Don't let the default reign supreme
Story of role-model Sarika Atri
Sarika said, ‘While at Google, I decided to not become a manager.
I started my career as a campus recruit for Adobe. Amazing organisation, got to learn a lot. I loved my work.
Just short of 2 years, I fell seriously ill.
I needed a 3 month bed rest. I had to leave my job.
The default would have been to go back to Adobe once I got better, but I decided to explore the world. It took me just one month to find another job.
This simple incident filled me with confidence. If I am a capable techie - I can find a job anytime!
I decided, I must focus on doing my best work and keep up my technical prowess. This has worked well for me over the years.
Ever since I was a child, I loved to solve puzzles. Writing code - even more so debugging it - gets me going.
People want to get into coding jobs. I seek out the debugging challenges and good coding opportunities come looking for me.
Not a default choice, again.
When things are not working as expected. When they are breaking apart - getting into depth and fixing it, gives me a lot of satisfaction.
I loved doing this. As I continued to do this well, new opportunities also kept coming.
If you are good at what you do, the default is to get promoted to a manager.
I decided to not do this.
General perception is that architect roles are for those who like working solo or go deep in a certain problem space.
I was not like that. I wanted to mentor others and I figured, I don't have to be a manager formally to do so.
I began to work with colleagues across geographies in mid and early careers. They would speak to me freely because I was a friend, not an authority.
Work-life balance, career advice, what to focus on and what not to - I helped friends figure these out for themselves.
When I think about the problems I am solving, I don't think just about what I am being told to do.
I look for the invisible, non-functional requirements too.
This translates into how I work and what I share with my mentees.
By now, you know, the default is not my choice :)
I am 41 now and six years ago; I put my daughter in Karate school. I joined her and became her classmate as well.
Two payoffs in that.
One - I am fit. I will probably become a black belt next year :)
Two - I set the ball in motion for me to be friends with my daughter.
I can now discuss my work situations as well with her, and it is good grooming for her.
She was the one who helped me decide when it was time to quit a toxic role.
With my tech work and mentoring, I have carved a niche for myself.
Without being a manager I can continue to do good technical work and also invest myself in mentoring to have the impact on others as well.
I would urge you to make your choices consciously too rather than letting the default reign supreme.