Haupz Blog

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Time For Something Different

2022-12-26 — Michael Haupt

Average retention of software engineers is actually quite low: “Around 50% of software engineers only stay at a company for two years before switching to somewhere new.” The money topic aside, I’ve spoken to several people who mused that after two or three years in the same workplace, “it’s just time for something different”. Frankly, I’ve never quite understood why that would be imperative.

It’s time for something different because ... ?

It’s time for something different so that ... ?

Asking for those extensions of the “time for something different” was often met with a shrug and an emphasis on the “just”: “it’s just time for something different”.

Back in May, I had a conversation with my coaching trainer Maik, who asked me about my start earlier that month at a new company, and the steepness of the learning curve. (Hint: it was very steep, and that wa expected, good, and fun.) Maik proposed that the learning curve when starting at a new company usually takes the shape of an S curve, plotting amassed knowledge over time, with a very steep gradient right at the beginning as new information comes flying from all directions. It makes sense intuitively: starting a new job, you learn a lot in a short time. Eventually, the curve flattens out at a high level: after a while in the same workplace, you’ve learned all the things needed to be able to do your job really well. Depending on the nature of the job and the complexity of the company, that can be one to three years.

Then what?

Is that, the point in time where someone realises they’re experiencing a flatter learning curve, the moment where they think “it’s just time for something different”?

It could be. But does that something have to be in an entirely different workplace, with all the anxiety and insecurity coming with a new job and environment? Can’t the different be found where you are?

In the rare case where you think you can’t learn anything more about the company, I’d argue that’s actually really good. You can spend less time learning about the company, and more - much more - thinking freely, learning seemingly unrelated things, connecting dots between those, and truly innovating. Having such a vast amount of knowledge at your disposal can lead to emerging new insights - which means you’ve learned something again. The curve flattens, but the weight of what’s learned “up there” can be much heavier than further down the slope.

There are careers like the one of Christian Klein, who joined SAP in 1999, aged 19, and has been working there ever since. He has worked there in different functions over the years, and is now CEO. Without ever having met him to ask him about this, I’m sure he always found something different.

Tags: work