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How to decide what skills to focus on so as not to become obsolete in next 5 - 10 years?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Intuita year ago

I am a frontend focused full-stack engineer with 7 years of relevant experience in the frontend engineering space and a total of 12 years of experience. I am not able to decide where should I invest my time when working on side projects. Should I start picking up mobile (Android/iOS) or continue to sharpen my skills in the frontend development space? To put it another way, should I invest my time in going deep in my current domain or should I invest time learning mobile UI development as that has gained more traction and is viewed as more valuable skill?

I think I am unable to decide whether to go about developing my skills in breadth or depth.

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(6 comments)
  • 10
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    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a year ago

    You should invest in growing your ability to handle greater complexity and more ambiguity. You should invest in growing soft skills, decomposing work streams, mentorship, and other soft skills.

    In 5 years whatever tech you invest in will have changed dramatically. How you manage complexity, ambiguity and interpersonal communication won’t.

  • 4
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    I love Lee's answer. Focus on the skills that will never go out of style (that's what we built Taro for!). I promise that the next ML technique, JavaScript framework, and even mobile development space has a pretty short half-life.

    Instead of thinking about your career 10 years from now, I'd work forward from what you enjoy doing and where you have a unique insight for the next 6 months or year. The world will be very different in 10 years.

    See also this very relevant video about Why It Doesn’t Make Sense To Have a 5 Year Career Plan.

    Steve Huynh had some great advice about managing your career: https://www.jointaro.com/topic/steve-huynh/

  • 2
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    Startup Engineer
    a year ago

    @Rahul, I so much want to see the full interview with Steve... Someone suggested a Slack channel purely for videos/resources to share. Since that is only available for premium members, I would love to see the minimally edited version 🙏

  • 1
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    @Michael, the video with Steve is coming out on YouTube in ~6 hours!! (This is the highly edited / polished version.) And I'll also be adding that in Taro for an ad-free viewing experience.

    The ones you see on Taro with the Steve Huynh tag are minimally edited, and I'll add more here in the coming days.

  • 2
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    To put it another way, should I invest my time in going deep in my current domain or should I invest time learning mobile UI development as that has gained more traction and is viewed as more valuable skill?

    Here's what I think you should do:

    1. Start building a mobile side project to experiment and learn. Mobile apps are easy to spin up, so this shouldn't take more than a few weeks, a month at most.
    2. After Step #1, you have a fork in the road:
      1. If you enjoyed building mobile apps, keep on doing it!
      2. If you didn't like building mobile apps, revert back to web.
    3. If it turned out that you really like mobile, then you can ask your manager to pivot into a mobile engineer role within Intuit. Intuit is huge and has many super amazing mobile apps in their arsenal like TurboTax and Mint!

    One thing I want to push back on though is the idea that mobile is the "more valuable" skill. It's definitely trendier, but good web developers are super important too! In fact, many more businesses need a good website than a good mobile app.

    I talk more about all this alongside tactics around getting into side projects here: Android (Kotlin) vs. React Native - Even though the discussion title is around Android, I also talk about iOS and mobile as a whole.

    All that being said, mobile is superior to web when it comes to side projects for a couple reasons:

    1. Your impact is very clear and public as anyone can see ratings and number of installs.
    2. It's easier to get users as the ecosystem isn't as competitive as web due to the ecosystems (Google Play and Apple App Store) being walled gardens. SEO results can come fairly quickly (within 1-2 months).
    3. A lot of the infrastructure comes "for free" (ignoring the developer fee) like getting user feedback through reviews and replying to them, seeing how many active users/installs you have, crash logs, and much, much more.
  • 2
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    How to decide what skills to focus on so as not to become obsolete in next 5 - 10 years?

    Now I'll answer the question title 😛

    In a nutshell, you don't want to spend too much time investing in tactical skills and material that's very tied to the raw technology. Things like the latest web framework and the optimal way to write a microservice are going to be wildly different 5-10 years from now. This is especially true for you given your experience level and the fact that you're already at a very well-established Big Tech company with Intuit.

    Think about everything that happens at work and for each thing, try to picture a world in which it goes away. If you have trouble envisioning that future, that's probably a scenario you should master. Here's some scenarios that I think will never go away:

    1. Projects stakeholders disagreeing and needing someone to pull them together
    2. Project requirements being poorly defined and needing someone to disambiguate them
    3. Nasty bugs cutting across multiple services that need someone who can easily jump back-and-forth across different contexts
    4. Junior engineers joining the team and being absolutely terrified, needing someone to nurture and mentor them
    5. Last minute thrash derailing a project and needing someone who can both keep calm in times of crisis and think proactively to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future

    I can easily come up with 10 more. My point here is that if you can be that magical someone in all of these scenarios, you are truly a rockstar engineer who will always be able to add massive value in any year at any company within any economy.

    Here's some other great discussions around this topic:

Intuit Inc. is an American business software company that specializes in financial software. Intuit's products include TurboTax, Mint, QuickBooks, Credit Karma, and Mailchimp.
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