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Using the Tech Radar to boost your career

In today’s hyperconnected world, innovation happens pretty fast. For a technologist, whatever your specialism, there’s always something new to discover; a new tool that looks promising, maybe a technique that piques your interest. But, given the variety and pace of innovation, how do you know what to follow up on? How can you predict which innovations will be worthwhile and which will become a time sink?

It’s not always easy to separate the signal from noise. But that’s where the Thoughtworks Technology Radar can help. For anyone with interest in technology — from budding techie to senior decision maker — the Radar provides an easy-to-use crib sheet that helps you get up to speed.

As Mario Grimaldi, a developer at Thoughtworks in Italy, explains, he’s used the Tech Radar as a lodestar for career development. “It’s always been a reference point for me, to help me discover new trends,” he says. “In this way, I was able to experiment, mainly in my spare time and check if something would have been valuable for ongoing or future projects.”

For Eduardo Bohrer, a consultant at Thoughtworks Brazil, the Radar is an essential tool to ensure he stays up-to-date on tech developments that he may otherwise have missed. “In a nutshell, I say that the radar helps me to know about many things that are not on my day to day work,” he says.

While Camila Bastos, a Technical Consultant at Thoughtworks Brazil has previously used the Radar for her own career development, today she finds it useful for the projects she’s currently working on: “which blips are related to what I’m doing, and which ones look useful.”

Her approach to using the Radar varies according to the quadrant. “If a blip I’m interested in is in Techniques, I’ll search for books of known authors,” she explains. “If it's Platforms or Tools, I go more hands-on: install, trial and error — and then I read related content available to 'crack it'.”

But the Radar isn’t just about learning what’s happening in the tech world, it acts as a prism to help you focus your tech strategy; it helps you identify areas you want to explore and skills you want to hone; and it enables you to think about the lifecycle of tech and judge how that fits with your particular circumstance. And it gives you an honest appraisal of the risks and rewards of emerging and existing technologies.

To find out more about the possibilities of using the Technology Radar as a career tool, we talked to a handful of Thoughtworkers who were keen to share their experiences.

Establishing your credentials

Kiruthika Samapathy has been at Thoughtworks for roughly five years, working in a variety of technical roles including developer, consultant, business analyst and for a diverse range of clients, each with their own particular challenges.

“One of the most useful things about the Technology Radar for me has been the way it can stimulate conversations with clients,” says Kiru. “For instance, if we’re talking about the Tools or Languages and Frameworks quadrants, it’s pretty easy for clients to see what’s out there, and to show them what’s promising.”

“But actually, it’s the Techniques quadrant I really like. When it comes down to discussions about what might work well on any given project, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole: there are just so many options out there. With the Tech Radar, we can show what’s been effective or which techniques can prove counterproductive.”

That ability to cut to the chase is something that clients really value, Kiru says, and it helps to quickly demonstrate her credentials.

Abhinav Rastogi, a senior consultant at Thoughtworks North America, has more than a decade’s experience in tech but is relatively new to Thoughtworks. He has, however, used the Tech Radar extensively in his previous roles.

As soon as a new edition was released, he would regularly circulate the Tech Radar to colleagues at a large public sector organization. “It helped me to establish as someone who kept an eye on new trends, technologies, and emerging frameworks,” he says.

Validating choices

Often, people turn to the Radar when exploring unfamiliar technologies. For instance, Abhinav used the Radar to validate technology choices for projects in his previous organization including ones involving machine learning. It’s useful because it gives decision makers an unbiased insight into what other enterprises are using.

“We looked at the Radar to confirm the technologies they were investing in are something other industry leaders thought were worth investing in,” he says.

This is the sort of insight that’s hard to come by, especially as the pace of technological advancement increases, says Ketan Padegaonkar, Lead Consultant at Thoughtworks Studios. For the past several editions, Ketan has also been one of the Thoughtworkers that sits on the Technology Advisory Board — which ultimately decides on what goes on the Radar.

“When I first became aware of the Radar, the tech landscape wasn’t as diverse. Over the past few years, the pace of change has increased so much. So today, if you’re interested in what’s working or not, it’s really hard to keep track — you can maybe stay current in your areas of specialty, but the Radar really helps me understand the bigger picture.”

A Radar way of thinking

Sometimes it’s not the blips on any given edition of the Radar that are most useful: it’s the way it helps you think about technology.

“One of the most interesting ways I’ve used the Radar with clients was helping them think about what to retire in their tech estate,” says Kiru. That was a conversation they weren’t expecting to have, but through having it also opened up the possibility to do more interesting work with that client, she adds.

“That to me is one of the great things about the Radar: it helps you think about technology in different ways.” And that’s one of the Radar’s greatest strengths: there’s not one right way to use it: it’s flexible enough to support technologists at all stages of their careers.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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