How to Break Through the Bottleneck in Technical Career

Marlon Mai June 27, 2018 6 mins read

Usually, a technician will grow into a senior personnel after 3-5 years of working experience in one field. At this point, they are faced with several dilemmas:

  • The Dilemma of Further Technical Learning: When a bottleneck is encountered, they find fewer and fewer reference to learn and mentors for guidance. In addition, with more and more technical experts giving in to the domestic culture to turn to managerial positions, they are left in the dilemma of a choice.
  • The Dilemma of a Choice between Technical Depth and Business Administration: On the one hand, they can further enhance their technical depth to morph into top expert with unrivalled expertise in one field; on the other hand, they may have intention to take new challenges in business and management, make a choice of technology from business perspective and realize the value of technology from a management point of view.

 

The below are my own opinions on the above-mentioned three dilemmas based on the choices of applicants at different stages:

  • Firstly, the dilemma of further technical learning. It is true in many industries and not just for the programmers that one feels rapid growth at the beginning and is able to take up some projects in one year. With projects getting bigger and bigger and becoming more varied year after year, one soon found out what's waiting for him was repetitive work and himself lost without new directions. - This is actually like the book management of a librarian who puts books back on the shelf at will. At the beginning, he might be very quick. But such ways inevitably have their upper limit (3000 books or 5000 books) no matter how talented the librarian may be. Even after 10 years, he may end up with the increase of working age without much growth to build up a catalogue of books and put labels on each shelf. If he insists on putting each book at its set position, he may feel quite troubled at first. But it allows him an effective management of books with higher limits (5000, 10,000 books or even 50,000 or 100,000 books). The same is true for knowledge obtaining. You have to lay a solid foundation for every scrap of knowledge. This is why many people find it difficult to improve themselves after three to five years. Therefore, we should reinforce our habit of classification from the beginning to build a knowledge framework. Another key point is the practice of new technology in addition to your daily learning. Without practice and summarization, theories cannot be transformed into your practical experience. - For example, despite of the systematic explanation in numerous books and sharing of a dozen of technical experts about the high-concurrency Internet architecture under massive data processing, you may find it remains a theory without corresponding large Internet system architecture design scenario for you to practice. These theories themselves may be too obscure to allow in-depth study. It becomes an empty talk to fully grasp these technologies through your own learning and simulations.

 

  • Secondly, the dilemma of a choice between technical depth and business administration. In general, business management personnel place their emphasis on a wider range of knowledge and enhancement of comprehensive capacity rather than digging deep in one field. In the contrast, the depth of technology is more crucial to professional and technical personnel.Technical management personnel need to pay more attention to the construction of the entire knowledge system, including important soft skills. Their focus is on the overall planning and design, and the ability to break down problems. The technical problems and details after breaking down can be handed over to professionals in the subdivided positions. Therefore, at a certain stage, you must consciously improve your vision of overall situation and big-picture thinking to learn to think in the role of a leader and take responsibility initiatively. The depth of technology is often more important to professional technicians for only depth can ultimately create value. The greater the technical depth, the slower the learning process and the greater the cost of time. For that reason, with fewer people being able to develop beyond the top of this technology pyramid, your personal core value will be greater. Once you determine a long-term technical direction, your choice of extended knowledge will no longer be aimless and casual, but all for the supporting of your breakthrough in depth.

 

  • Finally, the dilemma between technical direction and choice of corporation. When an excellent technician reaches a certain stage in one field, he may no longer pursue new technologies and hot points like a green hand. In other words, experts are more concerned about business- and problem-driven technologies to deploy the most appropriate architecture to solve the most important issues at present and retain certain extensibility. At this point, you may consider whether the current company allows such extensibility in your own technical direction. If not, you may have to look for something new. With the rapid development of technology and fast iteration, your choice of technology or framework at the moment may be out of date in 2-3 years. But if the current technology can support the business very well, it is the best technology. If not, we have to think about the changes the company could make to cope with the current performance or extensibility problems. If the company is incapable of making such changes, we may have to consider self transformation or look for new platforms. I don't think this is a problem in the technical direction. One should stay open to any new technology with keen sense of smell and pay close attention to emerging businesses on the market. And finally comes the decision of leaving and staying based on your current status and the agility of the company. The key is to maintain a clear self-positioning and jump out of the thinking of the programmer in time to come down to earth.

 

Summary:

  • Several other questions need to be taken into account, including "why do you work?", "What does work mean to you at different stages?", "Are your actions taking you where you want to go?" and "How do you maintain your sustainable competitiveness". The most important thing is to figure out what you really want before making a choice or change so that you are motivated to face up to any challenges you may encounter.
  • The confusion of one spending longer time on the learning and practice of a technology and getting slower in the improvement of one's own capabilities in the later stage is no stranger to many technicians and technical management personnel. Therefore, it is necessary to STOP and THINK about the next step at different stages to stave off the "midlife crisis", i.e., the importance of self-reflection from time to time.
  • Technology is all about the solving of practical problems, which the fundamental principle. Any arguments or discussion of the best technology without considering a concrete scenario are crap. Finding the most appropriate approach to the specific problem is the kind of attitude we should adopt. Stop being too indecisive and self-centered and be ready to listen to different voices.
Marlon Mai's picture
Managing Director | Finance & Accounting, IT, Sales & Marketing Recruitment
mmai@morganmckinley.com

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