Career success

Career Advice for Coders, Engineers and Designers



1. Who are you?

Start with considering things that make you happy.

You can go back to things like the petals exercise or consider these:


2. What is the story of your life in one line?

They call it a logline in Hollywood. (Also: What purpose does your life serve? Did you create meaning?)


What are your career goals? What do you want to achieve when you are done? (do you want things only for your own self, or do you want to do things for this planet?)

What kind of companies and people do you want to work with or for?

What kind of working conditions do you prefer? (things like noise, long commutes, healthy office, genial co-workers etc.)

What kind of work do you like doing best? (challenging, chances of feedback, chances of losing yourself in the task for a while, chances of enriching your 'skills bank')

What are you doing on the relationships front? (meeting people, writing to people, forming and contributing to groups, helping others- colleagues, customers/clients, neighbors)


3. What does it take to be successful?

In short, it means to sacrifice stuff- not having many friends.


4. What should I do with my career?

Do what's interesting, or do things that are interesting to you and are something that the world needs. You can either work for companies (and deal with the boss), work as a freelancer (freedom, but very unpredictable), or an entrepreneur ('managing risk' is a big skill set to have here). But remember, it is all chance and chaos out there, just give it your best shot, every time.


5. What do with all these startups?

If it helps you create your own company in future, join them and learn, and make connections. If it helps with your intellectual growth, and you will come across many enthusiastic and interesting people from all sort of backgrounds, and you will get to deal all sorts of shitty situations, which will help with your zen, work in startups. Most of time, there is better place to learn at a faster clip than at startups.


6. What about starting my own company?

There will be good reasons, and there will be bad reasons. If you know your shit, know what you are really good at, know what the market needs, have talked to many prospective customers and have received a good vibe, have dealt with many sorts of people and situations with varying rates of success...there are many things one needs. Start with enthusiasm, pure unbridled enthusiasm.


7. What kinds of companies should I join?

The idealistic answer: Follow Charlie Munger's rules.


8. Three rules for a career:

- Don't sell anything you wouldn't buy yourself

- Don't work for anyone you don’t respect and admire

- Work only with people you enjoy.


9. When is the best time to join a startup?

Chris Dixon: The best time to join a company is at the very beginning – to found or co-found the company. The second best time is to join before venture financing. The third best time is when the company has started to ramp sales/traction – at that point your equity grant will be small but at least the company will have a much higher likelihood for success. The worst time, from my experience, is right after initial (Series A) VC funding.


10. Specialist vs Polyglot vs T-Shaped

Companies go for specialists (great at one tech or two), or T-Shaped (good at tech, good at non-tech skills, good at the humanities), but rarely the Polyglot (small companies may need such talents, who know many things).


11. Rising up the corporate ladder

One word, be visible. be visible by keeping records of 'good work' through the year and sharing it with boss during performance review meetings and such. Be visible by participating in events, raising your hands in meetings, doing presentations etc. On the side: keep learning new stuff and doing new stuff. Side projects are tonic.


12. Things that matter:


Kinds of people working, the market and growth rate, options, brand

Things that don't matter: Specific job role, pay


13. Things not to do generally:


- Don't get religious about technology: Don't get attached to a particular programming language, for example. Keep your mind, and your options open.


- Be the person you want to be:


Also remember Gandhi's famous words, 'Be the change you want to achieve'.

See yourself knowing the skills you need to succeed. Not only technical, but other skills too. See the guide to finding marketable skills.


What Can Software Developers Do Other Than Starting a Startup To Make Big Bucks?


For every successful software startup, there are thousands of failed startups, and there are hundreds of thousands software developers earning a living doing all sorts of work:


- Creating & Selling enterprise software (This is where the most money is, there are tons of gaps in existing enterprise software, just ask the end users, people)


- Consulting other businesses: SEO Experts, Landing Page Conversion experts, etc. Especially, solve tech problems for rich clients. Of course it means you having some soft skills as well.


- Working on core technologies, patenting stuff and selling those patents


- 'Be that first guy' who makes stuff that lost of people want


In other words, do as Peter Thiel says, you want to do things that other people aren't doing.


Finally, do as a comment on Hacker News suggests:


Keep making products until one sticks, then keep making products until one shows potential, then keep making products until you've gotten a product that can support you, then keep making that product until it plateaus or you consider yourself successful. If that last product isn't enough, repeat the cycle.


and also:


A better bet is to have multiple products that you sell to the same audience, not just one product. One product alone may only have small success, but if you have several small products all bringing in revenue it will add up over time. And while you're working on building them, it's safest to keep multiple revenue streams to fund yourself while doing it- be open to doing freelancing / consulting, or keep a part-time job.


Five Examples of a Successful Solo Software Developer


1. Minecraft game: Created by Markus 'Notch' Persson and sold to Microsoft for $2.5. billion.

2. Plenty Of Fish: Created by Marcus Frind, who sold it for $575 million.

3. Pinboard: Bookmarking site created and still run by Maciej Cegłowski.

4. Instapaper: Started by Marco Ament and later sold to Betaworks.

5. Bingo Card Creator: Created by a solo developer Patrick McKenzie.


These are not the only ones, but the most well known recent ones.


You may also find the guide to 'coding interviews' useful. The whole freelancing section is meant mainly for people in creative and coding fields.


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.