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ALM #049: Y-Career Path: A Dual Path to a Healthy Career Progression
Are you truly happy? There's more than just a single way forward.
In my world, April is when we reset the cycle.
Year-end Performance Reviews are complete, outcomes are shared, and everyone is set for the remainder of the year.
You can see different levels of excitement, from those who are pumped to take on the challenges all the way to those disappointed by the outcomes of this performance review. Congrats if you were just promoted!! 🚀
But today, I want to focus on a small (hopefully) subset of people trying their best to fit into their career path. Sometimes they’re trying so hard to make a cat bark like a dog that they are in a constant state of high levels of stress and anxiety and with their impostor syndrome going through the roof.
I’m talking about those who decided to go into the Management track and are either hating every second of it or missing the Technical track to the point they’re considering moving jobs.
First, let me say to you that is time to stop and rethink a lot about your career, your overall happiness and, in some cases, even where you work.
I’d love to say that long are the days when career path and progression would only go in a single direction.
In companies that exercise this career path, the only possibility you have to progress from the Senior position is to move into a Management position.
In these companies, moving to the Manager position is a promotion and a point of no return.
If you work in a company with a singular career path, where your future is decided by the willingness to embrace a career in Management, I want to share that there are other realities out there.
A company that exercises a dual career path, also known as the Y-Career Path, is a company that understands that we’re not all the same and that evolution is not only necessary in the Management track but also in the Technical track.
The Y career path is an effective way of maintaining a healthy, happy and engaged workforce as long as you follow specific rules:
Make the process transparent
Ensure that the salary bands are similar
Don’t force anyone down a specific path
Allow horizontal moves
Let’s break them down:
Make the process transparent.
One of the most important steps to generalising a career path is to document and be transparent about it.
The more information you share, the better you manage expectations.
This clarifies everything and answers one of the most-heard questions from Senior Engineers: “Where do I go from here?”.
Ensure the salary bands are similar.
Without going into a full-blown discussion if salary bands should be public, I want to stress that the best way to incentivize the best people to be in the best roles is to ensure that you’re not creating unbalanced salary bands.
Equal levels in the paths should have similar salary bands.
Meritocracy remains critical, but the possibilities are the same. Don’t punish someone for going the Technical path and vice-versa.
Don’t force anyone down a specific path.
I can’t even begin to explain how important this is. You see this problem recurrently in Management positions.
A team needs a manager, so the most obvious solution is to place the team's senior ahead of it. The most common outcome from this strategy is a team with absolutely no leadership and many problems between them and their manager.
Allow horizontal moves.
At the end of the day, you’re going to have managers who realise that the Management Career Path is not for them. And you’re going to have incredible Seniors that are terrible Managers.
The longer you keep these managers in front of teams, the deeper the hole you’re digging is.
Ensure you allow movements from the Technical Path to the Management Path and from the Management Path to the Technical Path.
Twitter and Meta’s restructure recently highlighted this Y-Career Path, where both flattened their org structure, removing layers of middle management and asking Managers to go back into the IC career.
In Meta’s case, according to Bloomberg, roles as high as Directors were asked to move to IC or leave the company. The higher you move in the Y-Path, the harder it is to transition from one path to another.
While not everyone will be able to transition, having the possibility of horizontal movements gives you a sense of freedom and power of choice unparalleled to the single career path that felt restrictive and often frustrating.
Below are some interesting resources to read if you’re frustrated about your current position and feel there is no way out.
There isn’t one single and exclusive path forward, and it’s up to you to decide what journey you want to take.
I’ll see you next week
📚 Resources to read: