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A Technologist's Guide to Career Advancement Paperback – October 10, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"Schneider's debut guide will help information technology professionals
rise to the top... The author doesn't waver from his stated aim to target the
specific challenges and concerns of IT professionals; he endeavours to help
them 'stand out amongst the multitudes of mediocrity.'" --Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Mr. Schneider received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Iowa State University, and his MBA from Drake University.His first job out of college was writing software in C on OS/2. Even back then that was a bit of a rarity, though it helped establish his strong technical foundation.Eventually, Mr. Schneider worked his way up from being a programmer to architect to technical manager. Along the way, he developed and designed some of the most complex ecommerce systems used today, as well as worked on some of the largest database systems in the world. He also authored and holds United States Patent 7,228,371 which describes a system and method for automatically determining when computer workstations should be upgraded or replaced.As his career progressed, Mr. Schneider earned the position of Vice President of Software Development at one of the world's most respected Fortune 100 companies. In that role, he has had the great opportunity to hire and mentor many technologists across many industries.Over time, he has developed various techniques and processess that technologists can use to perform better at work, and get promoted along the way.
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- don't leave a job unless you have a new offer in hand
- don't burn bridges even if it might feel good
- don't be too selfish, try to empathize with those in other roles around you
- learn the business
- don't limit yourself to the narrow silo of your job, be willing to learn other jobs
However he also challenges some things that are considered industry best practices, notably the advice on accepting a counter offer if you resign from a job. The general rule is that you don't accept them. If there were fundamental problems at the job that caused you to want to resign, are they really going to change if you accept the counter offer? Schneider does acknowledge that if a workplace is really dreadful you should just leave, but then goes on to say the things you've heard about taking a counter offer are "BS" and taking one is just fine. I too will concede that if the parties involved are mature consenting adults and not children that can hold grudges, it might be ok. But people are human beings and both the managers and your peers will remember what's transpired (you might try to keep it a secret, but things have a way of getting out). Ultimately, if you had to threaten to leave in order to get what you want, is that really the kind of place you want to stay? These are legitimate caveats to accepting a counter offer and Schneider is perhaps a bit too flippant about them; in addition when he calls them "BS" he doesn't really provide specifics or an argument.
He also seems to value the effort one could put into acquiring certifications. I think a lot of experienced IT staffers will tell you that certs and MBAs are really nice for helping you get hired, but once you're in an organization, you better be ready to perform, but also to deal with politics and seniority.
Schneider also discounts seniority and in doing so one gets the idea that his career's been charmed enough that he's been a part of some meritocracies. That's good for him and more power to him if he runs his shops that way. But sadly, many IT shops today are not like the ones you read about in Computerworld's "Top 100 Companies to Work for." For a lot of IT people a meritocracy is indeed an oasis in a desert; they exist but they're rare. Many of us are in companies where IT is non-strategic and seen as an increasingly unimportant cost. The condition is systemic, creating a thick ceiling over IT and making the concept of a career much more limited than the paths afforded those in sales, marketing, operations, engineering and perhaps even accounting. IT work can be very rewarding, it's just that in most organizations it makes for a good job but not necessarily a good career.
Which brings us back to a point in the book that I do like. Schneider admonishes readers to recognize that simply doing a good job is not enough. People must take control of their own courses and this sometimes means putting in extra effort. I agree with this. Although Schneider and I seem to disagree on management's responsibility in nurturing careers (he feels it's not part of a manager's responsibility, but I think managing people includes consideration for career and succession planning) at the end of the day most managers are not particularly adept at this, and thus the tech workers needs to find ways to make themselves more valuable to the company.
For the good advice and for the sense of humor Schneider brings, I would recommend this, especially for younger workers. But talk to some IT veterans too. You will find many different perspectives from those that have witnessed the way IT shops have evolved in the last decade.
Schneider's writing style is humorous and engaging. He has a wealth of hands-on experience and allows his readers the opportunity to become more self-aware as they learn from his mistakes and observations.
I heartily recommend reading A Technologist's Guide to Career Advancement to those just starting their careers. Even old dogs, such as me, will pick-up many pointers.
I have been part of the tech industry for more than twenty years, part of it as a recruiter/headhunter. Many candidates trying to forward their careers have, unfortunately, made the wrong move or sabotaged their own opportunities. If I were still in the 'business,' I'd recommend this book to most every technically proficient person wanting to further their career. Consider this book an investment.
For those candidates I placed, I would have given them a copy. There is an adage, "if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?" You'd know if you had a road map. John Schneider's A Technologist's Guide To Career Advancement is the road map.