Flip the switch: how to change teams at your current company

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How many times have you thought about trying a new role at your company but were too scared to ask? If you’ve been daydreaming about making a career switch, what exactly are you afraid of? Losing your job?

Newsflash! If you’re considering a new role, you're probably not happy with your job anyway!

Team Switch at Infinum

I’m sure many employees across all industries dream about switching roles within their organization. But for this particular article, I will be focusing on IT companies.

In the IT world, we try to take extra special care of our employees. Why? Because we know people are our most valuable resource, and we understand the benefit of investing in them.

So, let’s get back to you and your current conundrum: you come to work every day, you earn a good salary, your colleagues are nice, and so is your office. But for some reason, you’re just not feeling it. You’ve been doing the same thing for the last couple of years, and you’re not as happy as you should be.

Yes, the projects might change, but the programming language and the framework you use are the same ol’, same ol’. It’s starting to feel like you’re stuck in a hamster wheel.

Breaking the hamster wheel

So, what are your choices? Option one: You could wait a couple of years for a new programming language to emerge. Or just do JavaScript - I hear they change things up every week anyway! Or option two: You could move over to a different team within your organization. I know what you’re thinking: “No way, I couldn't possibly switch teams now! I didn't come all this way to start over as a junior.”

To make matters worse, you’ve heard the HR folks complaining about how hard it is to fill all those vacancies on your company’s careers page!

If you ask your manager to switch you to a different team, he or she will probably be furious. After all, they don’t want to lose a senior from the team. It'll probably go like this: “Sorry, you are highly specialized in [insert your technology here]. And anyway, the other team is looking for someone who already knows [insert the technology you would like to switch to here].”

Think that’s how it will go if you ask to switch teams? Think again! Let's burst that bubble in a couple of steps.

A good company would rather have you switch teams than leave the company altogether!

Take a moment to consider this. If you’re a good employee, your company will do anything to keep you on board. If your organization doesn’t follow this policy, maybe it is time to think about another workplace after all.

Personally, I am always happy to hear people have the aspirations and motivation to learn a new role - especially after they’ve spent many years in the company or the industry. They already know the organization, they understand the processes, they are familiar with the clients and projects. So, these folks are not juniors, no matter which team they join!

In other words, you are a valuable resource to your company. So, if you want to switch teams, your managers should be more than happy to accomodate you without dropping you back down to a junior role. If your manager or team leads don't feel this way, tell them yourself. If they are true leaders, they will understand, support you and help you with the process.

Don't go

HR should not be complaining about filling vacancies: it's their job

Good HR people do not complain about one of their main tasks: filling positions. Of course, it's hard to find available and good engineers these days. Even so, true professionals see this as a challenge to tackle, an interesting twist in their everyday job.

We all should be grateful for opportunities to be creative in our careers. And we should be excited to cook up new ideas about how to make our workplace even better and more compelling for new hires!

Here’s another thought: you probably know a few more engineers from college, a meetup or a course. When you hear about a vacancy, think about those people. Maybe you could make a referral. It will be easier for the company to handle your “loss” from a certain team if you have a couple of new candidates to recommend.

Even better, your company may have a referral policy. If that’s the case, you could get a referral bonus out of the deal! So, it’s a win-win. You earn some extra cash and get to switch teams, while the company gets a good start on filling the position you’ll be leaving vacant.

Bring it on

You are not a junior in any new team you join!

Don't let them scare you with this threat. We’ve already explained how you are not a junior because you know the company, processes, clients and all of your colleagues.

However, there is another way you can get a leg up. You could start learning the new technology a couple of months before you ask your management to join the other team.

If you want to do that in your free time, that's really cool. But first, you should probably find out if your organization offers some internal or external workshops, meetups or accounts where you could start learning.

Tap into internal resources to prepare for the switch

We were thrilled to have internal students at our Infinum Academy, as well as each of our Talks. We also believe it’s smart to give people access to the different platforms we use for learning, like Pluralsight, Udemy, Skillshare, Egghead and many more.

Maybe you have educational budgets at your company. If this is the case, you could freely use your budget to learn anything tech-related, not just the technology you are already working with.

Learn

HR Managers and team leads: be proactive. Ask employees to make the switch!

Even after all this convincing, some employees still won't be confident enough to go and ask their managers to switch teams. If you’re a manager or team lead, help them out. If an employee seems unhappy in their current role or interested in another technology, why wait for them to bring it up? Ask them yourself!

Listen to what your team members are saying, pay attention to what they read and which academy courses or meetups they attend. Include this discussion as a part of your quarterly reviews.

Take note if an employee is really good at something, and give them a chance to try it out risk-free. They will be grateful and happy - and almost all of them will succeed in their efforts!

Also, give them a fall back option. If they realize the new technology or project is not what they expected, tell them not to be afraid to ask to switch back. If they are good employees, of course you will take them back on their original team! Also, I’ve never heard of anyone having excess engineers on their team. If you do, please email me directly!

Switching teams can be a success

Over the years, we have had nine successful team switchers who are enjoying their new roles at Infinum. To wrap things up, let’s take a look at a real life story about team switching.

Here’s one of those stories from Infinum employee, Ivan:

Everyone has a story about how they got their job. My started in our QA team, when at a job interview our Head of HR asked me where I saw myself in 5 years (I can't believe I ever asked that lame question during interviews! Authors comment). I said that as a software tester I wanted to learn everything that I can related to our processes and the way we do things, but I still think of myself as a designer one day.

In 2016, Infinum started their first Design Academy course and Tanja, knowing about my interests, said it would be a good idea to join and learn about design team processes.

As Infinum grew, there was an increased demand for new people, including designers. At some point Tanja came up and asked me if I wanted to take on a task that candidates complete in Infinum’s selection process. Of course I agreed!
After successfully completing the task, I received an offer to join the Design team - and the rest was history. I always wondered why they chose me. I think they were just looking for Chris Pratt's doppelganger, but we'll never know for sure!

There you have it. A successful team switch story with a fairy tale ending. So, if you’ve been thinking about flipping the switch, I encourage you take that leap.

The airy illustration was made by designer Mario Kovačević.

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