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How Do I... Grow My Technical Career?


It’s a great time for geeks and techies to take a technical path to career growth! The industry has seen a huge number of technology transitions and your technical insight is highly valuable.

Cisco’s Distinguished Engineers offer these tips for accelerating your career growth:

Own a Technology Area

Instead of spreading yourself too thin, master one or two technology areas. (Don’t forget about foundation areas such as Routing, Switching, or Network Management.) Become a "go to" person by working hard to help others solve their problems; as a byproduct you grow not only your technical expertise but your own network of contacts. Become a "virtual go to" person by growing your reputation in online forums and communities, and get yourself known as a default gateway.

Share What You Know and Develop Others

After you have mastered one or two areas, give it back out. Document what you know and share it. Share your knowledge with your peers, but also more broadly. Speak at conferences and within online communities. Be a visible expert in that particular area and build up your reputation.

A key way to do this is by mentoring other engineers. It's difficult to move on to bigger and better things unless you help create successors for your current role. It's also very rewarding to see the great things done by engineers you have developed. At Cisco, "who have they brought along with them" is a critical factor of technical professional growth.

By sharing what you know and developing others, you expand your scope of influence, which directly enables your career growth. Influence the teams you work with on a day-to-day basis, but also those across your entire organization, region, company, and in the industry.

Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Find a way to work with others on issues outside your comfort zone. Be the rookie on a team in an area that is totally different. Continue to challenge yourself technically, until you master and "own" a new technology area. This will give you the versatility to understand end-to-end architectures and identify patterns.

In summary, here are some quotes from Cisco Distinguished Engineers about how to distinguish yourself in your career:

  • “Learn, teach, retain, and be humble.  Growth ends when your passion ends.”
  • “Quickly learn and adapt. Find solutions to a variety of technical and business issues.”
  • “Take a program, a technology, any kind of initiative and become a thought leader -- not only to customers and the industry as a whole, but internally as well.”
  • “If you have become an expert at something, take the time to teach people, write an article, give a talk at a conference, take your knowledge and share it, show you’re an expert.”
  • “Never stop learning, take risks, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know, but then go and find out that answer.”
  • “Take ownership of problems that no one else wanted to tackle.”
  • "Co-write, co-solve, collaborate!"
  • "Be proactive as technology is constantly evolving. Look at the next transition and get on the boat early to be cutting edge."

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Julie: Great article and thanks for sharing this tip. I completely agree with all the three points you mention but especially the third one. I think we are learning the least when we are quite comfortable.

Nice to read it. Usually most of the people didn´t apply to their lifes and works.

Great write up...

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