What's a better next step: hacking a more senior role in my current org? Or jumping to another industry?

I work at a government agency designing and building business applications, and have been doing this for several years. I enjoy the work and have spent time cultivating relationships here. I have an idea for a new internal program related to UX/service design and digital services that I would recommend myself as director for. But I also feel the pressure to diversify my professional experience and demonstrate that I can be successful in more than government/non-profit technology (I live in a city with a lot of interesting and cutting-edge startups who are always hiring). Both of these pursuits are attractive to me personally, for different reasons. Staying in this organization would let me continue to build on what I've done so far. But working at a startup would introduce me to more current technology and a consumer/profit-driven environment, something I feel a sense of "ignorance anxiety" about. I'm relatively early in my career and I want to be strategic about my choices, so I'd be curious to know what is more impressive to people hiring in the tech industry: seeing that an applicant grew to a leadership position within an org, despite lacking experience outside of it? Or seeing that the applicant achieved results in diverse industries, with different (and more current) technologies and environments?


Try a non-traditional approach and go for the best of both worlds. (Note: Whether this makes sense and would work depends on the details of the situation, which I don't know)

1) At your current job, bring up your idea for the new internal program and say you'd like to take charge of it. Don't ask for a raise, just say it's something you want to do.
You'll be helping _yourself_ out by A) learning new skills in your new position, and B) getting a promotion which looks good on paper.
You'll also be helping your _company_ out by A) setting up a new internal program which in theory will benefit them (if it's a good idea), and B) not asking for anything in return.

2) Now that you and your company are both better off, A) start keeping an eye out for people in your team (or from outside the company) that would do well in your current position as director. You can even start 'grooming' them for the position. B) Start keeping an eye out for startups that interest you (Angellist, etc.), go to entrepreneur meetups, come up with startup ideas of your own, etc. If you find a cool opportunity go for it. You'll already have built a more diverse set of skills, and look better on paper, both of which will help you get it. Meanwhile, if you don't end up leaving your current company, you've put yourself in a position for an easy raise if the project goes well.

Note: this strategy is only cool to try _if_ the project you initiate with your current company wouldn't totally fall apart without you if/when you decide to leave (i.e. if it's likely that someone else could take your place and keep the project successful and benefiting the company, instead of a liability). That way it's still a win-win, even if you end up leaving.

If you want to discuss your options more according to the specifics of your situation feel free to set up a call,

all the best,


Answered 8 years ago

If you ask me the better step would be hacking a more senior role in your current organization. One of the most disruptive changes we have seen in business over the last decade is the end of the traditional “career”. While many think the solution to this problem is to build a flexible, meaningful workplace, and give people benefits like free food, unlimited vacation, and lavish bonuses -- the problem is much more fundamental. In this article I will explore this problem in a little more detail, to give you a sense of how complex and important it is to rethink what a career means in your company. Instead of each person in a business trying to do manufacturing, marketing, sales, and finance, we create teams of functional specialists, driving down cost. These specialists can do more for less, enabling the business to grow at an ever-increasing profit. When I went to work for IBM in the early 1980s, the company had a large and highly specialized sales force, one that had deep sales skills and relationships with businesses and IT departments around the world. This functional organization, which had a career model all its own, enabled IBM to aggressively sell hundreds of new IBM technologies around the world in a noticeably short period of time.
This dual path career model, which is still dominant in most large companies, attempts to create a steady supply of leaders. It builds on the concept of a “HIPO”, someone who is identified early in their career as someone «who could move up two levels in the organization. We identify future leaders early and we “slot” them into the right side of the pyramid. I believe HIPO programs are important but often over-emphasized. Behind the concept of succession is the idea of “readiness.” Books like The Leadership Pipeline teach HR people how to prepare people for the next level of leadership, and most companies have multi-year programs to build ready leaders throughout the company.
Such programs continue to exist throughout business, even though more than 88% of all senior leaders tell us that one of their top problems is “gaps in the leadership pipeline”. So, while this process continues to be institutionalized within HR, I believe we must reinvent it for the years ahead.
On the professional side of the pyramid, the architecture of a career is less clear. My experience with “professional career models” is that they are multi-faceted and far more difficult to understand. One way to think about this is that you, as an organization, need a HIPRO program to match your HIPO program. You simultaneously learn “management” skills by learning how projects are managed, what makes a project succeed, and how to make a project successful.
And in the case of engineering, this means understanding project management, agile methodologies and other managerial skills which do not fall into the domain of “leadership development”.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 3 years ago

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