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Need advice on where to take my career.

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community15 days ago

Hello Everyone,

I need some clarification about where to take my career.

My background: I have a bachelor's (Information Technology) and a master's degree (IT management with a dissertation using machine learning). I performed poorly during my bachelor's; to rectify that, I worked hard during my master's and was placed first.

After university, I did gig work for a while and worked part-time at a startup where I was a solo developer (using Django and Flutter).

After 2.5 years, I realised that my career was going nowhere, so I finished the project, quit (on good terms), and got a job as a Junior Full Stack engineer at a small company. I was fired after three months due to low code quality and asking too many questions, so I am unemployed now.

My Conundrum: I need to figure out where to take my career as the market is quite bad. I have heard various opinions from friends and family, making me indecisive. The views that I have heard are as follows:

  • Focus on backend-only roles using Python and contribute to open source.
  • Focus on Analyst roles instead, such as Data or Business Analyst (Based on my skills from my master's)
  • Learn React Native and get rid of Flutter.
  • Learn something else instead of Python, such as .Net or C#. I did Java during my bachelor's, so I think I should be able to pick it up relatively quickly.

I should pick one of these and focus on it, but I am having difficulty selecting which.

Which area should I focus on? What would you do if you were in my position?

Any guidance would be highly appreciated. Thank you!

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Discussion

(4 comments)
  • 5
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    Engineering Manager at Mistplay
    15 days ago

    My experience was quite similar in the sense that I had several internships where I asked tons of questions and received no return offers. Personally I had little if any positive impact for the team. I assumed that since I had done well in school I would be high performing at a tech company. The reality was that I needed to learn a lot from scratch:

    • How does shipping a product work? How do tech companies make money?
    • How is code built at scale on the client and server side?
    • Who are these non engineers I’m collaborating with?
    • How do I learn on the job while delivering value?
    • How do I work with my mentor and manager and collaborate with other engineers in general at a business?
    • What is a perfomance review and how will I be evaluated?
    • How do I have effective 1:1s?

    Tldr: answering these questions for ANY company you pick is the key, by finding as SUPPORTIVE of a team as possible in your next role, while in return for their support you work as hard as possible to level up on your side. Because this is hard. But you can do it. And in general you have a huge leg up: you can learn a lot of info about all of this stuff on Taro!

    Here was my experience:

    My formula for getting out of this was to first build self confidence with side projects. I proved to myself that I could imagine something useful and solve it to some degree with just myself, my laptop, and the internet. I still asked a couple questions on stack overflow, and if chat gpt had been around and Taro I would have used that on that a lot.

    Step two was finding a job with the #1 important parameter being excellent friendly senior engineers on the team open to mentoring me. (With an interesting product and tech stack distant 2nd and 3rd factors)

    Step three was working nights and weekends for two years at that company so that I could survive and become great at the craft. I started on a Thursday, and took as many notes as possible immediately for two days. Then I treated myself to a Saturday brunch and followed that by sitting in a coffee shop trying to figure out the code base, what my first task involved, and how to get everything running. I had failed before but was not going to fail this time.

    In the office I worked long days doing my best to collaborate asking good questions, and then at night kept going to keep figuring it out. After the 3 month open window on asking endless questions closed, I kept a journal of 3 columns:

    1. First column was “I am stuck”
    2. Second was “I worked for 2 hours on it and had to ask for help”
    3. Third was “I worked for 2 hours on it and figured it out”

    For context it took me 6 weeks to ship my first feature which was complicated but this was too slow. And after 3 months people liked my work but I was also too dependent. So at the 3 month mark I had that sheet going and shared the results in 1:1s to show my boss I was having less blockers overall and solving more and more blockers every week and month independently. At the same time my goal was to learn as much as possible quickly to be able to ship my next feature. For the first year at the company this was basically doing something new every sprint across our full stack android and node js app. But I tried to be relentless about tracking improvements like landing more PRs and shipping more results. Very painful but I landed a promotion after 1.5 years and kept going pushing and then became a senior / team lead a year after that.

    You got this!

    • 1
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      Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
      13 days ago

      That's an awesome story, seeing the transformation of no return offers to someone with tons of credibility with your colleagues. I love the 3 column journal idea!

  • 2
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    13 days ago

    I'd opt to (1) learn things that you can easily demonstrate and (2) where you have some prior experience. That leaves backend/Python roles, or something with mobile development/RN/Flutter.

    Do you know people with hiring authority who are looking for devs in a certain area? Sometimes it's helpful to have a particular startup in mind and spend a few weeks/months building the skills to succeed at that company. Even if that company doesn't work out, you'll likely be employable by others in a similar domain.

    Can you share where you are located? Do you feel like there is more a presence of one type of work or demand in that area?

    The pattern from the above questions is: working forward is often more promising than working backwards, especially if you don't have strong opinions about what you want o end up doing.

    • 0
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      Entry-Level Software Engineer [OP]
      Taro Community
      12 days ago

      Hello Rahul, thank you for the response.

      I am currently located in Perth, Western Australia.

      I don't know anyone with hiring authority so I will try to network regularly to find out. Not networking has been the biggest professional mistake so I plan to rectify that by being more active by going to local meetups and joining events in general!

      There seems to be a demand for C# and Azure (Microsoft is big in Perth) for the backend roles and React is dominant on the front end. As for roles in demand, I believe Analyst roles are most in demand such as Data or Business Analysts.