You’ve solved the nuts-and-bolts issues. Now you’re moving beyond wanting to just be productive day to day – you’re ready to help shape your future, and Catalysts’. Your own professional development and Catalysts’ growth are both now under your control. Here are some thoughts on steering both toward success.
By now it’s obvious that roles at Catalysts are fluid. Traditionally at Catalysts, nobody has an actual title. This is by design, to remove organizational constraints. Instead we have things we call ourselves, for convenience. In particular, people who interact with others outside the company call themselves by various titles because doing so makes it easier to get their jobs done. Inside the company, though, we all take on the role that suits the work in front of us. Everyone is a designer. Everyone can question each other’s work. Anyone can recruit someone onto his or her project. Everyone has to function as a “strategist,” which really means figuring out how to do what’s right for our clients. We all engage in analysis, measurement, predictions, evaluations.
Advancement vs. growth
Because Catalysts doesn’t have a traditional hierarchical structure, it can be confusing to figure out how Catalysts fits into your career plans. “Before Catalysts, I was a Senior Software Architect. I had planned to be CTO in five years. How am I supposed to keep moving forward here?” Working at Catalysts provides an opportunity for extremely efficient and, in many cases, very accelerated career growth. In particular, it provides an opportunity to broaden one’s skill set well outside of the narrow constraints that careers can have at most other companies.
So the “growth ladder” is tailored to you. It operates exactly as fast as you can manage to grow.
You’re in charge of your track, and you can elicit help with it anytime from those around you. FYI, we usually don’t do any formalized employee “development” (course work, mentor assignment), because for senior people it’s mostly not effective. We believe that high-performance people are generally self-improving. Most people who fit well at Catalysts will be better positioned after their time spent here than they could have been if they’d spent their time pretty much anywhere else.
Putting more tools in your toolbox
The most successful people at Catalysts are both (1) highly skilled at a broad set of things and (2) world-class experts within a more narrow discipline. (See “T-shaped” people below) Because of the talent diversity here at Catalysts, it’s often easier to become stronger at things that aren’t your core skill set.
Engineers: code is only the beginning
If you were hired as a software engineer, you’re now surrounded by a multidisciplinary group of experts in all kinds of fields – creative, legal, financial, even psychological. Many of these people are probably sitting in the same room as you every day, so the opportunities for learning are huge. Take advantage of this fact whenever possible: the more you can learn about the mechanics, vocabulary, and analysis within other disciplines, the more valuable you become.
Non-Engineers: give programming a try
Catalysts’ core competency is making software. Obviously, different disciplines are part of creating our products, but we’re still an engineering-centric company. That’s because the core of the software-building process is engineering. As in, writing code. If your expertise is not in writing code, then every bit of energy you put into understanding the code-writing part of developing software is to your (and Catalysts’) benefit. You don’t need to become an engineer, and there’s nothing that says an engineer is more valuable than you. But broadening your awareness in a highly technical direction is never a bad thing. It’ll either increase the quality or quantity of bits you can put “into boxes,” which means affecting clients more, which means you’re valuable.
We expect a lot of learning to happen without any structures. However, some areas are too important for our future to be left to chance. At any time, we have a couple of team initiatives for learning like:
- Big Data: learning how to use Hadoop and Storm to solve Big Data problems – on really big data on a real cluster (a couple of hundred hours of learning experience, theory and practice)
- Gamification: learning how to gamify IT systems
- Responsibility: learning to grow Freedom, Power, and Choice; having what you want and wanting what you have; based on the material from Christopher Avery.
- Languages: we have language learning courses for German (for all non-German natives), English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese.