How to make a decision
April 18, 2006 4:40 PM   Subscribe

How to choose - two roles, both appealing, and only one me.

I have two career opportunities available to me - both these roles are of interest, but they are at opposite ends of the software development continuum. One is a architecture role, with design, research and forward-thinking responsibility. The other is an integration role, development, testing and problem-solving at the end of the software lifecycle. One will require strategic thinking, the other is all about the detail (though I reckon in both cases there will be an amount of crossover). My background is in software development, and i see both opportunities as a natural progression - either becoming even more expert in the platform I work in, or becoming the forward thinker.

There are a lot of subsidiary criteria surrounding both roles - different companies, transport times, benefits, travel etc - but they all pretty much even out, so I'm trying to make my decision by comparing the roles, then I'll deal with the rest of it after I'm sure what I'd prefer to do. Probably no one can give me direct advice without knowing me and my situation in detail, but if anyone can give me some ideas on what to think about when deciding, I'd really appreciate it. I've been pondering this for almost a week now, and I'm really frazzled.
posted by rootz to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Both these jobs are important, but the design stuff is usually the most appealing. You can work with the newest and bestest, and you don't have to suffer through the decisions that lesser mortals made. :) (instead, you get to create stuff that other people will kvetch about for years. Great fun. :) )

The integration stuff is good, but you're also tying your skills very very intensely into a particular product or set of products. If that product falls out of favor, you'll have to retrain. Design skills atrophy much more slowly.

I'd strongly suggest going for the design role, personally.... unless you're absolutely certain that your product has a very long lifespan. If you're very confident about your product's future, then being one of the best at that particular product can be very financially rewarding, although usually not as much fun.
posted by Malor at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2006

If you're an architect, people will bitch that you're an ivory tower elitist. It may be hard to get the respect of your co-workers when you parachute in from another company and you haven't worked in the trenches.

If you're an integrator, people will bitch that you're too busy and that something's on fire and you need to fix it yesterday.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:16 PM on April 18, 2006

I can only speak to the really frazzled part, and maybe this post will make me sound a little crazy...

When I was trying to choose between law firms to work at, I took it very seriously, and was stressing out, and couldn't decide which I wanted. And whenever I tried to choose, I'd get stressed and procrastinate. Here's what helped:

I took out a piece of paper, and I wrote the following sentence over and over again:

"I will calmly and wisely make a decision."

Over and over. After about ten lines of writing, the part of my brain that would get all stressed out focused on the writing, and the rest of me could think very clearly about the choice I needed to make. I filled up about three pages on both sides with this sentence, but when I was done, I'd made a decision. I think this is just a form of meditation, really, but it's what worked for me. Might help you.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:26 PM on April 18, 2006

The biggest question for me would be: will the architect position take me away from the code?

Architecture, research, and design are all a lot of fun, but if the end result of your work is a product specification document that you never see again, it can really leave you feeling empty.

Especially if you've ever been on the receiving end of one of those documents and largely ignored it because the guy who wrote it clearly had no idea how the existing system fit together.

If you really have the gift for forward thinking (I don't) and you eventually see yourself as a CTO, then a pure design and architecture role might not be a bad thing. Someone has to have the 10,000 ft view. Just don't get too upset when your Grand Vision For Tomorrow gets translated a few times on its way into production.
posted by tkolar at 6:48 PM on April 18, 2006

I always find that if two sides of a tough decision are pretty much balanced even after a week's consideration, it doesn't actually matter which way you jump; you just have to jump.

Flip a coin.

If you don't like what the coin says, change your mind ONCE.

Then jump.
posted by flabdablet at 7:13 PM on April 18, 2006

I would think about how much you enjoy dealing with people, especially non-tech types that you will be coordinating with on projects. The first job sounds like that will be a big part of it, the second not so much.

I recently took a job that involves dealing a lot with the public and inter-office politics etc and while it is only about 30% of the job description it is at least 90% of the work. As it turns out, people drive me crazy.
posted by fshgrl at 7:17 PM on April 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all for the great answers. I'll be trying to get some work done before meditating on it - or flipping a coin :-)
posted by rootz at 1:35 AM on April 19, 2006

Live with it over the weekend.

On Saturday, mentally act "as if" you took job one. Think about your commute, your coworkers, your normal work volume. Try to write some of the things you anticipate will be pressuring you. "Pretend" you took the job for a day. (If you can, talk to someone who has it, and ask, what drives you craziest about the job, and what makes you most satisfied). Imagine doing the job for three or more years.

Then Sunday, reverse it.
posted by filmgeek at 4:37 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Just in case anyone's still following this - a couple of days ago a great calm came upon me, and I plumped for the architecture role. I reckon it will give me the breadth that I want while keeping me close to the technology - the integration role just feels too specialised for where I want to go. There are, as I said, some reasons why I might want to stay at my current organisation - they really look after their people HR-wise, for one, and travelling to and from the new place will be a bit less convenient. Still - the role wins out, and I haven't been happy during my time here. Just have to hope that the new company isn't a let down organisationally - which, based on the conversations I have had with others working there, it isn't.

I will miss the great, great parties they have here, though. And all the cute girls. And all the cute girls at the great parties. Can't make an omelette, etc...
posted by rootz at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2006

The cute girls at the great parties can't make omelettes? What good are they then?

Seriously, congratulations on reaching the decision. I hope your new position is everything you want it to be.
posted by tkolar at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2006

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