A Career in IT: Get Used to Saying Goodbye

It’s Saturday night and I’m reflecting on a conversation I had with a good friend, mentor and former teammate last night about staying motivated and embracing change in an IT career. Especially, later in your career.

I told him to get used to saying goodbye to things and people. This includes letting go of things like projects, systems, roles and code bases as your career progresses in a large enterprise or similar organization.

My friend and I are both Navy veterans and have worked at the same civilian employer for quite a while. Our employer when we started was much smaller than the huge enterprise it has grown into.

We joke about it, but it is probably true that our teams have been reorganized at least 6 times in the last 10 years. That is a lot of churn and change inside an operation.

As result of all that churn, there had been a lot of anxiety about everyone’s roles but on the flip-side there were also lots of opportunities to move around.

I’ve held at least 7 titles in the last 16 years. I’ve not stayed in a role more than three years. Luckily, all my moves have been up and for the last couple of roles, I was recruited. I’m at the end of one big thing and by January most likely moving to new project or roles. The future is still bright.

My friend on the other hand, stayed where he was on the engineering team that I had left for my current role but his teams have changed a few times due to reorganizations but essentially doing the same job for many years but maybe feeling rudderless and unfulfilled.

These are the two perspectives that are the background for the rest of this article.

Over time, if you don’t feel challenged, grow professionally or have many “wins” under your belt, your not going to feel very good about what your’re doing and lack of motivation will set in.

My advice was to fight that lack of motivation and approach every project, meeting or networking opportunity with a positive outlook or else you just might miss that one connection or event that changes your life or career for the better.

Change is scary and apprehension breads resistance to change. Sometimes, we resist change simply because its uncomfortable. As a result, we miss out on new opportunities to improve ourselves or make career connections that will lead your to your next gig or boss resulting in a better and more fulfilled life.

Is a lack of self-confidence to blame? That one requires some self reflection to answer. However, sometimes that same fear of the unknown or comfortableness causes people to cling to old roles, systems and code bases because they can become comfortable places to rest in the chaos.

We can get burned out in IT, I’ve hit burnout several times. Its OK to rest and take a break now and then, but you gotta keep pushing yourself to get a little better everyday and keep an eye out for opportunities to grow yourself and make a difference in the world with your IT skills.

If you want any chance of feeling fulfilled by what you’re doing in your job / career. You have to find something that drives you at your core and find a way to tie it to what you do every day so you have a driving force and compass to guide you. The rest will become autopilot.

If you can’t do that, time to do something else. Life’s too damn short not to.