After my last post on how I got my career back on track I was flooded with (at least 3) requests to share my advice on what I did to “level up” my work so other people could get ahead the same way.
The easy answer here would be “I can’t say”. Each person, each manager, each organization, each situation is unique and who am I anyway to be giving advice on things I’m still figuring out myself. That said, my “obvious” might be someone else’s “mind blown”, so here goes.
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).
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.