My own top tips for career development

If I google top tips for career development, not surprisingly there are literally thousands of articles from every walk  of life from people wanting to share their own insights. Many of these, not surprisingly are from recruitment and management consultancies who have a vested interest in self promotion. And of course many who have gone to great levels of success would like to onward sell their “unique” method.

Are my ideas unique ? Most probably not but they are mine and they have served me well so I wanted to share

Situational Awareness – I first became aware of the formal sense of situational awareness via Simon Wardley (; through the value chain mapping that he has so eloquently been championing.

My very summarised view of situational awareness in this context follows the same theory that Simon has i.e. career

development won’t be successful by box and wire diagrams, SWOT analysis, complex course timetables etc etc but more by a “map” that provides context of where you are as an individual and then where others are around you that are either going to help or hinder your progression.  Not only does the map plot the people, it also plots other key environment dimensions such as the business and technical strategy, the organisational politics and the formal and informal networks which have been built up Its what you do with the map of course that’s most important

Situational awareness also manifests itself of course in terms of how you appear to other people.  “Perception is reality” – a simple but true statement.  Of course, its great having a map but you need substance to use and in this context, I have picked out a few of what I consider the most critical elements.  What I am not going to cover though for example is “dress code” – that’s for another day…

Know the stuff you are talking about.  As an Architect you are not expected to be an expert on everything, or either anything. To quote Mike Dyer (, a good 10 years ago), an architect is a Generalised Expert or is an Expert Generalist. Whichever way around though a new phenomena has definitely been occurring within the Technology  community and that is it is no longer possible, feasible or even workable to stay at the Powerpoint level – you have to not only understand the detail but to actually have done it – whether that’s writing some python code, deploying some compute and database instances or creating an automation package through puppet as an example. Without this type of hands on knowledge, your credibility will be very much reduced.. But do make sure the stuff you learn about is relevant and timely.  Useful current references: and

Create a diversified team .  The historical team manager would recruit their team in their own mould and would create a “yes” culture.  This however, is very short sighted as there is no challenge and with no challenge, mistakes are made.  So in the diversified team be ready for a challenge and accept them very openly and respectfully.

Dealing with ambiguity. Of all the core management skills that you are expected to have, this is the one which I believe differentiates you most.  A business environment is almost built on ambiguity and the more you can not only cope within that ecosystem but significantly work efficiently within it the better.

“Extra” work. In a typical workplace environment, everyone tends to be overloaded with work, with increased time pressures, less resource and greater stress.  However, what will differentiate one person from another is doing that little bit extra. I am a firm believer of this attribute as there is very much a win-win situation here.  You get to chose what the extra piece is, which means it ought to be matched against what you are good at, and it helps the business by getting them to progress where otherwise it has stalled.

Communications skills. Clearly a very over used term but what I mean by this, includes a high degree of emotional intelligence (i.e .understanding/empathising with the person you are communicating with. Using techniques such as Myers Briggs or Belbin really helps.  One of my own beliefs is to be known to be “always be there” for people…this then works naturally into..

Work-Life balance.  Of course every book will refer to getting this “right”.. There is no right or wrong, it is whatever not only you feel comfortable with but the people around you feel comfortable with. Putting pressure on others I believe is one of the worst character traits you can have, and conversely, understanding other peoples needs provides respect.  Not everyone will want to go to the gym at 6am every morning (that includes me) but if someone else does, I am sure they have a good reason. For me, I am a great believe of “lists” – it enables me to see progress but also allows a pause to occur without losing the core thread.

That’s my list – I am an advocate of never over complicated anything – in fact, keeping it the simpler the better….


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