Q&A 2: How Do I Get Promoted Fast as a Software Developer?



Success Promoted

In my second QA episode, a person was wondering: What is the fastest way to get promoted? As a software developer, there are a lot of niches we can learn and paths we can take to grow our skills and mature our craft. Surprisingly, there is more baked into this question than one can see at face value. We need to define a context before we can get to the point. Here’s the full question to start:

Fastest way up the promotion ladder?

I’m a recent bootcamp grad (past non-SWE but engineering experience) now working at a reputable company in a remote position. I was brought on as a level 2, basically one step up from a college grad.

What is your best advice to someone who wants to make a good impression remotely, learn a lot, and get promoted (or at least a decent raise) within a year? So far, I’ve been transparent with my manager about having them set 30, 60, 90 day goals for me. I’ve been asking questions when I’m stuck, but have been doing my best to be as independent as possible. All feedback I’ve received so far has been positive but there’s always room for improvement. Sometimes, I feel like I’m so dumb but I know that’s normal.

Tips can be anything from daily workflow tips, soft skills, mindsets, or long term goals. I’d appreciate any insight!

Good on you for being proactive about your career! The fact that you are thinking about your career progression already sets you at the head of the pack. Keep this up throughout your career and you’ll accelerate faster than you think.

What Are You?

Before we talk about advancement, we need to have a direction. We know you recently graduated a boot camp so have enough experience to contribute to a dev team, but not enough to really “know” who or what you are as a developer.

As a developer and engineer, you are building something, and that something can be a mobile app, a cloud application, a script, or many other things. Each of these things will have its own tech stack and knowledge base, sometimes an entire industry, built up around it. We need to think about what you want to build to have a direction to progress in your career.

For example, an embedded software engineer is not swappable into the cloud computing domain without a lot of training and effort invested by them. My point is, if you are promoted once or twice as an Enterprise Java developer and then discover that you love writing Terraform instead… well, you’ll almost be starting over in a new career.

Therefore, it is best to give yourself some time to figure out what you like doing before gunning really hard for promotions. If you promote too fast you can find yourself stuck a little bit or “branded” as a certain type of developer.

How to Get Promoted

You must actively work on two things:

  1. Are you contributing to the right things
  2. Are your contributions good

A terrible truth is that people over-value the importance of their contributions to the team. Here’s what I mean, sometimes the conversations go like this: “Yes, you built a technically challenging application. Yes, you must be a great, very skilled engineer. BUT, that wasn’t actually a goal for my team this year! You’ve not only wasted your time, but you’ve been slowing us down by not working on our other strategic goals!”

The moral of the story is to make sure you are in alignment with your team’s goals. By being in alignment and doing a good job on whatever you produce, your manager can use that to “sell” the value of your contributions up the chain and justify your next promotion. Otherwise, you may end up being the most skilled, but seen as the most ineffective, developer on the team.

As usual, these points are in addition to the content from the QA2 episode. If you haven’t listened to it yet, don’t forget to! I’ve also made many other episodes as well so you can start building and developing your career.

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