How often do organisations lay out their IT career paths as a series of (predominantly) vertical paths? All nicely leading to the CIO or other very senior roles. Now for some this my fill a need for an aspirational view of their career. But (by definition) the majority of people in the workforce will not achieve this path. The reality of career paths is much messier and impacted by factors which are not easy to draw as a universal career blueprint or to create a standard formula to describe them.

Here’s a great article from Roger Ferguson which while not directly related to IT careers is easily applicable.

SFIA as a tool lends itself brilliantly to supporting this Climbing Wall approach and mindset but how many organisations enable this? (It really requires support from the IT organisation to make it happen.)

The SFIA levels and the range of SFIA skills make it easy to decide whether your interests and capabilities lie and what experiences you might need to move upwards, sideways or downwards. Equally the SFIA framework allows the organisation to communicate which skills and levels are part of the IT organisations current and future requirements.

An analogy I often use with SFIA is the front wheel and rear wheel of a bicycle.

  • The rear wheel is attached to the pedals and is the engine – in SFIA the levels 1-7 are the engine of your career they give you the power to get where you want to go.
  • The front wheel of the bicycle is for steering and pointing you in the direction in which you want to go. Think of the 97 SFIA skills (e.g. Business analysis, Testing, Project management) as the front wheel of your career – you can choose which of the 96 skills you wish to develop and point your career path towards those.

Taking time off the “climbing wall” should also be built into this model e.g. through career breaks of various types (maybe voluntary or otherwise).

Here’s an extract from Roger’s article.

Many expect to hear that there’s a blueprint to follow — a precise formula for success that combines a certain type of degree from a certain type of school with a certain series of job titles. But it’s not that simple – and it’s definitely not how my own career has played out.Roger Ferguson

My career trajectory has been anything but straight. I have loved applying and growing my talents in a diverse range of positions at so many different types of organizations. My path has been extremely rewarding, personally and professionally.

So that’s why I advise students to see their careers as more of a “climbing wall” than the stereotypical career ladder. On a ladder, you step on a rung and keep climbing in a straight line toward the top. On a climbing wall, you may need to move sideways to advance. At times, you may need to move down the wall to make progress.

I tell students to be open to trying different avenues, to take advantage of opportunities that excite and challenge them, and to never fear changing course if that’s what their hearts are telling them to do. The key is to always keep growing and learning.

Envision Your Career as a Climbing Wall, Not a Ladder | Roger Ferguson

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