This one is a provocative anti-how to, which I hope will give you one more reason of why expanding your horizon on a daily basis is the most important goal in your professional life.
I am listening to Tom Wainwright’s book Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel. At one point the book takes a look at the Mexican mobsters and the Italian mafia in the US and contrasts these to the mafia in El Salvador. During the mobster times, the Mafia in the US have fought a lot for territories and markets, similar to what the drug cartels in Mexico do. Members of a group - be it killers, bribed policemen or senators switch to other gangs by higher wages and better options the latter suggest. In contrast, the gangs in El Salvador have their members stay for life. How do they do that? The secret is that the gang members tattoo the name of the clan they belong to onto their entire bodies. As tattoos cannot be easily removed, mobsters are not able to switch gangs, nor they are able to switch jobs - after all, no one would even invite somebody tattooed head to toes to an interview. As they are locked, their bosses can hold their salaries low.
Now, let’s make a parallel with the software industry. When all you want and care about is hacking in your preferred language, you get yourself “tattooed” to that language. Binding yourself to only a specific web development framework is a similar action of locking your skills to it. Following this behavior you can guarantee yourself a slip in the wage at some time.
On the contrary, you might decide to practice the habit of learning a new skill or a new language each year (a wise man wrote a great blog post a long time ago). The interesting thing is that you not only get more competitive on the market making your employer anxious if they keep your salary small. Funny or not, acquiring those new skills you bring much more positives to your company. If you are working with intelligent people (which is more typical to the software industry than anywhere else), your employer will be happy to pay you the part of your increased contribution to the company income!
Consider skills like blogging, public speaking, project management, product and people management, working with various cloud providers.
The other similar locking is burying yourself in the company you work for. Being loyal to the company you work with is a good thing. If the right people govern it, you can get great benefits.
Still, you should always keep an eye of what’s going on around. Comment the work conditions, the benefits and the practices employed with colleagues and friends from other companies. With the constant trend upwards, worsening or stall conditions in your company might be a sign that something is going wrong with your employer. Either the human capital are not doing their job properly or for some reason the management is not willing to invest into better amenities. Being informed, you could help your senior management in the first scenario. In the second scenario, you would be able to take actions early enough and shape your skills so that you can find a better job if the things go south.
Management will never tell you the things go wrong and this is right - they must do whatever they can to keep the ship flowing. But that should not stop you from being prepared for the worst scenario.
Don’t wait, nor ask for approval. No one should be given the power to tell you how you’d spend your free time or how you would improve yourself. You could of course inform your employer about the new endeavors you are pursuing. If they are good people and good managers, they would encourage you. If they say you shouldn’t, this is a smell either in their management skills, or in their intentions towards you and towards employees in general.
May you find the Force within you!