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No. 776 / Four career paths

Instead of deciding what you want your title to be or defining what you want to do for a living, think about your career path in terms of broad strokes. 

The way I look at it, there are four possible routes your career could go based on your aptitudes and interests. Four viewpoints, if you will:

1) Design

2) Build

3) Manage

4) Sell

Maybe you’re a designer. Designers are inventors and scientists. They do experiments. Test things. Ask questions, then test again. Sometimes the things they try work, sometimes they don’t. They are curious and pay attention to the small details around them that no one else pays attention to. They are avid note-takers. They come up with ideas, theories, and sketches; publish their findings, then move on to other experiments. 

You could be a builder. Builders make things that work. They’re the engineers; but they could also be sales leaders, movie directors, or craftsmen. They take existing best practices and construct something that won’t fall. They build towers that won’t tip over, code that doesn’t crash, trains that go fast, companies that are efficient and effective. 

Or maybe you’re a manager. This could mean managing people or projects. Either way, managers optimize workflow. They are the operations people. They take the playbook and they execute on it. They communicate timeline, manage expectations, and ensure things are shipped when and to whom they should be. Then, they help make your life easier with whatever else you need them to do. 

Finally, you might be in sales. Salespeople are responsible for spreading the idea. They tell a compelling-enough-story that makes people want to buy. They understand how the thing was designed, built, and how it works so that they can solve other people’s problems with their solution. Most importantly, they bring the market to them through key partnerships and relationships by introducing something the market can’t live without. 

If we were talking about software—Designers create the wireframes. Developers write the code. Operations prioritize projects. Sales generate interest/revenue. 

If we were talking about rail transport—Scientists invent the train. Engineers build it. Operations make it run on time. Sales convince people to travel places via train. 

Here’s the thing, salespeople shouldn’t be coding, it’s inefficient for engineers to be making stuff up, operations should be more focused on if things are running on time over how it looks, and designers probably wouldn’t last long if they spent all their time selling something that’s not yet invented. 

This isn’t to say that changing hats is wrong, it’s suggesting that whichever hat you are currently wearing, wear it well.