The link between professional practice and career path progression represents one of the seemingly intractable problems faced by firms in computing but also science industry, high-tech, design, and engineering is the issue of practitioner career paths in contrast to management career paths. How far can a gifted architect, designer, engineer progress before the organisation fails to offer further challenges, opportunities, responsibilities etc. How far can an engineer be promoted before reaching the 'glass ceiling' beyond which it seems that only those with marketing, accounting or finance backgrounds progress to the executive, the 'c-suite', or the board room?
Certainly there are exemplars of programmers, engineers, technicians, architects, designers achieving great corporate and personal success.
But for each of these there are many who love doing what they're good at but felt they had to move into management in order to progress their careers.
And there are many more who stay in product development, design and engineering and languish to an extent because the pay is not kept in line with the equivalent on a management track.
Is there a technical career plateau? If so then why and what can we do to address it?
What about approaching this from the perspective of 'the profession' and link excellence in work practices (i.e. those practices articulated in XP in all its gritty glory) with career path, progression and professionalism.
A professional practice-oriented perspective should be devoid of proprietarianism (via the trademarked & proprietary methods business).
It would necessarily need our active involvement through our various professional societies, ACM, IEEE, IEE, IEI, IFIP, etc...
Further reading...A short piece by Alicia Clegg in the FT "Companies face up to the technical brain drain challenge"