Career Lens for Software Engineers — Part 3 : Career Roadmap

Optimize your path to success

Swathi Sundar
4 min readJul 3, 2021
Courtesy: — 5 steps in your Career Roadmap

If you know your long term goal, do you have a roadmap (complete with checkpoints and milestones) to achieve it? Knowing where you are in life and understanding where you are in your career, do you know what next steps to follow? Are you surrounded by the right set of folks who can help accelerate your career?

This 5-step plan below will help you structure and take action on your own career roadmap. Create a new word document and follow through the steps mentioned below. You can use this document to track your progress in a regular cadence.

Step 1 — Motivators

For most of us, a combination of factors influence our motivation at work. These motivators can also change over time — we as humans keep evolving, the environment around us changes, our personal situations change etc. Having a good understanding of what motivates you now can help you bring out the best in you and in turn ensure that you experience positive feelings like joy and satisfaction through your work.

Reflect on what motivates you best and pick your top 3 out of this list and internalise them.

Step 2 — Long-term Goal

Write down a few sentences that describe how you’d like to develop your career long-term. These could be vague, ambitious, and dreamy! Some examples of this could be: “I’d like to start my own company” or “I want to become a better software engineer growing into Staff and Principal level roles” or “I’d like to improve my leadership skills and get into a leadership role” or “I want to keep learning and growing”.

Step 3 — Milestones

Call out a set of milestones that will help you get to your long-term goals. Milestones can be specific to your company’s levels (eg. Get to L3) or skill related (eg. Develop mastery in area X) or anything else you care about.

For example, let’s say you are a new grad (L1) and would like to become a senior engineer (L3) in a couple of years. Your milestones could look like the following. Please note that this is purely an example and might have missed other critical milestones.

  • Learn the code base and deliver multiple decent sized projects successfully by end the year
  • Take courses to dive deep into code and architectural design patterns.
  • Get promoted to L2.
  • Review other’s code and actively participate in design reviews for your team/organization.
  • Sign up to become the scrum master or an interviewer for your team.
  • Mentor an intern next summer.
  • Drive multiple medium sized projects independently and work on at least 1 project with cross-team collaboration in 18 months.
  • Become a tech lead for your team.
  • Get promoted to L3 senior engineer in 24 months.

Step 4 — Roadmap

Create a structured way to track your progress against your milestones. Set explicit dates and timelines for your milestones above. Check your progress against your timelines in a regular cadence, say monthly or quarterly.

Get familiar with your company’s career competency matrix and do a self evaluation against it. This means creating/copying over the expected roles and responsibilities for your level and level+1, and diligently thinking through multiple examples of your past projects. Be honest with yourself on which dimensions of the matrix you are demonstrating well, and which areas have scope for improvement. Take time to reflect on peer and manager feedback from the past.

Share your personal career plan with your manager in your next 1:1. Talk through the gaps in your skill sets and ask for opportunities to build them in the course of the next few months. Your manager can be your accountability partner for your roadmap. Ask them for feedback on your current plan and incorporate relevant suggestions.

Step 5 — Board of Directors

Like with any startup, your career needs a board of directors — people who can help you influence and shape your career in the right direction. While you own your career, you can rely on our board of directors to gather feedback and make improvements.

Identify a list of technical and non-technical mentors in your company and others outside of your company who would help you build the necessary skills and coach you through them. Reach out to them in a regular cadence and build a relationship.

This is essential because, this network of people can potentially refer you to new opportunities, motivate you when you are down and also provide guidance when you are clueless.

This blog concludes the Career Lens framework series (which includes self-awareness, market realities and career roadmap) . As a recap, this framework is a non prescriptive way to think about your career. You can use, personalise or skip any portion of this series to what personally makes sense for your career.