One day I received an email announcing someone had moved from lead developer of one product to another product. As a result, I sent him a congratulations email. His response highlighted that this was just a lateral move. Based on the exact wording of his response, I wondered if this individual considered this move a negative to the point that it may be demotivating him. Unfortunately, he did. Since I view lateral moves as great opportunities, we talked. He had a number of concerns. The following ones boiled to the top of the list:
Was there an acknowledgment of his current accomplishments?
- Turns out one of the reasons for the move was because of the growth he had been showing as a leader on his current product team. The new product team was struggling in the leadership and his manager believed he was a great fit for this challenge.
I’ve already done this role, what am I going to learn?
- No two teams are the same. In fact, I argue that you can’t say you are skilled in a role until you have successfully performed that role with multiple teams. I have yet to meet anyone that didn’t realize how a solution that worked previously didn’t magically work a second time. You will learn a ton about adapting a team and yourself!
What if I get stuck as a lead dev?
- The fact that you built a team strong enough that your manager is comfortable moving you to a new team is a great sign that you will most likely never be stuck.
- Now repeat that success on another team and you will be amazed at the opportunities that demonstrating repeatable success in various situations awards you. Almost all of my promotions occurred after successful lateral moves. But just a little warning: you have to focus on succeeding with your current role before you can worry about starting your next one.
This person did make the transition and learned a ton. He was also later pulled into another situation because of his continued successes/growth.
Lateral moves are huge opportunities. The best career paths are not linearly upwards but have many twists and turns. Don’t pass them up!
What are your concerns about lateral moves?