# 3 pitfalls to avoid for progression in an engineering career
# Listing out what I believe are the some common pitfalls to avoid to grow as a software engineer.
I was interested in a discussion on Blind discussing things to avoid for career progression (opens new window), presumably as an engineer.
This is a nuanced (and highly subjective) topic - I made a short video on how I would answer it here:
Here's what I covered, in a little more detail.
# Pitfall 1. Not being intentional
You need to be somewhat intentional about your career decisions to progress over many years.
It's totally fine to be opportunistic, but it sure helps to have an idea what you want to work on and treat each project or role as a building block to something more.
What does it mean to be intentional?
Some examples are thinking about which tech sectors / companies you want to work for, where in the world you want to work, what types of roles suit your interests, which technologies you want to develop expertise in, which projects you put your hand up for, and so on. It's difficult to make much career growth if every year you are going from being a backend engineer to frontend engineer to mobile, etc.
# Pitfall 2. Assuming technical skills are enough
Many newer engineers have this sense that they just need to write good code and they'll naturally progress in their careers.
They've probably just been lucky enough not to have seen project or features fail for reasons completely unrelated to technical skills - everything from poor understanding of user requirements, under resourcing or resourcing with the wrong skills, poor planning, miscommunications nightmares, etc.
Many times, so long as your technical skills are "good enough", your progression depends on soft skills like the ability to collaborate with other teams, manage project timelines, communicate with users and other stakeholders, and yes sometimes even on office politics. The horror.
Even for deeply technical roles, some element of this still exists at the highest levels - so ignore them at your own risk.
# Pitfall 3. Being overly impatient
This is a tough one, since it is purely a judgment call and there is often not a clear answer on when to make a change. I'm talking about when to switch anything, from which technologies you work on, to changing teams, roles, companies, or even industries.
If you switch too soon, you risk doing so before you develop any real expertise in an area (or at least, before you are recognized as such).
As a rule of thumb, if you are spending less than a year on a technology / team / company, you are unlikely to have built up real expertise or to be considered for promotions. You could change jobs with under a year a few times (especially early in your career), but doing this too frequently is often a red flag for more senior roles.
On the other hand, taking too long to make a switch risks stagnation. If you are spending more than 5 - 10 years in a particular technology or company, you'd better be sure this is what you want to spend your time working on since it may now be more difficult to get used to the next new thing.
Good luck as your career continues to grow!