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Developer’s career development: 6 different career moves for seasoned developers

23 Apr 2018 by pixels

What to do next with your career when you’ve already worked at the top-notch IT companies? This is a situation we bump into every now and then, but we can happily say that there are many paths for experienced developers to take. Here’s one scenario: You’ve worked for different top companies for, let’s say, 10 years, you’ve got a nice track record and you’re now looking for new challenges. Working at a regular consulting house is not on the top of your list anymore, and you feel that you can bring more value to the customer than what it shows on your current paycheck.  There are many ways to measure and maximize your value, and here are 6 ways that allow you to do so without forgetting career development.

1. International opportunities

Do you ever think about how it would be like to work at Apple or Spotify? Do you dream of moving abroad but something’s holding you back? Could it be that you’ve created an illusion that you cannot leave your sandbox or that because you have small kids the international path is not an option for you? If the timing is right, meaning you found an interesting open position, nailed the interview and got the job, and there’s no unfinished business for you in Finland etc, go and take your family with you. There’s nothing a little planning and arrangements wouldn’t solve, and moreover, many companies will pay the moving costs and help with finding an apartment.
The international path is making dreams come true. It is an adventure not just for you but for the whole family. It’s just up to you whether you have the courage to take the step or not. In addition, more than just going on an adventure, the salary can be better abroad, especially in big cities like New York, Berlin, Amsterdam etc. Here are some Finnish companies that support remote work and have offices in the sun.

2. CTO

Would you like to be a technology manager and what would that mean in practice? Talking about career development, the highest step of the technology executive ladder is the CTO position. In this role, you’d be responsible for the management of an organization’s R&D as well as technological needs so that your own crew and the clients have the best chance to maintain and develop the technical know-how level.  However, there are different kinds of CTO roles that depend on the company.
Let’s start with startups, where the CTO is probably the first tech guy. The bigger the company the higher the risk to end up sitting in the meetings most of the time. The role can also vary at consulting and product houses. At consulting houses the CTO can work on the projects too and is normally the leader of the team and probably the most experienced developer, whereas at product houses the CTO is responsible for the products’ life cycles and making sure that the used technologies are the very best for that particular company. May the role be any of the ones mentioned above or something else, you will most likely not code as much as before, but your programming background will be a huge advantage when managing a software development organization.

3. Helping others

There are several ways to help fellow developers, such as mentoring and talking at events. Instead of increasing your workload helping others should be part of your work, but unfortunately it often is extra work. The situation being the way it is, if you’d still want to help and inspire others, here are couple ways to do so.
Becoming a mentor for a junior developer is rewarding and you might learn something yourself too, but the coolest thing in mentoring, in my opinion, is that you get to transfer your know-how and share the lessons life has taught you. You could also transfer your know-how by running workshops or speaking at events. In fact, we at Talented think that every senior developer should do this in order to strengthen their professional profiles, which is very beneficial for the career. However, you should pay attention to which events to attend and that not every event is necessarily going to support you financially.
Tip: Are you using an open source project in your work but it lacks a feature? To make your job more meaningful, consider asking your boss if you could spend one day per week to develop that feature. It’s a win-win situation!

4. Freelancing

Freelancing is selling your know-how. The biggest difference between working as a freelancer and working at a successful consulting house is that you replace the community and offered benefits to money. Benefits such as company trips, events and other efforts put into motivation and culture are cool but often only a certain part of the community can benefit from them (=those who don’t have kids yet). If you choose to take the freelancer path, you can get the benefits as money, because you get to sell your hours with a little more expensive price.
People start working as freelancers for various reasons. For some, the trigger is the financial factor = presumably making more money, and for some the freedom to choose when, where and how much to work. For those who like a little change from time to time, freelancing is also a great option because teams and technologies change when projects change.
Setting up a company is quite simple and it can be done online in Finland. In this case, the company form would be a limited company because freelancers often bill such big numbers that sole trader isn’t the smartest option tax-wise. Talking about numbers, the media has been talking about the “super coders” that make 15k a month. Not sure if someone actually makes that amount, but freelancers can bill that amount per month.  Want to read more about freelancing? Here are a couple of our blog posts:
How much does it cost to run a one man limited company?
Why to become a freelancer?

5. Entrepreneurship

The difference between entrepreneurship and freelancing is that you’re not necessarily selling your own labor input anymore, but you have people working for you and you are building a great company culture. This path also differs enormously from the tech paths, because as a CEO or a founder of a small company you spend a lot of time stressing out about finance, what kind of culture you want to create and what kind of company you want to be,  how to solve the company’s challenges, how to manage to recruit the right kind of people, worrying about your employee whose kid is sick and so on. So this is definitely not a tech path.
When setting up a bigger company you want to have your most trusted people on board (=founder members). What should be kept in mind is that the founder members’ skill sets count; there should be enough overlapping within the team’s know-how but everybody should not be the expert in the same field.
Running a company is a lot of work but if you feel that you have got what it takes, go for it! The most rewarding thing is that you get to see your employees succeed. That if anything makes you smile. The good second is to help your customers to solve their challenges.

6. New scene

If you, for example, know the corporate world like the back of your hand, why not try something else, like the startup scene? It would be very refreshing, to say the least. This example is great because there is a big contrast between these two worlds, isn’t there?  Corporates have lots of restrictions in their businesses when startups don’t necessarily have any. Another example could be changing from the supplier’s side of the table to the customer’s side.
Interested in changing the scene? Check our wide selection of companies from different scenes.
Extra tip: Want to choose your projects? Being able to choose your projects requires working in an expert role in a work community where the workmates are super skilled and seasoned developers, and where there’s a big number of projects coming and going, which makes kick-ass consulting companies the leaders of this game. When you work with the best, you get to focus on your own thing because everyone is capable of working independently, and while you are one of the best, you get to choose which projects you want to work on.
All these options are subordinate to what you want from your life. We all have the same 24 hours to spend every day, but it’s up to you how you choose to spend them. More time with your family? Living in sunny California? Learning lots of new things? Doing the things you really want to do improves your happiness. Just remember: What ever you choose, you can always change your mind and go back or try something else, and it’s okay.

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