Alright y’all— this one goes out to all my mid level range software developers out there (and you too, juniors, because this will be you one day soon enough):
You don’t have to become a senior engineer. You don’t have to keep coding to stay in tech.
I know what you're probably thinking, 'Duh, Taylor.' But seriously, lots of people in your position feel like the only way forward is to become a senior developer or engineer. Some might even say it’s ingrained in the career path. But don't just take my word for it. I caught up with Milecia McGregor, who found herself at that exact crossroads…. and took a different path.
If you’re trying to find something to look busy doing until 5:00— book a meeting room, tune in and spend the next 30 minutes spinning around in a swivel chair while calling it “continuing education”:
If you don’t have quite that much time, here’s the rundown:
Okay, so let's get back to the part where you're feeling like you're about to hit the ultimate burnout phase of your career... Look, I get it. It's totally understandable to want to chase a fancy title or a big salary. But, in the words of Milecia, “It’s not about the money, it’s what’s going to keep you sane.” And, buddy, I know my sanity has a price that very few can afford. Maybe it’s time to realign your career with who you are, not just what you went to school for.
If we take Senior Developer off the table, where should you turn next? Here’s some quick options that might better suit your skills:
- So you like people, consider switching over to management, recruiting or becoming a business analyst.
- You love the product but not the endless coding— look into becoming a Product Manager. Talk to stakeholders, find out how people are using the product, identify pain points to bring to engineers.
- Tired of hearing your code is broken? Think about going down the QA route. Tell other people their code is broken for a change.
- Finding yourself somewhere in the middle? Maybe the SDET role is the path for you.
One of the most important pieces of advice in this situation is incredibly simple— just shadow people in these roles before you commit. Worst case scenario, there will be no part of the process you haven’t seen. Best case scenario, you find something that “Phoenix from the ashes” your career burnout. Either way we don’t have to keep software engineer on such a pedestal.
Perhaps you've explored all your options, but nothing seems absolutely perfect. The switch to consulting is always tempting, but before you make any hasty moves, take a page out of Milecia's book. Her advice is solid: don't quit your day job just yet. Start small with one client for five hours a week. This will give you a chance to dip your toes in the consulting waters and learn how to work for yourself. Slowly add more clients and hours, receive referrals, and gain an understanding of workflow. It's like training wheels for your freelance career. Once you're feeling pretty darn confident, it's time to set out on your own. And if you're stumped on pricing, fear not - here's an easy equation to get you started:
Hourly Wage = Desired Yearly Salary ÷ 2080 (hours worked in a year)
Adjust this to build in any PTO time that you may want, and you’ll be well on your way to working full time for yourself. You may end up doing some work for free. You may end up with some clients you don’t like. But, again, that whole sanity thing is priceless.
Hopefully you’re feeling slightly less doom and gloom about the future of your career. Consider yourself completely released from your obligation to become a Senior DEV. See, aren’t you glad you read this.