SW engineering, engineering management and the business of software
I was asked a good question this morning about evaluating growth opportunities in roles you are applying for. The easiest thing is to ask a few pertinent questions to all prospective hiring teams. In particular:
Who will be your manager? How many people have they promoted recently? How have people grown in the past year? This will help you understand a companies track record of growth. Hopefully you see both promotions and people’s roles evolving and developing over time.
How often does management turn over? Frankly speaking, a lot of your growth opportunity is you but a big chunk is how good your manager is at providing opportunities for you. If your manager shifts every 6 months (quitting, moving on, promoted up or sideways, terminated, etc.) it’s a big problem. Similarly if everyone doing the particular role keeps quitting, figure out why. That’s a fairly loud warning sign.
How many people in your function? Will you be the first person doing the role? 5th? 10th? 50th? The lower this number, the more responsibility you will have and the more diverse set of problems you can assume will come your way. This is generally a good thing for career growth as you get more exposure and experience in a short amount of itme. If you are the 50th person doing the role, you are likely to be isolated to a small niche responsibility for a while.
How fast is the company overall growing, both in people headcount and business (revenue or users)? How many more people for this role do you plan to hire over the next year or two? This represents the surface area growth opportunity. Being the first X in a 30 person company that gets to 150 headcount in 18 months represents tremendous career opportunity. converserly, If you are the 5th X and the company headcount is stagnent, you have a long wait for management opporuntities.
Unless you are close to retirement, growth should be one of your top priorities in your job search. Many companies do this poorly. Your best bet is smaller startups if you can tolerate the
chaos and anarchy lack of structure. If you are the first or second person in a role in a startup, you tend to be asked to wear a lot hats and structurally, startups are essentially designed for and even defined by growth.
Thanks to Joyce Park for the tip on management turnover.