thats where so many developers have been getting hung up lately; taking the money from the big corporate job, spending countless hours at the grind stone, and yet not wanting to put a few of those bucks back into training of ones choice. Right on guys!
# August 21, 2003 5:14 PM

Douglas Reilly said:

I concur completely that living a simple lifestyle is the key to being able to do what you love. In addition to the economic conditions causing you to need to sometimes do more with less, medical conditions can cause the same problem. I have had 2 serious surgeries, each causing me to be out for 5-7 weeks, and not having the additional worries of living paycheck to paycheck helped.

Good luck with the Job hunt! If it is any consolation, my first cell phone was an Ericsson World Phone, and it was (and is, my daughter still is using it) is amazing.
# August 22, 2003 9:41 AM

Wesley said:

You are responsible for your career. It is about true 75% or more of the time.
# April 30, 2004 6:35 PM

Jay said:

Right Said Eric.

We are responsible for our careers. You have all mentioned about cases in USA. I come from India, and have worked in many parts of the world. Everywhere, the Employer places you in the bracket (with Technology) that they feel appropriate and can afford. Technologically they are not at par with USA, I come from a MS Background, a sudden shift to AS/400 was strange, then to Oracle, by this time that I was familiar with these, MS changed the core languages to .NET

If I look at it in perspective, I have to change/adapt to the changing technologies or decide NOT to work on these an dstick to what I know. I have been paying for learning from my own pockets, upgrading my skills, knowledge, etc

There were times when I wanted to start off on my own, but a startup from India does not recieve as much attention as a startup from USA. In the REST OF THE WORLD, as you may call it (Apart from Eurpoe and Americas) IT is still a cost centre and treated 2nd or 3rd hand.

In fact, even companies like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, (I am in the Automotive field) do not have IT Departments in the rest of the world, they have like a meagre 1 to 4 people staff and 90% of them are there coz they are related to someone or know someone.

There is alienation in US, Europe markets were never open as the US was. So, once again, I AM Solely responsible for my career and NO EMPLOYER gives any SH1T!!
# July 15, 2004 7:32 AM