In tech years, eight years is enough for a gold watch. I went to work for a newly formed company called Method Driven Software in early 2007 as it’s first employee (there were two partner/employees that remain with the firm today in various forms). Through the years, we acquired several firms and rebranded twice, eventually becoming Level Seven. I had the privilege of helping shape the company along the way, and working with many talented individuals. While I helped shape the experience, it certainly shaped me.
Over the course of 2014, it became fairly clear to me that it was time for a new direction in my career. Not because of Level Seven. With the labor shortage in technology and expanding economy, I think Level Seven is poised for success. I also happen to have supported some of the new leadership joining the company, and would recommend it as a place for anyone interested in technical service work.
I’ll expand on what is next for me in a later post, but I have been moving in the direction of data science tools and building of larger technical teams for a while. I also found myself looking to try my hand in the product space, where I could focus on growing and building a suite of software for a while. In short, my interests and talents were aligning less with what Level Seven was doing in the near term. We did have one project that required some of those technical skills, but in the grand scheme: I was growing in value to companies outside of the consulting world, and Level Seven was less dependent on me than it had been in the past. I can be sentimental about things at time, but work is rarely one of them.
I’d like to summarize some of the most important things working at Leven Seven taught me.
There are a lot of development jobs you can start your career in where you won’t meet customers very often directly. This is why UX is so hard, many companies’ processes just aren’t wired for it. Service companies understand the impact of client relationships. As do sales people. And at a services company, everyone should be selling.
Leadership Over Authority
If you choose to work as a consultant, you will regularly be put in the position of having to convince the people who are paying your bills that they are wrong and there is a better way. You have to be certain, and judicious about this, and have a good reason to do so. But most importantly, when you do this, you will have to drive consensus without authority. After all, you don’t work at the client, you’re just paid to be there. This is invaluable. Because at the end of the day, it’s the only way to lead anyway. If you are a team lead or manager at a product company, you may have the “authority” to order people to follow your direction without explanation. But keep in mind those people can find a new job in about ten minutes. And they will provide feedback to your boss and other stakeholders. Real leaders lead, they don’t dictate. Let the right ideas rise to the top. This doesn’t fix the fact that you will run into people that won’t admit they are wrong when the ship is going under, but that’s life.
Principles And Domains Over Languages
It’s an cliche, but you should be doing this in any job. From the perspective of the job you’re in, it’s valuable to your company if you can generate business leads, find recruits, or recommend great vendor partners. But what about yourself? It’s how you grow by interacting with other perspectives, form an employment safety net, etc. Through user groups, client relationships, etc, I was able to drive value to Level Seven. And in turn, I knew that even though a company of that size carries some employment risk, I had enough contacts to be reemployed with a very short turnaround if need be.
Evaluate Jobs Based On Leadership And Strategy
Many job seekers look at finances. Others (especially in technology) look at platforms and toolsets. Working in consulting is a form of post-graduate education on business. You get exposed to a lot of business models and projects, and get a taste for what works and what doesn’t. The experience of working with the so many companies in NorthEast Ohio showed me that great leadership and owners prevail. Look for honest, driven people who are focused on sustainable success. And I would avoid getting trapped in stereotypes of platforms. Language X may be “dying”, but I would take a great team working with yesterday’s technology over a dysfunctional one with with
ruby node elixir or whatever is hot.
In The End…
I had the privilege of working with some great mentors, and mentoring some great people at Level Seven. I entered the company as a newly-wed and leave a father of two still happily married. I was treated fairly (and then some) my entire tenure. I had many experiences and training opportunities that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. And I left on my own terms with a sense of accomplishment. It was difficult to leave a workplace with so many friends, but I feel a sense of peace with my entire cycle there. It was an experience I can’t place a value on, and I hope you find value in me sharing some of it.