An Note on Corporate Development

I have not written much in a while, but I’m a little over six months into my current job and I wanted to share some thoughts. This is my second corporate job as a software developer. Both of my jobs have been in fintech—“financial technology”, I think. Previously LendingTree, which is an intermediary for mortgages and other kinds of loans. Now Kemper, which is an insurance company. I work on part of the program that sends people back quotes in real time.

Corporate life has been good to me. I can tell that my boss is severely busy, and always going to meetings. But she clearly works very hard to shelter me from all that. My manager at LendingTree sheltered me from meetings too. They both took the meetings so I didn’t have to. So I can just focus on engineering.

I mention good stuff that has happened to me in this corporate world because I think there’s a fairly large stigma associated with it, and I think that’s unfair. It’s not so bad working in a cubicle. I sit near some cool people who help me when I ask, and sometimes I can even help them. It’s a very open office plan, so if you need someone’s help because that person is a subject matter expert or something like that, you can just walk over and talk to that person without having to go through an office door. My boss’s boss has an office, but I’ve never seen the door closed, and the walls are made of glass.

So, speaking of the good things, I had a performance evaluation a few weeks ago, and I received an “exceeds expectations”, which really pleased me. I’m already making almost twice as much as I made while teaching at Texas State. A good review puts me in a good position for a promotion and/or pay bump at the one-year mark. It may not happen, but I do kinda think they are paying me a little less than I’m worth.

And it’s also a more pleasant job than teaching. I’m more respected. I don’t have to deal with 20-somethings and their apathy. I am surrounded by smart colleagues who freely help me both to help me and for the sake of our shared interest—to do our jobs and make money for the company.

At the performance review meeting with my boss, I raised a concern that I did not want to be stuck doing production bug-fixes all the time—not 100%. I told her I realize that it’s part of the job, but I just don’t want it to be my whole job. She said she knows that and she doesn’t want me to get bored because bored people leave and she wants me to stay. I never got anywhere near that kind of respect while teaching.

I enjoy engineering, but here’s the thing: I don’t ever want to just do the same thing forever. That’s a big part of why I left teaching. There is no likely path of advancement in that field. Teachers and professors may get pay-raises and meaningless promotions, but what they actually do is basically the same thing every day from when they were first hired until the day they retire. I’m not interested in that.

I have thought along several different paths for moving up the corporate ladder. I don’t see it happening any time very soon, but I think in a few years I might like to transition into product management. I know a guy at Kemper who is a product manager. He’s very busy, and we are not besties, so I don’t bother him often. But we talk occasionally.

That man was previously a developer like myself, and he moved into Product. Moreover, we had a brief online chat today, and he said that his boss would likely come and see me sometime in a while.

And there are various other directions I could move if I want. I could move up two more grades as a developer. I could become an “architect”, which is like a promotion above all the developer jobs. I could become a team lead, which is a manager of developers and a developer at the same time. Or maybe I could move into Product. Or maybe data science. All of those options seem possible if I have the talent to pull it off. Outside a corporate environment, I don’t think it would be possible to move like that.

I’m OK where I am for now. I’m not even worried about what happens at the annual review. But I like the idea that I could move up, and I could make more impactful decisions. It could happen. I think it will happen.