I recently joined a developer community Dev.to. It is a really nice place where people spur discussions and ask questions that are not only related to technologies and software development but are incredibly important as well, for us, the human beings constantly looking for meaning in life. One of these questions is my favorite “What are your career goals?”.
I'd spent a decent hour writing and polishing the answer and it turns out to be so important and concise that I'd like to publish it on my website. Publish in order not to lose it, share it with people who're interested in me, and emphasize this incredibly important reasoning I'd happily derived from the most recent experience.
I hope these thoughts might be helpful for those who constantly question their careers and even themselves.
The answer to the original question is below. This is one of the questions I enjoy asking myself and anybody related to the tech I happen to speak with.
Quitting Job to Find Answers
If I was asked before I quit my job at Yandex in February 2017, I would be absolutely unsure. I had an intention to quit for about 2 years after I'd finally paid off all my debts and started saving money instead of wasting it. The reason to quit was that despite the job was well-paid, it did not feel right and fulfilling. I felt bad because there was a lot of stress but no growth.
Most importantly, after I first got my developer job more than 10 years ago I had never really been sure anymore if I was still passionate about programming and if it was the “right” thing to do with my life.
It took me 2 years to finally decide to quit and take a half-year sabbatical vacation to calm down and find out what I wanted. I guess it had worked out and helped me to come up with a few conclusions.
Hopefully, you won't need such radical measures to bring some meaning to your life and for sure, I won't recommend quitting your job, as well as don't think it's required to do so to find the answers.
It's Not What You Do But How You Do It and with Whom
Feeling fulfilled and useful is more about how you approach the problems rather than what problems you solve. Both are crucial but I don't really believe in anything like destiny unless you're the one who creates it. So while you're dealing with more or less arbitrary problems you happen to face, you still want to be enthusiastic, learn and develop your skills, and communicate with others in a way that brings joy and sense of purpose.
Here's a potential growth point: change your attitude and see what happens to your job. Maybe it becomes more attractive than before.
On top of that, I had concluded that the right people around bring much more satisfaction than the “right” things I do. It's important to be a part of a helpful and encouraging community, which also takes some effort to assimilate in.
Staying Tuned to the Passion and Learning
The next crucial thing is learning. I enjoy it even though it had been a long time until I figured out how to handle frustration caused by inevitable mistakes that happen while dealing with something new and start enjoying the process of learning and its results.
Now I'm going to continue my formal computer science & math education to acquire knowledge and skills that will help me solve more complex and interesting problems. While doing that, I will obviously need some freelance or remote job to pay the bills, even though this thing might mostly stay in the background so I can focus on what's important.
At this point, the path I'd chosen becomes really tough (and untimely) but there's no other one I could come up with. I'll just have to manage it.
What My Career Goals Are
I finally came to the point when I can answer the original question. The career goal for the next 5-10 years is to make, or at least participate in, a profitable software company that ships a useful product that I have an affection for.
I'd already planned building prototypes or MVPs for different ideas I have and throwing them into the wild to find out if people like them. I love the idea of meritocratic entrepreneurship in tech!
However, I'll try to stay realistic and keep my feet on the ground. All these ideas I have might fail. Even if it happens, as long as I manage to stay passionate and curious about software development, keep learning and acquiring new useful skills, make something meaningful, and spend time with nice and smart people I will be fine. No matter what I end up doing.
Have you found these examples moving in any way? Have you also answered questions like that to yourself? I will be happy to read from you!