Whose Responsibility is Your Career?

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

I guess we’ve all seen this geek witticism, its a little piece of the fabric of the culture. Personally I split people into two groups along other lines: those that look out for their own professional interests, and those who don’t. I’m an optimist, so lets start out looking at those who do.

These people are self-starters. They have read relevant texts on their subject and depending on the type of industry they are from they either have blogs, news and syndication sites on their feed reader, or they subscribe to the relevant periodicals. You’ll see them at some of the events, sometimes a long way from home, and always “off their own bat”. They’ll be asking questions about how different technologies go together, about who they could approach with a particular question, and so on. If you mention web resources, they’ll go there and read what’s available. They might come back with follow-up questions. And they will be the first to also help another along his way, passing along the gifts that they have been given from those who went before and helped them to this point.

Then there’s the other kind of people. The kind that doesn’t have books of its own, that doesn’t interact with communities outside of work, and that “can’t” go to events because their employers don’t send them. I understand that money and time are both something that can be in short supply, yet I still have little patience with people who have this attitude. None of us can be everywhere that would be useful, but one event a year is do-able for most people, and in my opinion career development shouldn’t be free and effortless.

So – which kind of person are you? If its the first kind, what do you do to ensure you keep learning and keep growing? Post your stories in the comments!

11 thoughts on “Whose Responsibility is Your Career?

  1. I do feel I am part of the first group. I started out mostly getting the help, getting the information, and consuming it to better myself in the skill that is PHP. Since quite a few years now, I’ve also been trying to give something back. First by helping people in the support team of an open source app, later by contributing code, having my own blog and even speaking at conferences now. But even now, I still read as much info I can find on PHP and related topics, to improve my own personal knowledge base on those topics inside my head wherever I can :)

  2. I’m coming to realise this more and more. I see the former all over the community and am humbled, yet, it still comes as a surprise when I run into “the others”.
    I guess they don’t understand why you would put in effort outside of their “official duties” in the same way I don’t understand how you could not.

    • Brenton: The more I meet the first kind of people, the more I am inspired to keep learning myself. As for the “other” people, I too can’t understand them.

  3. When I next hire someone, they are going to be in group 1 (if I can afford their salary…)

    The group 2 people don’t learn or expand their knowledge very much from what they had when you first hired them, whereas a group 1 person is forever pushing their boundaries and bringing this into their work.

    In the PHP world, there’s no excuse for not being involved with your local user group, even if you don’t go to the bigger events like the conferences. You just have to want more than a nine-to-five job.



      • Good question. I have no idea :)

        I don’t have enough experience of different employees. I do know that I offer to send my employees to UK conferences at our expense, and they aren’t taken up.


      • I’d probably second Rob – as a manager you can do as much as possible to give employees the opportunity to undertake professional development but it’s down to the individual to take it up. For my part I’m keen to encourage more involvement with community events, but because they’re often free or cheap some people don’t see them to have as much value.

        We can do some things to help such as: give time off in lieu for weekend/evening events, pay travel expenses, allow time in work hours for preparation.

  4. You’re absolutely right, Lorna. I also struggle to understand why one wouldn’t want to go out and engage with the community, give up weekends to attend BarCamps or user-group organised conferences, or nag the boss to let you go to every event that the budget will allow.

    I do know that I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career if I’d just worked 9-5. Friends might take the piss out of me for going to “GeekCamps” as they call it (I try to explain the free food and drinks but they don’t understand!) but I would not – and cannot – give it up.

  5. Mike: I couldn’t agree more, I wouldn’t be here if I just went home at 5:30 and forgot about it. I think that applies particularly in the field of software where certainly some people do it for the love of it!

  6. I have a masters but I paid for that masters and took a year off just to turn what I already knew in to an official qualification. I’m basically self taught and I’m amazed that others wouldn’t want to improve their lot similarly.

    My employer is very much one of those who don’t interact with the community. As was my previous employer. So I work around that. I have released fixes to OSS products under pseudonyms before now. I take days off for conferences as vacation and pay my own way.

    I was flabberghasted when I started talking to colleagues at my previous employer. There seems to be a generation who went in to IT because it pays well and not because of any love of the industry. They work 9 to 5.30 and I know of some who don’t even have computers at home!

    I need to be involved. To me, Google, IRC, Web Forums are all tools to help you improve yourself and your work.

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