I wrote down a few “lessons learned” a few months ago when I hit my 15 year anniversary with the Statistica product (working for companies StatSoft, Dell, Quest, and TIBCO along the way).
I put off finishing it and publishing it because a voice in my head said there are more important things going on in the world than navel-gazing about my career. But then a competing voice says "You can't be a thought leader unless you have thoughts, and you know, tell them to people". Fair point, says Voice 1. Voice 3 says "What's all this 'thought leader' business? What happened to you?" Voice 1 and 2 do a jaunty PowerPoint about building our personal brand. Voice 3 rolls her darkly lined eyes and hits "Publish"***********************************
You have to create your own boundaries. Unlike a restaurant when you go home when the dishes are clean and the floors are swept, software development work is literally never done. Know when you’ve done enough for the day. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Burning out helps no one.
Sometimes you can create your own opportunities - No one has more incentive to make sure you’re doing what you want to do than you do. If you see a way you can add value in a different department that’s more interesting to you, have a couple of conversations and make a plan. Chances are, they’ll want to keep you, even in a different capacity, rather than lose you to a competitor.
Keep an eye on the market. I’ve seen many amazing people let go just because the business is changing directions. Even if you are in love with your current job, periodically choose a “next best alternative” that you would pursue if your job went away. Skill up in these areas.
Keep in touch with people - Your coworkers are a little like siblings. You spent time under the same roof (or virtual roof these days), living through events, sometimes traumatic, sometimes hilarious. They knew you when you were young and inexperienced and did their best to protect you and support you through your awkward phases. They watched wistfully as you became the teacher buddy to new hires, the way they had done for you what seemed like yesterday. They looked up to you, while you hope that they don’t see the terror that you still have no idea what you’re doing, except that you do, but you also know the depths of what you don’t know. With every interaction, we shape one another into the professionals we become years down the line. They’re as much family as anyone you eat Thanksgiving dinner with.
I don’t have a witty conclusion planned, as I am still very much in the process of learning more lessons.