The trident of career paths. A model to help you decide on a career… | by Gabriel Amram | September 2023


photo by Kedar Gadge on Unsplash

In previous articles, I’ve talked about personal growth plans for individual contributors and how we can help our team members achieve their goals.

There’s an analogy I use with my team members before embarking on a career path, and since it resembles a trident, it makes sense to call it that.

(I’m using engineering examples here.)

My incredible drawing skills. The trident of career paths.

The trident

The trident is useful for showing the possibilities an individual has for their next step and the opportunities they might have.

This of course assumes that the individual remains faithful to their profession and that the situation should be different if they decide to change it (i.e. move to product management or become a musician).

The bottom

We all start at this point as junior engineers and progress through this core before having to make a decision: where do we want our career to progress?

The managerial journey

The one that is best known and best defined. The number of books written on the subject is endless, and this is the one that has received the most attention since the Industrial Revolution (perhaps even before).

This may include a team lead, group lead, director, VP R&D, and engineering CTO.

The individual contributor journey

This path involves “remaining” a member of the team while having more responsibilities for more complex tasks. This includes developing new initiatives, planning and understanding required resources, mentoring other team (or group) members, and advancing general knowledge.

In engineering, this may include senior engineers, staff and principal engineers.
Unlike the managerial path, this is a new path, and therefore the definitions of the role and responsibilities differ depending on the teams.

The path to technological leadership

Another relatively new path is technology leadership.

This is typically an engineer with broader responsibilities within teams and groups, who has allocated resources, sometimes manages a small team of individual contributors, creates internal tools for the benefit of other engineers, leads the efforts and guilds and has a vast knowledge of how things are done. along fine.

In engineering, this can include technical leads, guild leaders, architects, etc.

Unlike ICs, they have a broader vision of the company and have resources. They still supervise and work mainly on innovation.

A fork in the road

The trident has a particularity that I like. At the point where the three bumps separate, they move away from each other.

In a way, this is a good representation of the possibility of “changing” paths mid-way. The more you progress in one, the more difficult it becomes to move on to the other.

While it may be relatively easy, for example, to start as a team leader and then decide to move to the IC track, it is more difficult to advance down the managerial track. You will gradually move away from code or cutting-edge technology and then move on to another path.

The good news is that you don’t have to go down a path without having the option to “go back,” but be aware that the further you go down a path, it may become more difficult later.


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