Technical Career Advice

  • While automation is often a programmer’s goal, there are many things that merely require tedious and careful execution. Jacob Kaplan-Moss calls this embracing the grind1. It can be easy to assume that the most valuable engineers are the “smartest” or write the most elegant code. In fact, leadership will value the people that get the things done that need doing and some times those things are tedious and “unsexy”.
  • An IC career still requires managing up. There will be decisions based on whether to go for breadth or depth when growing. Networking and communication are essential talents for high level ICs2.
  • Brag Sheet3 alternatively a promotion packet4
  • Time span of discretion
  • When deciding on whether to make a change in your career, you can evaluate your current year/quarter on the dimensions of Accomplishment, Impact, Growth/Future Alignment, Challenge, and Community5. This is a useful framework created by Apoorva Govind for evaluating whether you are wasting a year in your career.
  • A wasted year in your career is 3.3% of your career5
  • You need to break out of the paradox of: To learn new skills, you need opportunity. To get opportunity you need skills. If you are flat lining on opportunities you must use your existing skills to find opportunities. To do this you need to take stock of your skills set, the type of organization you are in, and they use that information to locate new opportunities and build trust to get new opportunities6.
  • SV / Startup career advice: Focus on the network you build, growth rate of the company, optionality (ability to work multiple/varied roles), and brand of the company (at least once). Focus less on the exact role and compensation7.
    • If you want to join a hyper-growth company focus less on the role and more on getting in early. If you want a specific role, focus on the companies that do that the best7.

References

1.
Kaplan-Moss, J. Embrace the Grind. Jacob kaplan-moss blog Blog at https://jacobian.org/2021/apr/7/embrace-the-grind/ (2021).
2.
Klein, M. Thread on IC Career Growth. Twitter at https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1130206773078421504.html (2019).
3.
Evans, J. Get your work recognized: Write a brag document. at https://jvns.ca/blog/brag-documents/.
4.
Larson, W., Scanlan, B. & Reddy, D. Calm’s Will Larson on how to build a technical leadership career. at https://www.intercom.com/blog/podcasts/calms-will-larson-on-how-to-build-a-technical-leadership-career/.
5.
Govind, A. How to waste your career, one comfortable year at a time. Apoorva govind’s substack at https://apoorvagovind.substack.com/p/how-to-waste-your-career-one-comfortable (2020).
6.
Sridharan, S. How to grow as an Engineering Manager. Srivatsan sridharan at https://medium.com/srivatsan-sridharan/how-to-grow-as-an-engineering-manager-687cad0bcac7 (2023).
7.
Gil, E. Career Decisions. at https://blog.eladgil.com/p/career-decisions (2015).

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