Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Alignment of Your Career

Soon after I started working in a different team, one of the technical lead sat down with me and another employee and talked a bit about how to excel in a company, and later make some big bucks. It was rather simple:

Align your career with company's objectives.

By this, he meant that you need to think about what kind of business the company is in to generate revenue. Does it make some machines? Or maybe build web solutions? And then, you need to think about what you are doing at the company, and see how it relates to that business. If your career does not directly relate to the product, regardless of what you think, you are not among the most valued member of the organization. There are plenty of others who can replace you, and will replace you, once you become old, inefficient, or both. Conversely, if your work is related to making the product, then congratulations. You will probably make a lot of money. (Provided you work hard, of course.)

Here's an example the tech lead gave us: if your company makes satellites, then there's no use being a software developer; your career will soon hit a ceiling and stop growing after a certain point. On the other hand, if you are a system integrator, who knows software as well as the hardware, then you're on the road to be among the most valued workers at that company. (Satellite is basically that--a system of hardware and software.)

This may be painfully obvious if you're currently working for, or have worked for a small or medium sized company, such as start-up or venture companies. However, for someone like me who has launched a career in a huge corporation and lack a clear view of the big picture of his career life, or has spent way too much time in one that the career has lost its momentum, this advice is rather new, fresh, and quite alarming one.

Now, the company I'm working for, at least the branch I am working at, builds military airplanes that are used all over the world. And I'm working there as--guess what?--a software engineer. Again, a software guy working at a hardware company. This, he tells me, is a big no-no. I have practically no hand in getting the airplane through the door, and so, from the company's point of view, I am placed pretty low in the corporate pyramid.

Now that I know, there are two options available: 1) adjust my career goal to go along with this company and set my mind on building the airplane, or 2)--I hope no one at my work is looking at this--switch the company to the one that makes money doing what I want to do.

And so far, I haven't decided.


Michael said...


Sean Tzeng said...

Well, if you want to switch careers, don't do it too late, because you probably do need to start over...

Peter Park said...

@Michael: Me.... what?

@Sean: Yeah... :(