First of all, I just want to acknowledge that I'm privileged enough to be in a company where I have good relationships with my managers, and where I can switch teams without a negative impact on my career. I hope other companies take note of this.
Sometimes change is not only inevitable but natural. Your goals might change, and you might want to make career moves that better align with your current goals. That might be focusing on different technologies, assuming more responsibility, working closely with people that can teach you a lot about a certain subject, or simply working on a different set of projects.
And to achieve that, you might not need to look externally, but internally.
My previous team was focused much more on Backend tasks. I really care about UX, design, and Frontend in general, that’s where I wanted to focus my career, and the natural solution would be to maybe look at different companies.
However, I love my colleagues, the company is exciting and I feel like I could do much more here. And then the stars aligned...
Last year, around September, the company I work for announced some structural changes. Some new teams were being created, and I instantly spotted one that sparked my interest. I directly scheduled a meeting with my manager to express that I would like to be a part of that team.
Here are some things I learned about the process of switching teams and that may be useful to you as well.
No matter the size of the company you work for, it will go through changes over time. New teams will be created, old teams might be merged with others, new products will arrive, and old products will be deprecated and much more.
If you are aware of these changes you will already have a head start for when you're looking for new opportunities.
Company-wide meetings can be worth attending as when changes are announced you are one of the first to know, and thus, one of the first to act. Maybe your company has an internal website with newsletters that you can subscribe to. Or your manager can tell you about the overall direction of the company over one-to-one meetings.
Be proactive, be aware.
Openly express that you're available to different opportunities that might give you advantages over time.
If one of these new teams needs people with your current set of skills, and you have already mentioned to some people you would like to jump on different projects, your name may naturally come up in early-stage conversation.
By being open, you might be presented with interesting opportunities.
Be open, be ready.
In my case, I was called to a temporary project where I met and worked with some senior engineers. When this new team was being created they were the first to be included. So when I said that I would like to be part of that team and they were asked if it was a good idea, I already had them on my side.
Maintaining good relationships with your colleagues is key and you never know when you might need them supporting you.
Be nice, maintain good relationships.
In my particular case, where I'm working for a company with over 2000 employees, it can be very hard to be noticed for the work you do outside your team.
It's impossible for you to meet every engineer, every product manager, and keep track of all the people coming and going.
What you can do is to produce internal blog posts, host talks internally, offer help in open Slack channels and ask publicly when you have issues setting up some projects for instance.
Being known can give you advantages since people might already know you're a good professional and that you're a nice person to work with. It's not about being "famous" or having popularity for the sake of being cool, but it is about getting your work noticed and increasing your network.
Produce content, create your image.
Be clear about your career goals with your manager, tell them constantly about what you're trying to achieve, and what makes you happy at work.
This can be useful not only if you decide to switch teams, but if you’re clear, you might not even get to the point where you feel the need to switch teams.
If you’re clear with your goals, a good manager can help you align your goals within your current team.
But if you do come to the point where you decide to switch, they will be aware of your motives, they will not have hard feelings or have the belief that this came "out of nowhere".
Communicate more, be clear about what you’re trying to achieve.
This is usually a requirement that is even stated in your contract when you join a company. It states that if you would leave, you have to first complete X weeks/months for the notice period.
That can also apply when switching teams internally.
Even if it may not be a hard requirement, it's better for you to align with your current managers and have a reasonable notice period, after all, you may even go back to working with them.
If your team is the middle of a big project, it might be a good idea for you to stick around longer until they launch the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), or they might want you to help onboard a person filling your current position.
Be empathetic, give a notice period before switching to new opportunities.
I believe kindness is the key to so many things in life.
If you're switching teams, thank everyone you worked with, they all might have taught you a lot of things in the time you worked together.
Maybe even tell them that they can reach out if they come across one of the lines of code you wrote that is not clear for them.
Be thankful, be kind.
Many people are always looking for improvements in their careers.
By that I mean they are often looking for challenges, trying to work on interesting projects, expanding their networks, getting their work recognized, or trying to impact more and more people.
That’s not any different for me.
But maybe like me, you faced a dilemma: you liked your company, your colleagues and the business. But, you still knew you were ready for different challenges.
Instead of looking outside, I decided to look inside.
Importantly, when I decided to switch teams I made sure I would be on good terms with everyone involved. I like the company I'm working for and I want to make the best out of my time.
I hope you do too!
Follow me on Twitter @vcapretz and send me your thoughts about this subject, I would love to hear your feedback!
I hope you have a great day! 👋