Back to resources

Understanding Career Growth: Promotion and Sideways Career Changes

Personal Growth
Leadership
Motivation
Career Path

19 January, 2022

Mike Bassett
Mike Bassett

Senior Director of Engineering at Electronic Arts (EA)

Mike Bassett, Senior Director of Engineering at Electronic Arts, shares his journey through the career ladder, highlighting evaluation steps to ensure high motivation.

Challenges Developing Through Senior Roles

As I progressed in my career towards more senior positions, the needs of each role pushed me to learn and adapt to carry out new functions and solve different problems. Instead of focusing on a single product, I began managing multiple projects and the managers that managed them. My career moved further and further away from technical engineering and concentrated on people management and soft skills.

I enjoyed my career path and wanted to continue to be successful. At regular intervals, I have reviewed if the direction and content of my role remain something that is interesting and gives me the chance to grow and make an increasingly larger impact on the business. Most companies and leaders assume that an upward progression, consisting of promotions and recognition, is the path to success and what every person wants to pursue. I feel that we need to take time to reflect and explore sideways opportunities in addition to the obvious route. This approach is one I recommend to those I work with.

Self-Evaluation and Professional Development Tools

Accessing Tools:

Within many companies, there are existing tools to help employees to explore themselves, their role, and the ideal role for the future. One tool that is used in my company is a professional development plan, if this is missing you are effectively delegating this function to your manager. Interestingly, I found that many of my colleagues did not have a professional development plan. I decided that I would invest time in building a plan to facilitate a more focused career discussion with my manager, this effort was partly motivated by the desire to help others carry out this process.

Another tool that really helped was looking at Peter Druckers’ “Managing yourself” article from the Harvard Business Review. He explored how to find out what your key strengths are, in a methodical way, many times we are wrong. This article also helped me explore how I get things done, how I best fit into an organization, and to what extent I am best suited to set the vision for a team vs supporting and executing on a vision.

Personal Growth Exercises:

I started down my development journey deciding what motivates and drives me. These later became the values that I feel were most important. I narrowed it down to the five most essential ones, which was a difficult process since I felt many things were important. Reducing my options to five values meant each one was core to who I was and helped explain career decisions I made in the past when I was less conscious of these values.

Another helpful exercise I used was exploring how my current role’s characteristics compared to my ideal position. I asked myself questions such as:

  • Did I have the autonomy I desired?
  • Did I get to express my creativity effectively?
  • Is the level of risk the right balance between engaging myself without frequently being overloaded?
  • Was I expected to make decisions alone or collaboratively?

These questions will differ for different individuals. Once I had established how I best worked, the fit of my current role, I felt in a strong position to both explore sideways moves in my company as well as explore ways to adapt my current role to be a better fit; this helped check if I was accurate about the outcomes I was seeking!

Drawing Conclusions:

Inspired by this process, I realized that there was an element of my current role that emphasized the need to be a visionary leader, rather than an implementer and manager. Despite obtaining great results, this reflection exercise enabled me to better establish expectations with stakeholders and mold my role and organizational structure to empower the visionary people in the org to complement my strengths effectively.

Succeeding Through Career Trajectory

  • If your current trajectory at the company starts to look like a poor fit for the long term, the most challenging step is to decide what to do about it! If you love the company you work at and the people you work with, maybe a sideways career change could work. Look at what roles are missing or would both significantly impact the company and better match your strengths and passion. Work with your manager to ensure that opportunities to contribute more widely help you move in the right direction for the future. Possible options might be training, helping with projects outside your immediate responsibility, working groups, ERGs, and even special interest groups outside the company time.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

A Day in the Life of a Product Lead in FinTech – A Series

31 January

Discover the daily struggles, challenges, and moments of delight encountered when delivering banking products around the world. I will share my story candidly and honestly, without filter as much as I am allowed, and offer insights into my approach while providing retrospectives of the results.

Strategy
Embracing Failures
Cultural Differences
Career Path
Loussaief Fayssal

Loussaief Fayssal

Director of CX at FLF PRODUCT DESIGN

Ten quotes from Adam Grant relevant while dealing with layoff

27 January

Layoffs are tough. Dealing with situation we go through different emotions. First is disbelief, followed by anger, leading to frustration and finally accepting the news. Following quotes seemed relevant to review and again a perspective as we pass through hard times

Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

I was passed for Promotion. What now ?

26 January

Passing for promotion happens to everyone in their career lifespan. If someone does not had to go through the situation, consider them they are unique and blessed. Managing disappointment and handling situations in professional setting when things don’t pan out, is an important life skill.

Changing A Company
Handling Promotion
Feelings Aside
Feedback
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Fairness
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

People Oriented vs Task Oriented

20 January

As a Lead or Manager, one could naturally incline more towards being either people oriented or task oriented. Which is better? Do you know which side you lean more towards?

Leadership
Kamal Raj Guptha R

Kamal Raj Guptha R

Engineering Manager at Jeavio

15 Tips to improve profile discovery on LI

20 January

Recently, I have read the book ‘Linked’ from Omar Garriott and Jeremy Schifeling on audible. The audio book is 7 hours long. If you dont’ have time or need a brief summary, read on

Hiring
Changing Company
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan