Develop Yourself and Your Career

The development of the skills to help drive your career is in your hands.  This article will give you the how and the why to develop your career plan plus professional and technical skills so that you can accelerate your career growth.

Goals and Planning

Being great at your role today means that you need to be a perpetual learner and always apply a growth mindset.  The technology industry is always moving and changing, and so if you are not changing as well then you are being left behind.  You need to create an environment of continuous learning and improvement.  Your knowledge needs to be seen as Darwinian.  You need to get out of your comfort zone, adapt and change and then survive.

In order to drive continuous learning then you need to know your starting point and also where you want to get to.  Some people have a clear career goal, others have just a vague idea of where they want to be.  

You should create a plan and document your goals in as much detail as possible.  It might be a broad statement of direction or it might have multiple steps and roles.  Allocate realistic timeframes to when you would like each career step.  Most people will plan up to 5 years ahead, but that call is yours to make.

The next step is to assess your current strengths and gaps in relation to the plan.  One tool that you can use is SWOT analysis.  Take some time to run SWOT analysis against your own skills and plan.  Use strengths and weaknesses to assess your skills.  Use Opportunities and Threats to assess the roles that you have thought about. This will help guide you to understand what you need to develop yourself but also clarify if the future role that you have planned is really what you want to do.

Professional Skills

No matter what your career plan looks like, it must include developing your professional skills such as communication skills, planning, time management, etc..  But in many respects the most important skill to develop is confidence, especially if you are in a customer facing role.  Many other skills rely on confidence – presentations, negotiations and in fact any personal interactions.

Confidence can be built in a number of ways – building knowledge so that you are sure of your answers, repetition for things like presentations and demos, but we need to recognise that it is also a state of mind.  One trick that I highly recommend is to just assume confidence.  It sounds crazy, but it works.  Just before you start the conversation, presentation or whatever interaction, put on your confident persona – just like putting on a suit of armour.  You are now the most knowledgeable person in the room, and if you act confident then you ARE confident.  I have used this trick for many years, especially in front of large audiences, and I know of many pop and film stars that use the same approach.  Try it – you will be amazed.

Communications and Time Management Skills

The next set of skills that you need to develop are communications skills, planning and time management and negotiation skills.

We are all communicators but how and when we communicate is important to learn and understand.  There are many online courses that can help, and your company may also run communication courses.  My simple advice to you is that for any conversation or message, consider the three critical things that you need the listener or reader to understand.  Focus your time and energy on those three things.  As humans we tend to forget 80% of what we hear anyway.

Time management and planning are closely linked.  Your time is the one resource that you cannot buy or earn more of and so you need to protect it.  Try different ways of categorising and managing what you do.  

I would also include developing your mental health skills and mindfulness in this section.  Over the last few years we have created a much better understanding of the challenges of mental health, stress management and mindfulness.  These are equally as important as physical health and so must be part of your professional skills development program.

The Importance of Technical Skills

Technical skills are at the heart of a sales engineering role, but they are also clearly important to many other roles.  The ability to demonstrate technical competency is crucial to building credibility and trust.  I am not going to provide a list of the technology skills that you need – that should come from the analysis that you have already done about your career path – but I do want to point out that the acquisition of technology skills should never stop.

We work in a world where technology moves at pace and so we need to ensure that if we want to stay relevant then we need to continue to learn and build new skills.  That also means looking at skills in adjacent technologies.

One of the questions that I regularly get is “should I learn coding skills”.  My view on that is that it can really help, not just from a code creation perspective, but also from a methodology and broader tech landscape perspective.  The more that you understand the challenges of developers, database admins, networking professionals, cloud architects, etc then the more you will be able to relate to them and design better solutions.

Methods for Skill Development

As you focus on continuous growth and your career plan you need to introduce the concept of a Personal Development Plan.  This plan is your roadmap for your ongoing professional development.  It should include short term goals for your day to day job as well as medium and longer term goals for where you would like to take your career.  Great SEs plan their career goals and then execute on the plan.

Developing and keeping your skills up to date does not just have to be about formal training.  Reading this article is an example of the fact that you have a growth mindset and so you should set aside time in your week to always be learning.  This could be reading, watching a webinar or an online course or on the job training, but it needs to be classed as priority time.

Formal training also has a place in the development plan.  You should get support from your manager for specific formal training, but the really well structured plans combine on the job training, reading and self-paced courses as well.  Discussing the PDP with your manager is a great opportunity to make sure that they know your career aspirations.  However, don’t assume that your manager will do everything for you.  You own the plan !

Your manager should also know if there is an individual training budget that you can use for courses and books.  Maximise your use of the budget – it is there to be used.  You might also get training discounts available through your employer.

Team Training

Another option is to ask your manager for team training on certain topics.  I am a big believer in doing regular team training so that we learn from each other or learn together with specific training.  This could be 2 hours a week on a team call, a book club to review specific chapters of a book or a regular team ‘lunch and learn’.

The key is to always be learning something new.  Make it a habit – weekly and monthly.  Set a goal to read a book every month, then every 2 weeks, then every week.  Your future self will thank you !

One final point to consider is the use of mentors.  I strongly recommend that you try to find a mentor that can help you drive your career.  They should be independent from your work reporting line so that they can provide completely impartial advice.  And remember that as your career grows then you might need new mentors that can help with your new roles.


Your personal development is a journey that requires intention and dedication. By assessing your current skill set, focusing on technical and professional skills, and employing effective strategies for skills acquisition, you’ll position yourself for continuous growth and success.  But remember, any journey needs a destination, and you NEED to consider where your journey will take you.


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