Working as a developer in a technology services company
Working as a developer in the technology services industry provides huge, if underrated, opportunities for career growth and satisfaction. There is a certain attraction to working as a developer within a software product-based company; it stems from hearing the stories of large work campuses, products with millions of users, and large cheques being written by VCs and acquirers. But the developers in the services department of several of these companies are often the unsung heroes in the background who are not always able to tout their own accomplishments.
To be clear, in this context, a technology services company is one like Spiria – a firm that delivers modern digital strategy, design, and application development.
A wide breadth of industry exposure
In most services companies, developers are rarely stuck working in one particular industry. Healthcare, retail, fin-tech, ad-tech, among others, are all fair game and all come with their own domain-specific expertise, constraints, and challenges. It is true that you may work on one project or with a single client for months or years on end, but typically, developers have fluctuating work assignments. There isn’t so much fluctuation that you become annoyed by the constant switching of context, but just enough to gain a breadth of exposure to different industries, domain-specific expertise, and problems to solve. Besides your own personal work assignments, there are always other projects on the go elsewhere in the company, and opportunities to draw on the experience of other employees. This exposure allows you to become more informed about industry and business needs, which make you a stronger developer able to think outside the code and solve problems more effectively.
Never getting stale
As a developer, exposure to technology is important. Great (or soon to be great) developers seek it out through hobby projects – open source or self-startups. Many developers have a lingering fear of becoming irrelevant as they mature in their careers. Technology moves quickly and keeping up month after month, year after year can get old for some. Being in a services company places you in an environment where, every day, like-minded people with varied skills try to solve problems in new ways, using different technologies, and with different perspectives for different industries. You’ll always have help, inspiration, and motivation to keep it fun.
Gratification beyond commits
My first job after graduating from a 5-year software engineering program was a development role within a services company, where I was able to gain a significant amount of interpersonal experience in a very short time. While it’s great to sit down and get your head into code space, meeting clients and having the opportunity to listen to their needs in person can be refreshing and empowering. Seeing their faces on demo days and getting an unvarnished impression of your performance as a developer from their emotional response is a validating and rewarding learning experience, whether it’s positive or negative. Software is for people, and this kind of personal gratification can exceed that of solving an engineering problem and closing off tickets.
Because services companies are always working against project budgets, and against the clock, developers are challenged to solve problems in ways that may not be immediately obvious. For example, there are times when the easy solution may not work within the budget, and developers must figure out an alternate solution to a problem that meets both project and business needs. Developers need to think “outside the box” of available libraries to plug in, or Stack Overflow code snippets. Too often, developers are kept in the dark about the business side of things and project performance managers simply dictate timelines, with poorly-communicated reasons for crunch times or delivery dates. In a services business, on the other hand, it is not uncommon for everyone to be aware of budget status and the client’s business KPIs. This transparency, as well as seeing the effects your performance and problem solving, is engaging and motivating.
If you’re the entrepreneurial type, you’ll love the fact that a services company allows you to meet many different companies as they come in with many different needs and ideas. If you so choose, you can interface directly with new people looking to form partnerships with the firm, and welcome them into your network.
Yours for the taking
Working as a developer for a services company provides an environment with so many benefits. But it’s up to you to seize them - they are not handed out automatically. As always, you get out of it what you put into it, i.e. whatever you feel is useful for your career. The services business is a dynamic and demanding business; if you take full advantage of it, you will gain a significant boost in your career satisfaction and personal growth.