When it's time to move on.
A friend recently asked me about my decision to move from SAP Concur to Microsoft. Admittedly, my time at SAP Concur was pretty short; I worked there for a little more than 1 year. It does feel silly writing a post about switching jobs after having only done it once. However, after reflecting I think I have some solid advice for someone who is also thinking of making their first career move.
Sunday Night Test
I posted recently about hearing Chris Capossela speak during my new employee orientation. The piece I remember most was about making career moves.
He mentioned the "Sunday Night Test", your gut feeling about the coming week. If you're someone who's generally excited about work, but finding it difficult to be excited or you're just dreading it; that's an indication that it might be time to move on.
Now, it's not a hard and fast rule; and Chris had some additional parameters:
- You have to give yourself some time. You might not be full of passion at the end of your first week, or even your first month. If your onboarding is a little rocky, that doesn't mean it's time to jump ship. You need to give yourself time to acclimate and get up to speed.
- You have to feed your soul. What are you doing that drives pleasure in your life outside of work? I love my job, but it is not so rewarding that I'd let it take over my life. I value the time I spend walking, hiking, biking, and with family/friends because it helps round out my life.
If you're not giving yourself enough time to get used to a new role, or you're not investing enough in personal pleasures; then the Sunday Night Test is going to lead to false-positives.
Another point Chris made during this discussion was about limiting the amount of new factors when finding a new role.
These could be things like:
- Role (Developer, PM, Manager, etc.)
His advice here was that shaking things up can be good, but that you should try to limit yourself to two new factors. You can imagine the amount of chaos there would be if you changed your location, industry, and role all at once. It's not true that you can't be successful making a major change like that, but it will probably introduce a lot of overhead that makes it more difficult to be successful.
Leaving SAP Concur
When I first joined SAP Concur, I had a lot to learn about writing industry-grade software. I realized that making changes to these types of applications was more about lots of small changes bubbling up to something large; rather than what I was used to throughout my internships and college courses.
Once I ramped up, I felt like my team was really rocking and rolling with our product. I was the most junior engineer on the team, and I had a lot of great mentorship; and a great relationship with my manager.
After a re-organization I ended up on a product that was struggling to predictably ship features. I had a lot of conversations throughout that time with my manager and director about the frustrations and tensions I felt in the organization. I never felt like my concerns weren't being heard or taken seriously.
One night, after venting to a friend, she mentioned that her team was looking to hire a few software engineers; and that she'd recommend me if I wanted. Hesitantly, I agreed.
I didn't feel like I'd been in my role long enough to warrant switching jobs, but I was frustrated and didn't have a clear vision of what my future there looked like.
After interviewing and getting an offer from Microsoft, I had a few conversations about what my time at SAP Concur could look like, but in the end the idea of working with my friend and joining Microsoft won out.
Despite some of the tensions and frustrations, I definitely didn't need to leave SAP Concur and I didn't feel like I left on bad terms. I was heading towards an exciting new opportunity.
I joined Microsoft as a Software Engineer II because I was bringing some industry experience with me to the team. Obviously the experiences from one company don't translate perfectly to the next. Microsoft has a much larger footprint and the culture and language are significantly different.
One thing I wish I'd have done immediately after joining would've been to reduce the number of: "well on my last team we did X like Y." I didn't spend enough time learning about the team and the culture before trying to compare. Eventually, I figured it out and tried to take a more blended approach to changing our team's workflow.
On the other hand, I did feel like when I switched jobs that I'd changed gears as a developer. I felt like after switching companies I'd kind of reinvented my professional self. The way I conducted myself in meetings, emails, and code had completely changed and I felt like I was holding myself to a higher standard.
You can leave even when things are good
I have several friends who've made switches because there previous companies were unbearable, and some who leapt towards better positions. I would say that there's no harm in keeping an eye on the market for stretch opportunities that would be better for your growth.
I've always heard that your manager's priority is to keep you:
- On your current team, and if not
- In your current org, and if not
- Within the company
If you're interested in new challenges, having a conversation with your manager might allow them to augment your current role and give you that experience. Personally, I told my manager and director about the Microsoft opportunity at the very beginning. I definitely wouldn't recommend that for everyone. It requires having great communication and trust between all parties.
If your manager can't augment your current role, they'll likely be willing to help place you within the org or company. One of the things I appreciate about my current manager is his dedication to our professional development, and helping us build skills that will last beyond our current role.
Making your move
There are a few ways to seek new opportunities:
- Talk with friends about openings on their teams or in their companies
- Adjust your LinkedIn and GitHub settings to show you're open to hearing from recruiters
- Look at job boards and start applying to positions a step above where you're at
From what I've seen, rarely is everything a job posting an absolute necessity. It's a decent summary, but until you talk to a recruiter or a hiring manager it's mostly smoke and mirrors.
There's generally an "informational interview" where they describe the role and allow you to introduce yourself. That's a good time for you to decide whether or not it's worth investing the time to do a full panel of interviews.
It's much easier to look for and apply to jobs when you've already got one. You can be more curious and selective about the companies and teams you engage with. Depending on your manager, you might want to be careful about how your search is advertised. You don't want to be mistaken for having already "checked out" and whatnot.
Investing in yourself
I was excited but nervous about my move to Microsoft. I felt like I was going from being a small fish in a big bowl, to being bacteria in the ocean. I'd heard horror stories about the rigor of some teams, and how other teams make glacial progress.
I really liked my leadership at SAP Concur, and there were lots of unknowns at Microsoft. In the end, I've maintained great contact with folks at my last company and I really enjoy the folks I work with now. I have a good roadmap of what my personal and team growth might look like over the next few years. I'm really excited to come to work every day, and my worst days are still fraught with challenges I'm excited to address.
Your team/org/company might miss you, but business is business. Your professional growth is your responsibility. Whether it's finding a new role, or augmenting your current one; it's on you to decide what's right for you.