As it is the time of year that many are now beginning to reflect on where they have been and what they have achieved and look towards the future. For some this might mean looking for new opportunities and so I wanted to share some thoughts I had on this based on my own experience as well as the experience from mentoring others, that I hope will be helpful as you look to deciding what your new year might look like. So if you are looking for a technology focused job, then read on.
When considering a change, you need to explore and understand the culture of the organisation you are planning to join. Organisation culture differs vastly across business and geography, and can make a big difference to how you are able to be productive and happy in the work you do. When looking at the company culture, it is important to ask yourself some questions;
Is it clear what the culture looks like? At Amazon Web Services, we have the 14 Leadership Principals which we use every day and in ever interaction with our colleagues. From hiring to day to day work, these are present and encapsulate how we approach and undertake all activities. There is a consistency and common understanding that this enables when working across teams. When looking at your next role, what does the culture say about how they work and how does that match with what you want?
What kind of culture are you looking for? At Amazon Web Services we are customer obsessed, and you will see this in everything we do and in every way we work. We are not product focused, and whilst we pay attention to competition, we do not let that distract us from addressing our customers needs. This makes for a very different working environment. I am customer obsessed, and that was one of the key drivers for me joining, and I really could not join any other organisation that was not equally customer obsessed. What are the key culture characteristics that resonate with you and where you are at your best?
The work you do vs the work you signed up for
A common problem I have seen when discussing with people who have moved roles, is job spec inflation - that in order to attract talent, a job spec will sound very inviting and promise lots, many of which fail to materialise once an offer has been accepted and the person has started. This happens far too often sadly, and so you need to make sure that the role you are applying for is what you will actually be doing. So how can you ensure this? Here are some ways you can ensure you do your due diligence and don’t end up in a role that fails to live up to the job spec.
Does the business you are applying to have credibility in doing what the job spec says? With so many business’ becoming ‘tech’ companies, this can be a tricky one to navigate. One way is to try and find out what current and previous projects they are working on, making sure you ask plenty of pertinent questions - remember, many so called ‘tech’ companies might be offshoring or working with partners, so be sure to dive deep into what you will be actually doing. Be sure to check references and see if the role matches up. I was on the other side of this many times, trying to persuade people to join the company knowing that the kind of work they would be doing was not always what they would expect (or be excited about)
Does the company you are joining have people in the technical field you can look up to? As a rule of thumb, I always want people to be better than me (and that can be in many dimensions, but in this context, specifically technical) and this is deliberate. I want a company where I can learn from my peers and stretch myself to improve. When speaking with the company, ask if you can speak with people who you think you can learn and develop. Look at the organisation, does it have a strong development mindset? How does it support technical development? These are all areas you should be exploring to make sure you continue to develop when you move.
Technologists as first class citizens
The final and most important area to look for is whether the role of technologist is treated as a first class citizen. Once you have made sure the organisation is a good fit for you culturally, and there is the right kind of technical work to excite you and where you can grow, the last thing you need to make sure is that you are treated equally within the business - a first class citizen as I like to call this. The way to look at this is to look at the senior leadership of the business. How many technical roles exist? How many technical leaders are there? Can you evolve and grow into a technical leader, or do you have to make the move to non technical roles?
This is an area where many business fall down, and to be fair to them, many have acknowledged this and are trying to create alternate career paths. Be wary of these however, and make sure you ask for details. In my previous role, they had been promising this transition for many years and it still has not materialised, so you need to be prepared for this. There are many organisations that treat the career path of technical role as a first class citizen, and so these may be a better longer term investment for you.
Good luck looking for your new role
I hope this has proved helpful, and that you have some useful criteria to help with your decision making process. These were important for me, and I think are key to why I am very happy in my new role and working at Amazon Web Services.
It is always Day 1 at Amazon Web Services, and it is amazing that in the two years since I joined, I have developed and grown more than I could have imagined. If you enjoy taking charge of your personal development and have a hunger for learning new skills and technologies, then you should reach out to me. We are hiring in my team, and have a number of roles across different geographic regions and technical domains, so if you want to know more about developer advocacy or working at Amazon Web Services generally, then please get in touch.
If you are looking to change your situation, I hope these words will help and I wish you the very best of luck in your search.