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If you could have a 5 minute convo with your new grad self, what would you tell them?

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Junior Software Engineer at Taro Communitya month ago

With the current state of the market a lot of people's career has taken 4 steps back working jobs that are worse than what they had been working or it's gonna take much longer to break into whatever you are aiming for.

It can be hard to keep perspective/"trust the process" with how bleak things are especially for someone who has never seen a down market before and has limited on perspective on what a normal market is like

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Discussion

(13 comments)
  • 10
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    Engineer @ Robinhood
    a month ago

    Here's what I would say to me after I just graduated & spent a few months trying to find my first job:

    Build more side projects that

    • Require the product/codebase to be iterated on over a long period of time
    • Ship to actual users

    Software engineering is fairly pragmatic with judging graduates on what they shipped to real users. Yes internships are the main way, but there's nothing stopping you from building something and getting it out to real users (especially in this day and age it's really easy to learn how to build and deploy software). Leetcode is still building something, but no one really cares about the code that never ships to prod.

    At some point of time invested, more time spent applying for jobs is wasted if you can neither get interviews nor pass interviews from these additional applications. Writing more code (especially side project code that you're trying to ship to real users) will generally improve coding skills for both interviews and both on the job, so focus on that for a bit before applying for jobs.

    You can't get the perfect opportunties that alumni from other colleges are more easily able to get, but you can create your own opportunties. If you can't code your way into your first job, then it's 100% just a skill issue.

  • 11
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    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a month ago

    In terms of what you’re really asking, which is like career advice, I always get scared about butterfly effect things that would mean I didn’t end up exactly here.

    In terms of goofy answers: buy/mine as much bitcoin as possible 5 years from now. Sell it in March or November 2021 or wait until February of 2024. It may raise beyond those points in the future, but those are local maxima as far as I know them.

    Same with butterfly effect, but getting therapy, leaving a relationship, etc would be good, but I wouldn’t have this life so…

    Sorry, this isn’t helpful!

    If one were to ask “what would you tell new grads today?” it would be much different. Focus on debugging and fixing production issues, they are harder than writing the code in the first place. Learn an interactive debugger. Do work other people don’t want to. Write human-language documents much more than you think you should. People are more complicated than computers, learn speaking, conflict mitigation, and negotiation. Learn the workflow of the most productive person you have access to. Staying late doesn’t make better code or getting you promoted. Max out retirement savings as early as you possibly can. You didn’t learn to code in college, start learning now on the job or during prep.

  • 12
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    Eng @ Taro
    a month ago

    As far as mindset about the job market,

    Your peers are probably having issues with the job market, too. Is there anything you can do to differentiate yourself from them? Think for job searching as a funnel. Can you get more opportunities to widen the funnel?

    As far as learning as much as possible,

    Have a more proactive attitude for solving issues. Instead of just taking tasks, propose actionable solutions to technical problems that you're seeing in your day-to-day. Don't shy away from impactful problems because those are sources of opportunity.

  • 12
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    This is such a good question! Anyways, this is what I would tell myself, more or less word-for-word as 5 minutes is so short:

    1. Stop being an awkward loner and make more friends - Your career will live or die based on whether or not you have a group of homies willing to fight for you.
    2. Keep on building side projects - Companies hire people who can build, and there's nothing stopping you from building. Don't be lazy.
    3. Have empathy - Assume good intent and put yourself in the other's shoes. You can never know exactly what someone else is going through. Even someone who seems mean on the surface can have a good heart underneath.

    #1 and #2 are huge in this market and have transitioned from "nice to haves" in the prior market to "absolutely necessary for survival" in the current market. #2 is the most actionable, and I recommend this: [Taro Top 10] Building Impressive Side Projects

  • 8
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    Engineering Manager at Mistplay
    a month ago

    I would tell my new grad self in December 2017, graduating a semester late with no job offers to prioritize mental and physical health, and relationships and hobbies. I would also have been even better served telling my self that going into college or high school but it’s never too late. Life is about much more than maximizing total comp - especially that of your first full time job.

    I felt like I had done a lot graduating from college and wondered why everything seemed so difficult given that I had been “successful” with graduating. The point is you’re just a beginner again then as a new grad employee and you have the challenge and opportunity to completely change the companies who interview you and you compensation over the next 5 years from there.

    I had no faang interviews after college, but many faang or faang adjacent companies have reached out since, because you CAN trust that if you take care of your self, build relationships, do good work, and get promoted then software engineering can be an amazing life changing career.

    • 1
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      Junior Software Engineer [OP]
      Taro Community
      a month ago

      I really appreciate the honesty and the words. This is really motivating to hear and it really resonates with me

  • 7
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    24 days ago

    Don't wait until you're ready to start a company, since you will never feel ready.

    I spent several years too long in the Big Tech bubble, under the guise of "let me learn more, build my network, earn more money" before I start the real thing.

    I knew I wanted to do a company, but I wasn't sure how or when. Most of what you learn in Big Tech doesn't apply. There's a big benefit to the network you get from Big Tech (I found my cofounder!), but you need to be careful how long you stay.

    • 3
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      Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
      24 days ago

      Not questioning the general sentiment, but am curious in regards to your specific situation… do you think making the leap sooner (if it was Taro or similar) you may have carried less credibility into career coaching? Just picking a couple of cut points: L5 at Meta, no manager role (I think you were hired at L5, promoted to L6, then nudged into TLM)

      After Pinterest, before Meta (round 2)

      Pre-Pinterest

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

      @Lee: Yeah, in my particular case, given Taro's career growth value, having the "Staff Engineer / Manager" title was important. That was actually one of the reasons I stuck around as long as I did.

      So my tongue-in-cheek response is that I wish I had climbed the corporate ladder faster so I could have left sooner 😛

      In terms of cutpoints: working a few years was very valuable for me since I was craving financial stability. The two points that would have made sense:

      • As soon as I left Pinterest (I had saved up some money at this point, and had more confidence in my skills)
      • After 2 years at Facebook (I was a Senior Eng and saved up even more)
      • Pre-Pinterest, I realistically wouldn't have been able to build anything meaningful.
    • 2
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      Engineering Manager at Mistplay
      24 days ago

      This might be a whole different question Rahul and I know you love Taro and this domain is meaningful and relevant - but if you wanted to do your own start up earlier how do you feel it would have gone in other areas where you might not have needed the credentials? Like do you feel you could have started a successful personal finance company, health and wellness company, or home improvement business by following the principles of talking to users, building fast, and iterating?

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

      @Ryan: yes, absolutely, there are many domains (almost all of them, actually) where no one cares what specific FAANG level you were!

      There are many YC companies that have a unique customer insight and simply have the passion + technical know-how to bring a solution to market. The variance in these startups is probably higher since the founders cannot quickly get customers based on their background, so many companies will die quickly

      But it's definitely possible to succeed without credentials or a name-brand company. I think these founders succeed because they are willing to explore problems or customers that are not frequently served (e.g. software for lawyers or insurance, instead of a personal finance app).

    • 0
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      Friendly Tarodactyl
      Taro Community
      21 days ago

      Hey Rahul
      I know you have a bunch of courses that show how one can climb up the ladder quickly but those are for senior roles and in standard companies where they have designations for promotions.

      In my situation, as a junior engineer with about an year of full time experience, there is no scope for a promotion in a series A startup. I can probably ask for more responsibilities as an individual contributor but that's about it.

      Are there any video or Q/A sessions that you'd recommend me to checkout to climb up the ladder quickly?

      I know Alex is working on a course for this but I think it'll take about 2 more months before it comes out.

      Thanks!

    • 1
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      Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
      17 days ago

      Are there any video or Q/A sessions that you'd recommend me to checkout to climb up the ladder quickly?

      The big level up lever here is code quality. While quality is less important at a startup, it still matters (code quality always matters). It's also more impressive to have both high quality and high velocity in a startup as they aren't expecting the quality (so it's a very pleasant surprise). Check out the course here: [Course] Level Up Your Code Quality As A Software Engineer

      After that, I recommend the mid-level to senior course: [Course] Grow From Mid-Level To Senior Engineer: L4 To L5

      The parts about mindset (like "The Goggles" lesson) are particularly important as you have more freedom to be proactive and take initiative at a startup.

      Early-stage startups often don't have formal levels, so you can't concretely climb up the ladder. However, that's not important as what's truly matters is your personal growth and skill development. If you are genuinely becoming 50% better year over year, your pay/level will be a lagging indicator and you will eventually have a fancy senior title making tons of money. While startups are much worse at formally recognizing growth via levels/promotions compared to something like FAANG, it can be much better on the growth front as startups engineers shouldn't be drowning in a sea of bureaucracy and politics.