Two Roads Diverged: A Career Journey

by Dr. Jessica Helsten, PMP, PSM


“Start new route or add to current route?”

Your GPS may ask you this if you look up a destination while already heading somewhere else.

You may find yourself asking the same question about your career. Knowledge workers in technical fields like science, engineering, and information technology eventually find themselves at a career crossroads, asking:

“Should I continue down the individual contributor path, honing my technical skills? Will my career stagnate, or will I grow? Will I earn the esteem and compensation my years of experience deserve?”

Or:

“Do I take a management job and develop new skills to complement my technical skills?”

The Broken Rung

As a woman in a technology field, the path of people manager also led to the challenge of the “broken rung.”

McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org coined the term “broken rung.” It points out that “the biggest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership is at the first step up to manager.”

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve worked with two accomplished women who supported my aspirations to move into management.

Aspirations Achieved

My first aspiration was to be a project manager. My employer supported that goal by sending me to project management training.

My second aspiration was to become a business intelligence manager. A brave woman on the business side of the house helped me achieve this goal. She took a chance on me, a twenty-year IT veteran, became my ally, and brought me over to the business side.

Dual Career Ladder

Not every organization gives its people the opportunity to grow in whatever direction they choose. Not every technical person wants to go down the people management path.

One of the things that excited me when I joined Rizing is that Rizing has clear career paths for individual contributors and people management. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) calls this the dual career ladder.

SHRM defines it as “a career development plan that allows upward mobility for employees without requiring that they be placed into supervisory or managerial positions.This type of program typically advances employees who have deep technical skills and/or education but who are not interested or inclined to pursue a management or supervisory track.”

Retention Through Choice

According to a Pew Research study, the second-highest driver for workers leaving their jobs during the Great Resignation is a lack of opportunities for advancement.

I would add, “What alternatives are there for those who want to advance but don’t want to manage people?”

The Rizing Advantage

Rizing provides an attractive offering with career tracks for managerial and/or technical development. There are plenty of opportunities to grow and advance as either a people leader or an individual contributor.

As for myself, once again I have the good fortune to have two women supporting me in my career. One is a Rizing coworker while the other works externally.

At Rizing, if that GPS question was about my career, I could answer it either way. I can start a new route or add a second destination to my current route.

Talk to a Rizing Expert

Whether you’re just getting started or are well on your way, we can help.