How I got my career back on track

My career started pretty normally, I guess. I went to a respected university and finished a BSc. in computer science and an MBA with good grades. I was working as a student at a well respected international corporation and was offered a full time job. I was totally set up for success. Somehow, 12 years passed and I found myself in a dead-end job with a feeling that I’d missed out on my potential and I would never make up for lost time.

In this post I’ll share how I recovered from an unknowing attempt to kill my career, and how within a few years became a senior engineer with my eye on higher IC levels (maybe staff engineer in a couple of years? Keep your fingers crossed).

Image by uniquedesign52 on pixabay
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Yet another guide to tech interviews

This is probably one of the most common types of posts, though sometimes I wonder if you just have to go through it yourself to figure it out. I’m not sure. But in the hope that it helps someone out there – I’m writing up everything I’ve learned about getting ready for tech interviews, I promise these tips are tried and tested and will help you if you read and apply them carefully.

Caveats:

  • A few of the insights included in this post are most relevant for “big tech” companies, but most will be useful no matter where you apply.
  • I live and work in Israel, so it’s possible there are some culture-specific details that won’t be applicable to your work situation (e.g. like most of the world, we’ve never heard of thank-you notes). Use discretion when applying 🙂

This post is long, so I suggest bookmarking it and reading it in sections. It covers:

  1. Writing an excellent CV
  2. Coding interviews
  3. System design interviews
  4. Deep dive interviews
  5. Culture fit interviews
  6. Questions you should ask
  7. Resources
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Setting salary expectations with cousin Izzy

So… you’re looking for a job and you get a call from a recruiter. The conversation is going well and they’d like to move you into the technical interviews stage. Or maybe, you’ve already completed all the technical part and they want to prepare the job offer. And then they ask the dreaded question: What are your salary expectations? And you freeze. Or, at least – I freeze. I’m no good at this part… I think I know what I’m worth – but what if I have it all wrong? Or what if they can pay more than I expect? Or they can’t afford what I’m asking for and they won’t want to continue with the interview process?

Cousin Izzy

We have a family story about our savvy-salesperson cousin Izzy who (legend has it) used to offer the following sales advice: Imagine you’re selling two birds in a cage. A buyer comes in to your shop and asks “how much?”.
You answer: “$50”.
If they blink, you sell for that price. If they don’t – you say “for the cage”.
They ask: “How much for the birds?”, you answer: “$20”.
If they blink – sell for that price. If they don’t – say “each”. 

Note: It’s quite possible none of this story is true, but that’s how I heard it and now it’s mine to tell as I please.

two blue-and-yellow Macaws perched on tree
Photo by Jonatan Lewczuk on Unsplash

How does this translate into salary expectations?

First, I do my research. I know how much I make now and how much of an upgrade I expect. I ask friends and use my network, check salary surveys, ask in suitable forums etc. Once I understand what the expected salary range for me should be, I want to maximize how much I can get within that range. That’s where cousin Izzy comes in.

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How to write an effective performance review

Performance review season is upon us, and with it the dreaded self review. Many of us spend way too much time struggling with this task, how can we summarize our achievements in an appealing yet accurate way? SO MUCH STRESS. In the spirit of keeping the time and effort to a minimum, I’m sharing my tips on writing a stellar self-review, fast.

Image by athree23 from Pixabay
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Declutter python code with error handling decorators

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

I recently reviewed some code which converted gRPC error codes into custom errors using a decorator and the simplicity and genius of it made me facepalm “why didn’t I think of it myself?”.

Really, why didn’t I? When I wrote how to handle errors with grace I mentioned using decorators to validate input parameters and how important it was to keep error handling separate from your main code as much as possible. I just didn’t think to combine the two. Oh well, better late than never.

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How to Design a Permissions Framework

I usually start my posts with some personal anecdote explaining the background for what I’m writing and how I came up with the idea. I could probably do the same for this one, but the truth is that I’m writing it because I ❤️ permissions. I don’t exactly know why they hold such magic for me, but it is what it is, I get excited about permissions. User roles, checking who’s allowed to do what and when, and making sure it all works together is just the best kind of fun!

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

You might not share my excitement, and that’s OK, I guess, but permissions are one of the basic building blocks of almost any application. The permissions framework I’ll present here can start simple and evolve as you go, so you can be sure you are gonna need it and it’s definitely worth the small effort of setting it up from the get-go.

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How to Ruin Your Career in 8 Easy Steps

You may think a career is an old fashioned concept out of the 80s which could be safely ignored. I sure used to… I thought a career was for banking professionals in suits, not for me! I was young and cool and wanted to work for a living, of course, but I couldn’t care less about climbing up the career ladder. Well, I changed my mind.

I’m not saying that a career should be everyone’s focus at every point in one’s life. Just having a job is a totally legit choice. But if you want to to have a career, in the sense of progressing throughout your work life, expanding your horizons and opportunities for personal and professional impact, here’s a list of 8 things to avoid doing.

1. Don’t plan ahead

It’s easy to just flow with opportunities that present themselves, go on a few interviews, take the best offer you get, stay for a few years, rinse, repeat. That will probably work for getting small raises and some variety in your daily work.

Photo by Hanna Morris on Unsplash
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Thoughts on Working From Home During a Pandemic

I don’t like it. I didn’t like it much before #stayathome was trending, and I like it even less now. I do not like it in a house. I do not like it with a mouse. I do not like it, stay-at-home-I-am.

I do not like it one little bit

This is not to say I don’t like being at home, it’s just the working part that’s not working out so well. I’m not working out either, but that’s a different matter.

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The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Web Applications

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

I was away from my computer when I got a call from a junior developer I know. She was having trouble uploading a web application to Azure, and asked if I could help. I’ve never worked with Azure, but I assumed Visual Studio had a button which said something like “publish to Azure”. However, she couldn’t make heads or tails from the Azure tutorial, and while I was trying to understand where the difficulty was (other than the fact she wasn’t using Visual Studio, so the button I assumed was there was totally irrelevant), she said: “I understand the back-end has to go on the server, but where do the front-end files go?”

“Do you know how a web server works?”, I asked. “I guess not”, she answered.

If this seems stupid to you, this post is not for you. I give you permission to go read something else. This post is for me, setting up my first self hosted site about 10 years ago.

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Once more, with feeling: A radical approach to code review

I was lucky to be in Dropbox’s headquarters when Kim Scott came to speak about her (then) new book “Radical Candor”. Dropbox was nice enough to hand out free copies (yay! free books!) so I actually ended up reading most of the book on the flight home.

Even though the book was written with managers in mind, I found myself referring back to it pretty often. Its insights proved quite useful in my daily work as a software engineer, especially in processes which require written or in person interaction with our co-workers. A little bit of Radical Candor can totally change how we do and react to code or design reviews, driving better results and higher satisfaction.

Radical Candor: Some Background

Before I share how you should use Radical Candor while creating software, it might be helpful to explain what Radical Candor is. I will try to keep this section as short as possible, since it’s just setting up the background for how to use Radical Candor in the context of software processes. If you’re already familiar with the framework you can just skip to the next section (titled Radical Code Review).

I have good reason for creating my own version of this, as you will see below.

Radical Candor is about giving guidance that’s kind and clear, specific and sincere

(source here).
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