In my last post What’s so different about being a small business programmer? I discussed the challenges and tremendous opportunities available to small business programmers. If you haven’t read that post, please take a minute and read it (I’ll wait). In this post, we’re going to find out if you’re ready for a change.
First things, first
Before you go out and start suggesting a bunch of initiatives to anyone who will listen, I want you to make sure you are all squared away with your existing assignments and responsibilities.
If you answer ‘no‘ or ‘I don’t know‘ to any of the following questions you should probably focus on these matters before you do anything else.
Are your current assignments under control?
- are you making acceptable progress?
- is your boss happy with the quality of your work?
- are you going to meet your deadlines?
Is your job safe if disaster strikes?
- following good security practices (ssh? strong passwords? different passwords? strong encryption? protecting customer data with encryption?)
- finding and fixing the major security vulnerabilities in your projects?
- taking appropriate steps to protect your work products, data, and production environment (version control for source code? encrypted database backups stored offsite? you’re 100% sure your backups work because you regularly do a test restore, right? some way to recover the production environment)
Are you avoiding stupid behavior that will get you fired?
- stealing from your company?
- sleeping with your boss’s spouse?
- talking smack about your boss behind his back?
I hope you answered ‘yes‘ to all of these questions. If not, stop reading right now and go fix things before you get fired. If you need help getting this stuff in place call a meeting and, at the very least, make your boss aware of the problems you’re facing. Request resources if you need them. And if you’re stealing from your company or sleeping with your boss’s spouse, that’s not cool so just stop it.
Are you perceived favorably by your co-workers and boss?
- technical competence
- people skills
- likability (people listen to people they like)
- value to the company
It’s been my experience that a shocking number of people don’t know where they stand with their employers. And if you work for a small business where regular feedback and performance reviews aren’t a thing, you might not have any idea where you stand.
I once interviewed a bunch of people at a company for a university project. The receptionist thought she was crushing it. But everyone else I talked to brought her up as an example of someone who was borderline incompetent, difficult to work with, and hostile to feedback. Yikes!
I’ve also had the pleasure of conducting dozens of programmer hiring interviews. And I can say, without a doubt, that programmers aren’t the most self-aware bunch.
So before you answer this question you might want to quietly ask around at work and see what people really think of you. You could even request a performance review from your boss. Just prepare yourself for the truth because nobody’s perfect in all things.
Regardless of what feedback you get, it’s good. Now you know where you stand and you can take steps to improve your image. If you skip this step it might be very difficult to pull off the next steps.
So, are you ready for a change?
If you are, that’s great. You have the foundation required to get to the next step: I’m going to tell you what it takes to be a 10x programmer.
If you’re not quite ready for a change, that’s okay too. Everybody starts somewhere. Some of these issues might be out of your control. All it means is that your not quiet ready to take the next step. So ask for help if you need it: get your existing assignments and responsibilities under control, and then continue to the next step.