At the top of the technical track? (How can you still grow in your career?)

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At the top of the technical track?

When you’re a principle, staff, fellow, or whatever kind of engineer or architect your company labels the top of the non-technical career ladder, you may wonder where you go from there?

How can you grow your career when your ladder has no more rungs?

Do you have to become a manager if you don’t want to?


Moving into management is a complete change of careers and requires a different set of skills. And it’s not a good fit for everyone.

Here are some ways you can grow in your career even when you already hold the highest non-technical title your company offers:

1️⃣ Build stronger personal relationships. Grow your knowledge of your peers, your boss’s peers, and the direct reports of your boss’s peers. Find out what they like and what challenges them. Incorporate what you learn about them into your future designs and proposals to improve the broader quality of life in your entire organization.

2️⃣ With the increasing strength of those relationships, expand your understanding of the broader business decisions other teams have to make and the ongoing tensions they have to manage.

3️⃣ Propose initiatives and programs to help develop other engineers. This probably means more than simply contributing articles to a corporate blog or knowledgebase. Consider what you might do to encourage more person-to-person interaction, such as Open Space-style meetings or Donut-style automated one-on-one meeting invitations or even a more formal mentoring program.

4️⃣ Take some time to reflect on recent business or interdepartmental challenges that you’ve observed. Brainstorm your own creative way to step outside of your formal role to offer value to your colleagues.

Once you’ve reached the top of your formal career ladder, ambition and fulfillment can come from other places besides formal advancement. When you find creative ways to add unexpected value at work, both your career and your job satisfaction can grow even without a structured plan from your employer.

And if you’d like some help with that creative thinking, I’d love to talk.

Visit for a complimentary conversation.

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