Couple of days ago, I went to an interview with one of the local IT company here in Singapore. The interview went well from my point of view. But there was one interesting question yet challenging that the interviewer asked of me: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This question, among others, make me really think about my career path.
That moment in the interview, I most certainly wanted to answer, “I’m going to be rich, work out paid off: six pack, handsomer, and awesome, of course.” While most of you disagree with this answer (like I do care about your opinion), that is the exact achievements that I really want within 5 years. But since that was a formal interview, I decided to answer in diplomatic way (read: I have no idea).
When I went home, I searched on what are the possible career paths after this role: Senior Software Engineer. These following items are probable career path that I found. If you are working as a Software Engineer, you might want to read on.
1. Software Architect
According to Wikipedia, Software Architect role is “to make high-level design choices much more often than low-level choices. In addition, the architect may sometimes dictate technical standards, including coding standards, tools, or platforms, so as to advance business goals rather than to place arbitrary restrictions on the choices of developers. Software architects may also be engaged in the design of the architecture of the hardware environment, or may focus entirely on the design methodology of the code.”
By this definition, Software Architect is the boss. The boss of all developers, software engineers, and sometimes system engineers. As cool as the title might sound, the responsibilities are also broaden, and monumental. This though, will be compensated with awesome digits on salary.
But, if you have the chance to play around job-hunting website, you will find out that this particular position requires 6-10 years of experience in specific fields (e.g. Java, .NET, etc.). Which is why will raise a question, if you were in my position, a Senior Software Engineer with 6 years of experience, would it be possible for employers to hire you with that amount of experience? Would they risk it? Never I heard before someone get hired with only 6 years of experience for this position. If you heard, please do let me know for I’d like to see what company do that.
For this position, I will have to say that I really need to strengthen my technical knowledge for specific technology and have some more hands-on experience for real-life projects. The bottom line is, I have to be smarter, more knowledgable, and more responsible than any software engineers or developers. Technical part of technologies are always exact. That is why, this, is, hard. But if you can do it, you will be awesome. Just like the person in the image below.
2. Project Manager (PM)
While Software Architect considerably is a technical role, Project Manager can be considered as managerial position. By definition from Wikipedia again, Project Manager “is a role where the responsibility is planning, execution and closing of any project, typically relating to construction industry, architecture, Aerospace and Defence, computer networking, telecommunications or software development.”
Searching from job-hunting website, you will find out that this position more or less has the same salary range.
For me to aim for this position, I must at least have the experience managing a project. Which is also hard because I have zero experience of solely managing a project. What I did before is just helping to manage a project. In addition, especially in Singapore, lots and lots of PM are blessed with PMP title. If you want to know what the hell is PMP, have a visit to this page.
For me, this position is more achievable than System Architect. First, because project management is not an exact technology, because you manage people, and every knowledge about people is not exact. I consider this role as the way you manifest your soft skill in managing people, communicate, and meanwhile being cooperative with users/customers. I can always apply for PMP course, apply for PMP test, and get the PMP title. Finally, you can apply for PM role in the market using your brand new and fancy PMP title.
3. Totally different role in Software Development career path
For those of you who neither want aforementioned job roles, there is always alternative roles. I also consider these as my future career. Bear with me for I will mention some of the alternative roles:
3.1. Social Media and Technology Worker
This role is widespread from technical writer, product/technology reviewer, and some other job title which I don’t even know. To make it simple, you can imagine the guys who work at CNET, Engadget, TechCrunch, Mashable, and so on. Sadly, I do not have the data on what qualifications required for this particular kind of job. I have few friends who work in this industry. Let me check with them later (read: too lazy to even ask).
Remember Twitter, Instagram, Face.com, or Facebook for crying out loud? Those are startups, and you can always start your own company and define your own role. Be the boss. But I should remind you, there are lots of startups flying around now. If you are planning to start your own company, you have to have this: stuff that differentiate you with existing products or services. If you have brilliant ideas that you think that can make the world a better place, please, start your company ASAP. While doing so, don’t forget to search for investors. I also have few friends working in startup company, even start one. As far as I know, they’re doing quite okay. Let me also check with them later. (c’mon, do you even have to ask when will I revert back to you? Forever, of course.)
There, few roles that I, or maybe you, might want to consider. There is, though, another alternative which aligned with developing my career: get higher/advance educational degree. In short, safe a whole bunch of money, apply for master’s degree, make sure it’s reputable university, make sure it’s located in a country where IT industry has bright future, maintain relationship with companies while doing research for your study, make sure you graduate (you don’t say?), then apply for a job in that country. The key to this, money (or get a scholarship), willing to utilize another 3% of your brain, and you can manage your time well.