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A Dilemma Regarding My Career Learning

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Junior Software Engineer at Thinslices10 months ago

I am a self-taught frontend developer with almost 2 years' experience working for an outsourcing company.

During an interview recently, the interviewer said that I had good communication skills and should focus on technical topics.

My stack consists of JavaScript/Typescript, React, and I know a little bit about Python and Django. Typescript is mostly what I use.

Here's my questions:

  • Is there a specific approach you recommend I take to this technical part?
  • Do I need to learn more data structures and algorithms since I do not have a Computer Science degree?
  • In order to build a strong foundation, should I consider applying to a FAANG company?

Your comments will be greatly appreciated!

Thank you so much!

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Discussion

(5 comments)
  • 5
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    Senior Software Engineer at IBM
    10 months ago

    It seems you've gotten the infamous non-specific growth feedback. When you get something like this, it helps to dig into it more and understand what's going on behind those thoughts. It seems like you're technical, but that all those beautiful thoughts aren't making their way across to the recruiter. I'd just take a good look at your own knowledge, maybe pay attention to what you're getting feedback in your PR reviews and I think you'll be fine.

  • 3
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    Senior Software Engineer and Career Coach
    10 months ago

    Just a small add-on to Brad's response...

    One way to identify this or grow your skills a bit is check out https://www.frontendmentor.io/ (specifically since you said you were into frontend).

    As you look through the various things you could build, question if you think you could do it. If not, there might be some learning opportunities there!

  • 4
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    Software Engineer @ Tesla
    10 months ago

    Wahoo! Self-taught folks!

    When I get this type of feedback: "Focus on technical topics". I take it that I did not come off knowledgeable enough in the field they were testing me in.

    This could mean a couple of things

    • This was out of your area of expertise
    • It was in your field, but you weren't confident enough in your answers
    • It was in your field, but you were consistently wrong

    If it wasn't in your area of expertise, you need to decide if you want to improve in this area. Because you can't be an expert at everything.

    If it was in your field, practice trivia questions or problem-solving questions and focus on your delivery. Finding topics to study is the hard part but there's a bunch of interview questions online. I find that working on projects also gives me the experience I need to answer technical questions as well.

    "Is there a specific approach you recommend I take to this technical part?"

    With 2 years of experience, I suggest focusing on what you want to be good at. If you're trying to match company trends, you can look up some job descriptions at your target companies and see if there's a common stack they use.

    React is super popular and marketable so that's a good start.

    It depends on how you learn. If you are a structured learner, invest in some courses.

    "Do I need to learn more data structures and algorithms since I do not have a Computer Science degree?"

    Learning DSA was helpful for me personally and I recommend it. It helps you think about how to leverage data structures to write better code.

    "In order to build a strong foundation, should I consider applying to a FAANG company?"

    Interview experience is good to have but if those are not the type of companies you are targeting, I wouldn't invest too much energy into it. It's good practice though. And as I always say, solving the problem isn't necessarily the most important factor. How you communicate your ideas, discuss trade offs and collaborate are critical as well and interviewing at FAANG might help you practice that.

    To build a strong foundation, I would put my energy into building projects on your own and PRACTICE what you've learned. There's so many youtube tutorials out there available for free.

    That said, if you feel you have the technical skills already. It could also be a communication issue. Perhaps your problem is showcasing those skills in an interview.

    Hope this helps. Happy to dig deeper.

    Good luck!

  • 4
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    Engineering Manager at Blend
    10 months ago

    This is what I would do if I were in your position (a junior engineer at a cross-roads @ their career).

    1. Optimize for learning not earning – early on in my career, I made the mistake to over-indexing on earning; these days I've changed my mindset to always optimize for learning and from my experience, the earning will naturally come.
    2. Surround yourself with mentors/seniors - one of the biggest catalysts of my career was being around people who 1) were more technically strong than me 2) wanting to invest in me 3) pleasant to work with. If you find this magical place, I suggest you stay there for as long as you are learning/growing.
    3. Double down on high demand skillsets – in the frontend world, everything is react/typescript these days and now it seems the battle is between react frameworks (e.g. remix vs nextjs). Double down on existing high-demand skills (e.g. react/typescript) and keep a pulse on where the next 'high demand' trending tech is within frontend.
  • 2
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    Startup Engineer
    10 months ago

    During an interview recently, the interviewer said that I had good communication skills and should focus on technical topics.

    My stack consists of JavaScript/Typescript, React, and I know a little bit about Python and Django. Typescript is mostly what I use.

    Is there a specific approach you recommend I take to this technical part?

    Every interviewer is different and will generally be looking for a specific thing depending on the company's immediate need. When someone gets that feedback, it generally means:

    1. They didn't communicate the technical depth for the specific topic the interviewer asked for in the way the interviewer wanted to hear.
    2. They didn't communicate enough breadth of knowledge for the broad questions the interviewer asked in a way the interviewer could understand immediately.

    Candidates will generally blame the interviewer and say something like, "They should've clarified," or "If they wanted me to answer in that way, they should've said so," or "They should've followed up to let me know that I didn't answer the question deep enough"—but, to me, that just indicates a lack of experience, and not being qualified for the role. The right candidate should know precisely what the interviewer is looking for in the position they applied to and give authentic, not canned, answers. It's their time to show others what they're made of. If someone need prompting from the interviewer, the interview is probably going poorly. If it's an entry-level position, interviewers will let a lot slide.

    "Well, he didn't really answer my question, but he's new and doesn't have that much work experience."

    If it's a mid-level role, it disqualifies them because they're competing against other candidates with better responses. The universe of the interview includes them, the interviewer, and other potential hires. Remember that the company has to live with its hiring decisions, and making the wrong hire is monetarily costly and can negatively affect company morale. We want good candidates to find jobs that are a good fit for them, and we want bad candidates to get hired by our competitors 😆

    It's also the case that maybe the interview didn't go well because of other subjective measures:

    1. Not a good personality fit for the company
    2. Goal misalignments
    3. Red flags based on the interviewer's previous experiences

    A lot of things can go wrong, so luck plays a significant factor in the hiring decision.