EPAM Anywhere: Everything You Wanted to Know About Building a Career Development Plan

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Career & Education / 7 min

Everything You Wanted to Know About Building a Career Development Plan

Superman flies skyward with the dark blue backgroundSuperman flies skyward with the dark blue background

A personal or career development plan  (also known as PDP or CDP) helps to define the objectives, set priorities, and list the steps that lead to the goal. You can grow your career vertically (by getting to the next level) or horizontally (by trying new domains or technologies), PDPs work for both cases.

Do you want to grow from a middle specialist to a senior or change the specialization from JavaScript to Java engineer? Do you wish to switch your role from a senior developer to a scrum master within a project? Or do you want to change the project but have to onboard someone to replace you seamlessly? All these things can serve as a good reason to start working on your PDP with the help of a dedicated skill manager.

Today together with Tatyana Yeroma, a manager at EPAM Systems, we will talk about how to work with a PDP.

Where shall we start?

First of all, gain your skill manager’s support - it is the person who is responsible for your career growth. While a dedicated resource manager monitors employee’s salary satisfaction and cares about their overall in-company comfort, a skill manager supports EPAMers in advancing their core skills, getting new knowledge, and ensures smooth project staffing. Thus, if you want to create your career development plan, it makes sense to speak with a skill manager first.

Motivational books and articles recommend to choose a person who will drive your personal development and will routinely ask about your progress. If we talk about career development within the company, your skill manager is primarily this exact person. Your manager is your mentor and a person who is interested in your skill enhancement.

Tatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM SystemsTatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM Systems

Tatyana YeromaSoftware Testing Manager

Before you start this conversation, it is worth thinking over what desires you have and what is missing on your way to the goal. If you are not sure what you want from your career, a piece of advice from your leader or senior colleagues, who are role models to you, can help with it.

You need to realize where you are and where you want to be. When anyone comes to me saying: “I don’t understand where I am”, - I usually give a list of requirements for any specific position in our company. Employees estimate themselves on this skill matrix, then we look at the results together.

Tatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM SystemsTatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM Systems

Tatyana YeromaSoftware Testing Manager

Why is it better to plan your professional growth together with your skill manager? It is the person who knows the specifics of your work and is familiar with the company’s development plans. Based on this, they can give you the most applicable advice.

What period does the career development plan usually cover?

If we talk about high-level or abstract planning, you can cover half a year at once. What concerns more specific goals, it is better to set the plan for three months ahead. This will help you follow the plan continuously and check the progress. It is easier to get lost in a long term plan and it’s harder to specify goals in this case.

How many professional development goals is it better to focus on at once?

It is recommended to set from 5 to 7 goals for a 90-day period and to work on them during this time. Some of the goals might be pursued simultaneously. What is most important, you should choose the activities that will not contradict each other.

You can have both long-term and short-term goals in your career plan, - it is not that critical. A goal “to improve my knowledge in JavaScript from basic to intermediate” that will take half a year, will not prevent you from giving a talk at a conference in two weeks. It is a different matter if several activities require equal involvement. Let’s put it this way: it is ineffective to learn simultaneously two new technologies.

In order to make a qualitative leap forward, I would recommend a “one skill within a particular timeframe” approach. When we start learning something from scratch or develop intensively, it makes sense to commit fully to this. Accordingly, I would not recommend studying two programming languages at once: switching from one to another takes a lot of time, and you won’t get an immersive experience.

Yet, when we mean skills from different areas (or when one of these skills is already at the advanced level), you may work on them in parallel. For instance, an employee brought his English level up to B2 level, and now while maintaining it in the background they can dedicate the main effort to Java learning.

Tatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM SystemsTatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM Systems

Tatyana YeromaSoftware Testing Manager

What shall I do when my project manager and I have different views on my goals?

Discuss it. In general, the first advice in case of any hitch is to talk to your manager about it.

It’s ok to disagree and provide your arguments. You need to remember that your manager is always on your side.

When the manager considers you are not quite well at something, and you disagree with it, ask an expert in this area to validate your knowledge. If you answer the theoretical questions asked by the expert and do the exercises without any issues, that could be a good reason for the manager to admit he or she was mistaken. But if you do not succeed in these tasks, it will show you that you have to work a little more to upgrade the skill.

Your opinion can differ from your manager’s. It is important to discuss all the controversial points. After all, managers are not mistake-proof.

I guess we are not in the situation when the manager pushes and an employee has to defend. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you want to learn something, you have to make this topic important to you.

Let’s imagine you want to listen to your manager’s advice and learn what was proposed to you. Then, you need to find out why this topic can be important to you and get excited about it. Meanwhile, you shouldn’t force yourself into something that doesn’t drive you. Hardly ever you can learn something really well by forcing yourself.

Tatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM SystemsTatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM Systems

Tatyana YeromaSoftware Testing Manager

I want to postpone my deadlines in PDP. Is it a problem?

Generally, yes, it is. But in some cases, you can do this. What is certainly forbidden is to “over-procrastinate”.

Some objective circumstances like hot time on a project, release, or vacation can take place. In case any of these doesn’t let you follow the plan, yet not letting anyone down, your deadline postponement request can be considered favorably. But when shifting deadlines becomes a habit for the next week or month, ask yourself: do you really need these goals?

If the person gives up on a goal, it is necessary to understand the reason. The real bad case is when we have already started the educational process, involved a mentor, included an employee’s project load and vacation into the plan, and made sure all of these will not be a distraction. And it was the initiative of a person to grow and learn, - nobody was forcing or convincing them.

This looks like a breach of promise. Though it depends on whether it is the first incident for this person or not. Maybe the employee has simply overestimated their potential and strength. Maybe something extremely important happened in their life. Or maybe they are careless with their words.

Tatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM SystemsTatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM Systems

Tatyana YeromaSoftware Testing Manager

I am satisfied with my career. Why do I need a career development plan?

This is a tricky feeling. It is important to develop to stay in demand as a specialist, to get promotions, receive salary increases. Here, our broad learning opportunities to specialists in any technology stack are really helpful. It is worth mentioning that it is highly difficult to get to the “I achieved everything” case - there’s always something else to learn and achieve.

Normally, when people say the phrase “I am okay with everything I have and don’t want to grow anymore”, it may show that something is wrong. These words are quite generalized, that may hide fatigue, laziness, fear, or disappointment in the chosen profession. If you are “okay with everything”, first of all, you need to answer honestly why is it so and how long it will last in your case.

The latter question is quite sensitive: most likely it will not last long. If you are not learning anything new, eventually you will start lagging behind. The ‘plateau’ condition - when you do not grow - leads to a deadlock and is quite addictive. And then over time, it is getting harder to escape from it.

Tatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM SystemsTatyana Yeroma, manager at EPAM Systems

Tatyana YeromaSoftware Testing Manager

A career development plan can be useful in very different situations for specialists in any domain – from specialists in software developer positions to design, business analysts, and HR, and it is better to get it as soon as possible. Even if you do not have any particular career development goal at the moment, you may think of the things you would like to learn. What if you actually have lots of aspirations you have never thought about?

😊

By the way, if you are a front-end developer and the direction of your professional growth is vague and uncertain, our career growth adviser may help you by giving qualified advice on your career prospects. It’s free.

This article was initially created in Russian by klever.blog

Translated by: Daria Novikova, Content Strategist

Written by

Article's author Aleksandra KovalevaArticle's author Aleksandra Kovaleva

Aleksandra KovalevaSenior Communications Specialist

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