First of all, different titles mean
different things in different companies. I have been everything from VP
and CTO at successful startups to
CEO of my own company, but after
years of having executive-level titles, I
took a role without one.
If I had rejected that job opportunity because the title was lower than
any that I had had in the previous 10
years, I would have missed out on
one of the biggest, most life-chang-ing growth opportunities that I have
Moreover, in that role, instead of being a software engineer I was in the job
category of technical program manager
(TPM). I had never been a TPM before,
and to be honest, it was not a role I
identified with. No one would describe
me as organized, and I didn’t have the
background skills; I write code and lead
Even though the title was a demotion, and it was a job family that didn’t
fit, I still took the position because of
what I could gain from it.
Yes, I had to learn some TPM skills,
but what was truly valuable about that
job was the access it gave me. Because
of what my team was focused on, I got
to be in meetings with top executives
who were running 1,000-plus-person
teams. I was presenting to VPs who
had decision-making power for a
I had a huge scope. Instead of being siloed in one department where I
was the boss, I was able to get on the
radar of key leaders throughout the
organization. I was able to gain influence and visibility; I saw the priorities
for the whole company (not just my
department), which allowed me to
align myself with the most important
work being done.
I got to learn, and I gained visibility. I
built my network and got to know many
people in the organization as a whole.
Over time, I earned even bigger influence and control. And my title had nothing to do with it.
When you are looking at different
job opportunities, think about the big-
ger picture for your career. Where do
you want to be in 10 years? What is your
ultimate career goal?
This is different for everyone.
Think about where you want to end
up, and work backward from there.
What skills do you need in order to
get there? What steps will you need to
take along the way?
Focusing on the short-term win
of getting a fancy title or bigger paycheck is a mistake. If a job is not actively putting you into the situations
you need in order to grow or make the
right contacts, then it is not really the
right choice. It will delay you getting
where you need to go.
When you are looking at an opportunity, consider whether this role will help
you level up your career. Ask yourself the
˲ What skills do I still need to build in
order to make progress toward my goals?
˲ What benefits will the job afford
me that maybe are not visible in the
˲ Who will I meet?