The advice I wanted in my tech career

The advice I wanted in my tech career

On this page I will add some advice I wanted in my career, starting from university. On this page, you can find not only tech-related topics but also a set of tools and mental models that helped me a lot.

🇺🇸 Learn English as soon as you can

Learning English is one of the investments that can have the biggest ROI (Return On Investment) for your career. Don’t skip this section!
I’m Italian. In Italy, I didn’t learn English in school or… Well, actually I attended two hours of English per week: completely unuseful.
Back in university, I thought, “Why should I waste my time learning English?” - In fact, in the English exam I got 19/30. At that time, I didn’t understand the importance of being able to talk and work with people all around the world.
Do you know what’s funny? I’m actually working in a company where the official language is English 😃
I’m actually learning English and I can see great improvements. I cannot believe that now I’m actually thinking in English to write this page. Just one year ago this wouldn’t be possible.
My two cents on English learning:
  • A lot of people advise watching films in English ⇒ I think this is not 100% correct. I still have some difficulties sometimes watching films in English without subtitles. My personal advice is:
    • Start watching YouTube videos from educational channels like TED or Kurzgesagt. These videos are created with clear pronunciation and are easily understandable also for people like me. YT videos also are usually shorter than films and you attention will be better.
    • If you want to watch films in the original language, please watch films that you already watched! This is really important because you will focus not on the story but on the language. If you remember some sentences from the film in your language, you can pay attention to how that sentence sounds in English. This is helping me a lot. Personally, I love watching cartoons in English while I work. This helps me passively listen while I’m working and it takes me focus.
  • Is speaking important? Damn… Yes! Do you want to improve your English? Use it! You need to practice Speaking as much as you can. How to do it? A couple of possibilities are:
    • If initially, you don’t want to spend much money, you can use Facebook groups with people that are preparing IELTS tests or similar.
    • Join online communities (for example on Discord) and actively participate in voice channels. At least for me the main blocker was “They will understand that I’m the worse speaker they can hear!” . Once joined a couple of online communities, you can easily understand that thousands of people are in your situation, so no worries!
    • Online platforms like Cambly or Preply can be game-changer for you. Please evaluate spending money on that. I also used Fiverr for that.
    • Do you work in an English environment (like me)? - You are so lucky! During meetings, discussions don’t hesitate to raise your hand and add your insights to the conversation. Sometimes I see people in meetings quiet for one hour. IMO this is unproductive.
  • If you need to use written English (on Slack/Discord/Email) please try the following tools:
    • Grammarly - really useful also outside the browser (using the PC/Mac app)
    • QuillBot - The paraphraser feature is magic

🏢 Work hard and find some good internships

In my university career, I got an internship at my own company! This is a long story. To keep it short and sweet, let’s summarise it. In 2020, with a couple of friends, I founded Daleca, and since I had the opportunity, I worked on the startup app during my university (internal) internship.
Of course, this experience was really funny. We founded a company and we already had thousands of users using our app! It was awesome. At the same time, if I could go back in time, I would probably focus my energy on applying for internships in FAANG companies.
I always gave exams on time and, in theory, I should have had at least three internships. If you have the opportunity, please take your time and do something important during university (like founding a startup 👀 or applying for top-level internships).
How to find good internships? I cannot give you a bulletproof method since I didn’t do it but online you can find a lot of really useful resources.

🎨 Create at least one valuable project

In my personal experience, creating Daleca, gave me a big competitive advantage over my university colleagues. I learned in practice how to create, deploy and maintain a project with thousands of active users.
Also, I learned the basics of business and marketing. I strongly advise creating one project. In my opinion, the idea is not so important.. Pick one interesting idea related to other topics that you already master (music? sports?) or something totally unrelated. Work hard on it and iterate on it. Your main goal must be to get feedback, a lot of feedback! This will give you real-world technical knowledge that you can spend from the first day of work.
Even better, you can contribute to an Open Source project. Unfortunately, contributing to big open-source projects is not so simple (I still have an open PR on the Express repo that will never be merged probably…).
First of all, learn how to contribute to open source. Then start lean. Do you have friends who are already working on open-source projects? Awesome! Start working with them! If you don’t have friends already involved in Open Source projects, you can leverage tech communities. Pick a technology that you love (Javascript ❤️), interact in related communities, and start working on secondary libraries. This will be a big boost to your resume!

🧑🏻‍💼 Invest in your network

I’m learning this lesson too late. I consider myself an introverted person. I’m not the kind of person who starts talking to others during a party (I don’t even participate to parties, mmm…).
I’m learning an important lesson now: at the end of the day, our world is built by people!
One of our strongest asset is our network. I’m starting to enjoy talking with people and discussing ideas. It is crazy how many things you can learn by talking with others.
Probably I’m not the best person to explain how to build a network but in the last few months I learned a lot of things that could be useful:
  • Physical events are so important! I attended three physical events in the last month. If you live in a big city probably you will find a lot of opportunities. If you, like me, live in a small city far from big cities you can take a train (or a plane!) just to take a coffee with a specific person. I feel I’m growing a lot in this way. Before COVID, I started attending physical events, and now that are restarted I’m so happy that I can finally talk with people and listen to stories.
  • Your Linkedin profile (or Reddit/Github/StackOverflow if you are a Software Engineer) is your best friend. Through Linkedin you can meet a lot of interesting people. You can also start to interact with others just by leaving a comment. Start posting about your preferred topics and share interesting links that you find on the internet. If you want, you can also study guidelines to increment your reach.
  • Join communities (online and offline)! Facebook groups and Discord servers are beautiful places to find people with the same interests. You can also find Meetups or events sponsored on Eventbrite. If you are in university probably there will be some associations. Join them!
You have also to invest time finding mentors. People that will inspire you, guide you, and help you once needed. Finding mentors is not simple and sometimes is a life-long process. A mentor in the first part of your career could not be a good fit for another stage of your career.

🎉 Take the time to celebrate

Personally, I have a simple rule to follow: I give myself a goal (reachable in 3/6 months), and once reached, I make myself a gift. It could be a weekend with my girlfriend, an interesting event out of my city, or a book completely different from my field of study.
I did this for 3 years at University. At the end of each semester, I bought myself a book unrelated to tech. Thanks to that I discovered my passion for cognitive sciences, critical thinking, marketing, and a lot of other stuff!
Celebrating little goals is really important. You need to be aware that you worked hard and you finally reached your goal!

🦾 Learn how to become productive

Do more in less time. Don’t waste your energy.
Imagine being able to generate "X" value throughout the course of the day, which is determined by the quantity of time you put in at work multiplied by a "Y" component. Your focus should be on the "Y" element because you have a limited amount of time to work. Productivity is represented by that number.
How to improve your productivity? Like all skills, it could be learned using the right tools.
Read more about that ⇒
Productivity techniques

🎲 Improve your decision making process

Decision-making is, in my opinion, the most important process of our lives. We make a lot of decisions every day, but most people don't take the time to learn how to improve this process.
Personally, I always want to find new ways to improve my decision-making. Some important tools in this are:
  • Cognitive science ⇒ Because we, as human, have a lot of biases and noise
  • Statistics ⇒ Taking data-driven decisions can help us a lot
I have a personal process to follow each time I need to make an important decision. It helped me a lot in the past to avoid making big mistakes. Do you want to learn it? Read the
Decision making
page 😃

⛰️ Create a career path

Understand where you are

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In order to crete a growth plan, first of all you need to understand your current level. Software Engineering is a broad topic. Probably, if you’re reading this page, you are a Junior/Intermediate Engineer. This means that the next step is become a Senior Software Engineer.
To better understand where you are, consider asking your manager’s help. You could require a 1:1 meeting with feedback on your strengths and your weakness.
Now write it down. Write your current situation and what are your tasks, the scope of your work and the impact that you’re having inside your organization.

Understand what is your goal

What is your goal in 5 years? Do you want to work for a MANGA company? Do you want to be a CTO in a promising startup? Do you want to work as a freelance all around the world?
Once you know more or less what is your goal write it down and write why you want to reach it.
If you want to became a Manager, what is your motivation? Do you want to help others to succeed or do you want to be called King? (Spoiler: Managers in tech organizations are servant leaders so it’s unrealistic to be called King)

Create a plan

Cool! Now you have a goal to reach. Congratulations 🎉.
Unfortunately, now you need to start working really hard. Probably, if you are a Junior Engineer and you want to become VP of Engineering is unrealistic to make this jump directly.
You need to create a long-term plan and split your final goal into reachable goals (divide et impera).
Personally, I have goals per each quarter of the year, but the splitting strategy is up to you. The first thing that you need to do in this case, is became a Senior Software Engineer.
Your manager is your best friend! She is in charge of your career progression. Feel free to tell her that you’re creating a long-term growth plan and you need her help.
You will create a list of improvements areas to reach the next promotion. Sometimes, if your company is really young or is small, you will not find a career progression path process in place. Talk about it with your manager, probably it’s time to create one.
For each step of your progress, you can also leverage mentors, your network and other colleagues that are already at that step. You can ask them a 30 minutes call and require info about their duties, skills and their career path.
Talking with people is very important, sometimes you can get a lot of useful advices just for the price of a coffee!

Your plan will change but is normal!

During your career your plan will inevitably change. Maybe you found an interesting opportunity in a company, maybe you feel that you don’t like anymore your current job.
Having a bulletproof plan is impossible. Still, you should create a plan to be your compass.
This section is part of a broader topic called “Life Desgin”.
To learn more about Life Design I advice reading the book “Design your Life”. In the book you will find a complete framework to create a resilient plan which can be easily updated.