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3 easy ways to destroy your career

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Posted Aug 16 2010 05:21 AM

Michael Lopp has an interesting perspective on the workplace. On one side, he's a geek who prefers the structure and predictability of "system thinking." But on the other, he knows office life is inherently messy. Finding safe harbor between these worlds is tough, yet Lopp has pulled it off. He chronicles the lessons he's learned in the new book "Being Geek."

Below, Lopp expands on some of those lessons by revealing three specific ways geeks can sabotage their careers.

The following is written by Michael Lopp:

Michael LoppYou work in a high-velocity industry.

Five years ago, if I told you that a company named after a pug was making $500 million a year selling, well, nothing, you would've giggled. But now there's Zynga.

That's just one example of how technology is a fast, unpredictable industry. Without careful attention, it's also an industry that will effortlessly leave you behind.

It is with this thought that I present three easy ways to destroy your career:

#1 Become irrelevant

What language or technology is currently floating your boat? Are you thinking about it at the dinner table? In the car? All the time?

It's a geek x-power to obsess about the latest tech. To go deep. To ferret out the technical intricacies of a thing. But three years from now, a new technology will be spreading across the internet like wildfire and there's a chance this wildfire will burn the relevance of your current obsession to the ground. This is why you need to not...

#2 Become strategically deaf

Whether it's you in your garage, or you're surrounded by 4,999 co-workers, there is a strategic landscape around you comprised of opinions of customers, design of products, the severity of problems, the content of conversations, agendas of distributors ... it's a long list of variables that deserves your attention.

As a geek, we are rewarded to stop listening to the world so that we focus. It's how we become productive. It's why I call the place we work our Cave because it's structured to shield us from all those messy and annoying variables.

A good way to destroy your career is tactically hide in your Cave and ignore what you consider to be the strategic noise, and to trust those who claim to have your best interest in mind. They might -- until it's no longer strategically beneficial to them.

"Situational awareness" is management/HR-speak for being able to discern not just when the train will arrive, but if it's going to run you over. It's worse if you ...

#3 Don't understand how to win

In a high-velocity industry, where terribly simple 140-character business plans turn into billion dollar companies, you want to have a "win" criteria.

Found a start-up. Make a million dollars. Write a book. Run every morning. Goals, big or small, give structure to the chaos and remind you what you care about when very little is actually predictable.

This is an industry that moves at a high velocity created by those who care to pay attention.


Get the "Being Geek" ebook for $9.99. Use discount code BGDD9.

Being Geek

Learn more about this topic from Being Geek.

As a software engineer, you recognize at some point that there's much more to your career than dealing with code. Is it time to become a manager? Tell your boss he’s a jerk? Join that startup? Author Michael Lopp recalls his own make-or-break moments with Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Netscape, and Symantec in Being Geek -- an insightful and entertaining book that will help you make better career decisions.

See what you'll learn

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 : Aug 16 2010 06:36 PM
Oh my god, it's 10:37am and I haven't made my first billion yet. And I haven't jumped on a new programming fad in weeks! I'm becoming irrelevant!