Jorge Manrubia

October 9, 2021

Career advice

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A software engineering student asked me via Linkedin about career advice. Not sure I would take advice from myself because I made many mistakes, but here are a few things I wish someone had told me right after college:

  • Technical stuff is a fantastic career path, really. If someone tells you that true engineers don’t code, or that you need to go full-time manager to get promoted, run in the opposite direction.
  • Make learning a job-seeking goal. You learn tons from great people, try to surround yourself with those early in your career. This wasn’t even in my radar back in the day, and it would be something I’d address very differently if I went back.
  • Find a way of practicing you enjoy. For me, it’s always building things I am interested in. For others, synthetic problems and exercises do the trick. But, whatever you do, practicing makes a big difference when developing the skills that make you valuable for companies. This is something I got right and probably what saved me from a career that started very derailed.
  • Paying for quality content in the form of books and courses is worth it, saves you a lot of time.
  • If looking for a job, aim for product companies. There are great people everywhere, but the concentration is higher in product companies. It's just how the equation is designed: their profits derive from good products, and people make a difference when building those. This also often implies better conditions. You will only know if a company is a good working place for you in hindsight, but you can try to put the odds on your side. 
  • If you live in a country that is not one of the top economies: companies from those pay more for doing exactly the same ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The explosion of remote work makes focusing on those a realistic possibility today.
  • Quitting is a skill. Decisions that look life-changing can be small, low-risk experiments if you quit when things don’t work. What is really life-changing is trying things and changing course as you discover what works for you along the way. It took me many years to learn this lesson, and I would have it very present since day zero if I went back.
  • Being rejected when applying to a job is the most normal thing in the world. The first time might affect your ego, and that's probably positive, it gets much better the second time. I think not going through that pain prevents many people from applying to cool places (see next point).
  • Don't be your own enemy. I don’t believe in this American self-help book idea of how, if you really want something, it will eventually happen. But I do think the opposite is true: If you tell yourself you can’t do something, it won’t happen for sure. Be nice when talking to yourself.
  • And finally, take career advice with a grain of salt :).