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How do I move ahead in my career?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community2 years ago

Background: I studied Bachelor's in computer science from a Tier 3 college in India and joined a reputed early-stage startup (Bay Area based) as an Operations Manager in India. I worked there for two years, and during that, I got exposure to technology. I gained tech skills by myself and moved to another startup as a Backend Developer.

I have been working as a Backend Developer for the last five years. All the companies I have worked for and left were in the early stage, so until now, I didn’t progress much in my career and still hold the designation of Software Engineer. I am earning and learning decently in Dubai, but I feel like stuck and not moving forward as I don’t see my future, at least in the current startup. I work as an Individual contributor, and management is pretty naive here.

I don’t understand what to do to move ahead from here:

  • I don’t feel much enthusiasm for engineering as my other colleagues and friends feel, so I feel like doing MBA and trying Product Management. But I am also not sure as I have already changed my career path once, and I am already 30 years old, so, not sure if doing it is a good idea or not. It's costly as well, so not sure it's a good investment. My wife is also doing an MBA, so I feel maybe FOMO is causing me to try it and get out of this zone.
  • One question that keeps me curious is why most of the engineers who are already working in Engineering don’t go for MBA.
  • Another option I feel is to try a Master's in computer science as its relatively cheaper than MBA also, I have been doing tech for the past five years so it can be a supportive degree, but I don’t love tech so much that I want to spend whole life in it, so I feel may b its also not a good idea.
  • I have a very limited professional circle as I have worked in very small startups and studied at Tier-3 college, so I feel like MBA/MS can help.
  • I feel like maybe I can also try FAANG instead of MBA and MS and see what happens from there, but I like my current work with elixir and enjoy it, so I don’t feel much happiness while doing preparation.
  • Also, I feel it's been three years here. We are two backend developers here, and we have good money. I get decent work with Elixir. I can stay here at the same startup, and maybe I will grow in future here only, which I strongly feel will not happen.

So, this is the problem I don’t understand where to go in my career from here. I am sure, for one thing, I want to try my startup again (I have tried twice, once in college and once a year back and closed before it started) in future.

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Discussion

(4 comments)
  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing all this! There's a lot to go over, so I'm going to split my response into multiple sections.

    Transitioning Into Product Management

    • First, I recommend going through this discussion about SWE -> PM transition and the value it has for career path.
    • In general, the best course of action is transition from SWE to PM internally within your own company vs. doing a separate degree and trying to get a formal PM position via a job switch. This maximizes your chances of success as a PM since you retain all the business context. After you succeed as a PM after an internal transfer, you can switch to another company.
    • There's also a middle ground: Hybridizing as a PM while still being an engineer. There's a good chance this is doable for you since you work at what seems to be a smaller startup (2 back-end developers isn't a lot). Try to have a bigger impact on product direction by assisting with brainstorming/roadmapping, analyzing data, and participating in UXR.
  • 4
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    Getting An MBA

    • There are many clear reasons why most engineers don't pursue an MBA:
      • Most SWEs want to stay in SWE. SWEs and PMs are generally paid around the same, but there are far more engineering executive roles compared to product executive ones. There's not too much incentive to switch into PM unless you genuinely like it and/or you don't like SWE.
      • MBAs take a lot of time, costing you years. Time is the most valuable resource in tech, as tech workers have such high leverage.
      • MBAs are hard to complete, especially from reputable universities.
      • MBAs are expensive.
    • That being said, MBAs are a proven, straightforward way to make yourself far more employable as a PM. Traditionally, PM roles have required an MBA, but that's changing with the rise of APM programs and allowing employees to transition internally to PM.
    • However, I generally don't recommend pursuing an MBA due to the reasons mentioned before. I feel like transitioning internally/hybridizing is a far smoother (and easier) path, and most engineers I've talked to who are considering an MBA are mainly doing it due to a lack of career direction and vaguely knowing that an MBA carries some prestige to it. In fact, one of these engineers ended up switching into PM, but they did it through the tactics I mentioned before (i.e. they transferred internally).
  • 4
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    Which Company Should You Work For?

  • 4
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    What I Think You Should Do

    • If you're 100% sure that you want to try a startup again, then I think you should do that ASAP. It only gets harder as you age, and I know this as a founder who is also 30. Talk to your wife about it as creating a startup will almost certainly strain your finances.
    • Here's my advice on how to best set yourself up to create a successful startup.
    • If it turns out that a startup isn't feasible, then I recommend looking deeply inwards to understand what's best for you and your family:
      • If your goal is career growth: You should probably aim to go to FAANG/Big Tech, especially as you haven't worked there before. Another option is to go to startup that has a hot growth trajectory (e.g. Notion).
      • If your goal is stability: Staying at your current company seems great! I know that Taro is a platform dedicated to career growth, but I think this is a very noble and respectable option. My goal is to have empower everyone to achieve what works best for their lives - There's nothing wrong with having a goal that isn't professional growth-oriented. There are other ways to grow as a person outside of work.
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