Change is inevitable and constant; it is a part of our lives. Sooner or later, we have to accept the change. 13 years ago, I joined a small IT organization of around 100 people, as a developer. I have grown with the organization, a journey that has seen it grow to 40 times its original size. I really thank the organization for giving me the opportunity and transforming me into what I am today. Now, the time has come to accept a change, and start a new journey. I am writing this post to share my point of view about when to accept the change.
The intention behind this post is not to answer this question, but to address what you get and what you lose when you stay too long in the same organization. I have also taken inputs from many senior folks who joined us or left us after a long stay. When to change is really an individual's choice. If you are aware of the pros and cons of staying at a company for a long time, then you may probably work on the cons and stay relevant even longer, or don't change at all.
When you join a small software organization and stay for a while, say more than 10 years, and grow with the organization's pace, these are some factors which may keep you attached to the same organization:
You become a tried and tested resource of the organization; many stakeholders may want to take you in their group. You don't need to constantly prove yourself to get into an opportunity in the organization.
Every organization grows in its own style and nurtures its own culture. You know the beats of the organization, you know how things are done in a certain way, you know the history. In time, you become a consultant for many things in the organization. People believe in your inputs, and you become an encyclopedia of organizational information. Since you have participated in almost everything, you see yourself in every part of an organization, be it hiring, training, process or the system.
You may get a chance to work in different departments and a chance to set up groups and lead multiple initiatives. This gives you a chance to gain the breadth and depth, and a rich experience to lead the organization.
You may be working on really attracting talent at for a subordinate role with less experience in terms of years. You may be recognized and appreciated well.
After many years, your relationship with the organization is no longer just professional, it becomes an emotional one. The organization becomes a family, and you will have a lot of friends.
You are in your comfort zone and can work very confidently in the same zone.
The industry may see you as a stable resource that doesn't change too often.
Staying too long will accumulate following, and you may keep building on top of these unknowingly. You may work to overcome these and stay prepared to go even longer on the journey.
Since you have worked in the same organization for such a long period, you start thinking that certain things can happen only in a certain way. These certain things could be dealing with processes, people, resources, and even technology solutions. You know them well, which worked well and which did not for you in that organization. Thinking beyond your area of easy imagination does not come easily. It may start blocking your path and in time may become frustrating.
After staying so long, you become resistant to the change in the processes, people and the system. It becomes hard to accept the change, if that is not according to you.
It becomes difficult to work beyond your comfort zone, and you may start running away from situations which take you out of your comfort zone. Risk-taking capabilities may also be reduced, as you worked in a really safe and secure zone for long. You may not have learned to deal with the failures, and have not been exploited and exposed well since long. We learn well when we get exposed from time to time.
You may be taken for granted by your peers of similar experience and by management; they know all of your flaws, as you have grown in front of them. They may use you the way they want and wherever they want. It will be hard to change the perception of people around you. You may also be a target for the newcomers, as they don't really know the history and achievements that you might have.
After so many years, you may not have the energy to fight against changes, which may kill the culture you are addicted to. Remember that change is necessary, to scale the organization, and to sustain and to go beyond the barriers, but you might not be aligned with the changes. You may not be satisfied with the situations and with what you get. In such a situation, you start creating a negative environment, which is not good for both you and your organization.
As the years progress, jobs become limited at your level. The market outside may not be ready to accept you, in the way you are, and you will need to adapt. If you stay up-to-date and refresh your skills from time to time, you gain a lot of confidence, and that can help in your current job as well.
I have shared the pros and cons of a long stay in the same IT organization; it may help you in identifying the losses you are accumulating year by year after certain years. You may plan to overcome the losses and stay useful to the same organization you are in, or take the next step.