Why moving to a new job improves your skills

I’ve just finished the first week of my new job. Before I started, it appeared to be, superficially, fairly similar to my previous role: both are software development roles mostly use the same Microsoft and JetBrains technologies, both practice Test Driven Development and follow other Agile principles to deliver I.T. change. That is about where the similarities end.

Starting this new role has made me question a lot of my beliefs as a developer and look more at alternative architectures and other strategies.

Previous role New role
Every employee in the same town Employees in different countries
Needed to write high performing queries that acted on milions of rows of data Need to write high performing queries that act on billions of rows of data
There were many development teams and each responsible for a few applications. There is one team in charge of the majority of the company software
There was a solutions architecture team to consult with who kept designs relatively consistent and reusable, and vetted any radical proposals. The development team is entirely at liberty to change application architectures as and when it sees fit to do so.
We built software for people who worked in the same company We build software directly for our end customers.
Primarily viewed as a financial services company. Primarily viewed as a technology services company.
Retrospectives lasted at least an hour Retrospectives last a few minutes
Sprints always 2 weeks Varying sprint lengths
Product Refinement/Grooming meetings with business analysts and business users last an hour Product refinement is as and when amongst the team members
Languages included C# (Webforms), JavaScript, VB.NET (Winforms) and VBA. Languages include C# (MVC), Java, JavaScript, Python and ASP
Data access using ADO.NET Data access using Entity Framework
Unit Testing using MS Test and NSubstitute, with best endeavours and an aspirational 80% code coverage Unit Testing using NUnit, Rhino Mocks and Jasmine, with mandatory 100% code coverage for everything expect the data access layer

Having a different perspective can be very useful in destroying beliefs of following the “best designs and processes”. The best designs are highly dependent on the relevant domain. The best processes are highly dependent on the relevant employees.

Initially it was very humbling to go from being one of the “go to” guys who knew a decent amount about most things, to being the guy who knew almost nothing, in the space of just a few days. But over the course of the week, my understanding has increased and with that my confidence as well.

My colleagues at Just Retirement were kind enough to buy me Amazon gift vouchers. I used them to buy two books, GOOS and “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. I can highly recommend reading Delivering Happiness. Many parts struck a chord with me but particularly the bit about “changing tables”.

Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins.

I am not suggesting that switching jobs is the only way to improve your skills or grow yourself. Perhaps switching to a new team within your company might have the same effect. But have a long term plan for what you want to achieve in your career and don’t let inertia prevent you from your achievements.

Instead of having New Year’s resolutions, I set myself one big goal for each year. Last Year it was to move to a bigger home. Although I was very happy when this happened, after a little while I was surprised that I only felt slightly happier than I did before and wondered why I wasn’t more happy.

I decided it must be because I wasn’t achieving as much as I wanted to in my career, and I decided that should be my next big goal for the following year. A couple of month’s later we bought a cat from the local rescue center. I found that the little noisy ball of fluff brought me as much extra happiness as the new home did. So I figured that there can’t be much of a corellation between money and happiness.

And with starting my new job I’ve had a similar feeling again. Although I’m proud of my achievement so far, it is really only just the beginning for me. So I am starting to think about what big accomplishment could be achieved by the end of the next year. But before I can find the answer to that, I need to get to know my team better.

Further Reading
Delivering Happiness

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