While there is no easy or quick way to get ahead in an IT career, with a pragmatic approach it is possible to build the experience you need to advance.
“Experience is crucial,” says Leon Coetzer, redPanda Software Business Development Manager.
“Talent is one thing, but at the end of the day, everyone has to put in the time and the hard work needed to succeed.”
Nevertheless, there are ways to make sure your career advances as swiftly as possible, and Coetzer offers the following tips.
Be open to new opportunities
Opening up to new opportunities and high profile projects where you are forced to learn something is a key focus area for developers who want to maximise their chance of success.
“This will show that you have the drive and motivation to succeed,” Coetzer explains.
“At the same time, learn to manage expectations and align with the business direction. Even if you are a very talented developer, you still need to be aligned with business.”
He adds that you should provide options instead of excuses when taking on challenges.
“In development, things will go wrong, so look at different ways to address the problem, showcasing your ability and skill rather than complaining or saying it is out of your control.”
Become a team player
While it was possible to code quietly in the corner on your own in the past, today being a team player is imperative to career growth.
“If you are not a team player, you will be stuck on the same software forever. You won’t grow and as a result, you will not be marketable,” Coetzer adds.
“You need to work as part of the team, achieve success as a team, exchange ideas and help other developers if you want to succeed.”
He encourages developers to share ideas with each other and get involved in the community.
“Form a community of practice in your organisation to assist you in coming up with innovative ways to approaching problems.”
Become business minded
Developers must also understand that development is not just about writing code, as the collective effort to create software solutions consists of many different roles and stakeholders.
“Writing code is important, but it is only one step in the bigger process,” Coetzer says.
“Understand how what you are doing impacts the chain down the line, including the impact on sales, finance, management, and so forth.”
IT and business people don’t always speak the same language, Coetzer points out.
“Business people often struggle to speak IT language, so it is your responsibility as an IT person to be better versed in business language.”
“You should also decide whether you want to be a manager or a technical expert, as it is difficult to do both, and you won’t be able to do them both well.”
Stay on top of your game
“It is a continuous learning process. You need to care about your craft and stay abreast of all the new developments. If you are just an accidental programmer, you will never get ahead.”
He adds that it is important to have a solid theoretical base, as it gives you a platform to build on.
“You need to monitor up and coming trends in tech and critically analyse how it can be applied in your environment – find better ways of doing things.”
Most importantly, though, you need to enjoy what you are doing.
“Coding is fun, but hard work, and if you don’t have the passion for it, you are probably going to struggle to advance your career,” Coetzer concludes.