DataTalks.Club

The Coding Career Handbook

by Shawn Swyx Wang

The book of the week from 10 May 2021 to 14 May 2021

The Coding will always be the easiest part of a Coding Career. This is a comprehensive guide about the principles, strategies and tactics developers can use to build an awesome career!

“The book could’ve been called Hacker News: The Good Parts. All the experience-based advice for career success, none of the toxic nonsense.” - Forrest Brazeal, AWS Serverless Hero

Questions and Answers

Ksenia

Hello swyx!
Thank you for the book. It seems to have a lot of valuable advice for Software Developers on how to build their careers wisely. How do you think, would this book also help other professionals such as Data Scientists, Data Engineers, Data Analysts?

swyx

hey Ksenia! I dont specifically focus on data science/engineering, but I expect a lot of it to be relevant since it’s about the nontechnical side of technical careers anyway!
you can see for yourself - https://www.learninpublic.org/v1-principles-learn-in-public.pdf

Dustin Coates

Hi swyx welcome!
How do you think coders approach their careers differently compared to people in other roles? Do they have specific strengths/weaknesses?

swyx

hey Dustin! hmm, this is hard to answer because I dont know what you have in mind by “people in other roles”. We have unique challenges — a lot of the time the quality and productivity of coders is hard to measure, compared to say, a marketer or a recruiter — but also unique opportunities, eg working in popular open source

Dustin Coates

swyx indeed, that’s what I mean by other roles! Marketers, sales people, etc.

ankush khanna

Hi you talk about building public image in your book. How do you suggest people with not extensive free time at hand to do it? People are generally busy with one of the following, just some examples: extensive work at office, family responsibility, working on building a small business?

swyx

hey Ankush! yes this is a challenge especially for working parents. Some ideas:

  • reuse your work - create reusable resources and blogposts out of the work that you are already doing. This will also save you time in future
  • set aside 1-2 hours before work every day — this is consistently the best time to do this out of all the dev creators i interview
  • take a codecation https://thoughtbot.com/blog/you-should-take-a-codecation
  • scope down your ambitions and perfectionism
    when you talk about needing “extensive free time” to build public image i suspect you are viewing this as a lot of extra work. when you can see how to break it down and also see how it opens up so many opportunities, may not seem that way.
ankush khanna

Thank you :)

Alex

Hi there swyx! Do you think this book could be recommended to data analysts as well? People that do not rely as heavily
on code as devs do :)
Thanks!!

swyx

hey Alex! same answers as to Ksenia!

Matthew Emerick

Hello, swyx! Thank you very much for doing this.
Does your book address entering the field late in your career?

swyx

well that is a huge part of my own journey… i career changed at age 30 — so its something i constantly think about throughout the whole thing 🙂

Matthew Emerick

Is there a section of salary negotiation? This is an area where a lot of people have trouble.

Grzegorz Sajko

There is a whole chapter called “Negotiating”

Matthew Emerick

Is there a section about the university versus non-university route?

swyx

not explicitly - this book lightly covers the job hunt and focuses on skills all devs need to level up. the most important thing that students with nontraditional background should think about is covering the CS fundamentals that they miss out compared to uni grads - i do recommend some resources for “building your own cs degree”. but in no way do i think it is necessary to build a successful career - just a nice to have

CJ Jenkins

Just finished reading 1.4 section on Diversity and is is 🔥 💯 :heart:
“If you are part of the underrepresented minority, know that you are desperately needed and if your current company doesn’t value you, there are lots of other inclusive companies that would love to work with you.”
Excerpt From: swyx. “The Coding Career Handbook” 👏 swyx

swyx

aww thanks CJ :heart: yes it was very important to me not to have a “Diversity chapter”, and I opted for sprinkling mentions and reminders throughout the whole book

Matthew Emerick

Are there any books you recommend we read before yours to get more out of it?

Matthew Emerick

What do you recommend we read afterward to continue learning?

swyx

hmm good question! a big part of why i wrote this is bc i saw a huge gap in the market between the “total beginner” oriented books (the kind that teach you to crack the coding interview) and the “high level” books (like pragmatic programmer) so this is challenging.
My goal is lasting principles that transcend specific technologies, so I think books like Deep Work and Tools of Titans are very central to my thinking so I’d recommend them — no opinion on whether to read before or after.

Glenn

Hi swyx! I recently read your 35 Principles for 35 Years post and found it very insightful. Did you have any principles you wanted to share that just missed the cut?

swyx

hey Glenn! thank you! well actually there were and since it was an impromptu list there were probably some that i came up with later that i regretted not including haha

swyx

unfortunately i seem to have deleted them… but happy to talk about any of the principles in the principles section of the book https://www.learninpublic.org/toc

Glenn

Thanks! I’d love to hear a high-level overview of what this principle is about - “Pick Up What They Put Down”

swyx

(book is 25% blogposts that have done well, expanded and elaborated, 75% new stuff)

Glenn

Also, I saw you mentioned in your Learn in Public post that it’s the fastest way to build a “second brain.” Is that idea at all related to https://www.buildingasecondbrain.com? Someone in my network who introduced me to your writing years ago also took this course. If it’s related, how has this idea of building a second brain impacted your work?

swyx

yes, in fact i am currently a group mentor for Cohort 12 of BASB right now 🙂 i wrote the LIP essay 2 years before BASB, but the course has helped solidify my understanding of notetaking and helped me understand what pain points other people have.
i would say a big difference is that BASB is very inward facing - more focused on your notetaking system - whereas LIP is by nature more focused on public output.

Glenn

Oh very cool! I just started using Obsidian last year and a lot of content related to it on YouTube mentions BASB. I need to build better note-taking habits with it, but being able to write in markdown and see how all the notes are connected in the graph view makes it a lot of fun

swyx

yes but very inward focused. i want people to produce produce produce 🙂

Glenn

Very true! TBH like many others I’m terrified with the idea of learning in public, but I guess there “ain’t nothin to it but to do it”. I very much enjoy writing, but struggle with impostor syndrome. After re-reading your LIP essay this morning, I’m going to commit to writing something this week 🙌

Alexey Grigorev

What is “building a second brain”? Something like Zettelkasten?

Alexey Grigorev

Hehe, I will probably check the previous thread =)

Wendy Mak

second brain looks interesting but is very 💰💰 lol

swyx

yes lol my community is discount second brain haha

Ian McRae

You’re at the beginning of your coding career, not yet invested in any one skill or discipline - what direction do you go on and why?

swyx

oh great question! two directions to explore here -

  1. what do you really want to build and what helps you get there? (games, blog, mac utility, mobile app, hacker news clone, data scraper, SaaS app, whatever)
  2. what do the interesting employers in your area seem to be hiring for?
Glenn

In your sample marketing chapter, you mentioned how you love Svelte and React. In your opinion, when would you reach for Svelte first? I used to write a lot of React, but switched domains right before Svelte gained more popularity.

swyx

oh i did finally write it up 🙂 https://www.swyx.io/svelte-sites-react-apps/

swyx

btw i did consciously play an active role in Svelte gaining more popularity - @SvelteSociety on twitter is me 🙂 i think a good skill to develop is betting on technologies just before they cross the chasm - something i touch on in the strategy chapters

Glenn

I’d be interested in learning a little bit more about your process in choosing which technologies to bet on. I bet on SwiftUI pretty early and a couple of years ago, I switched from my company’s frontend team to iOS. React was more similar to SwiftUI than what my iOS teammates had ever worked on, so I was much more productive than all of my them out of the gate. I still think SwiftUI is the future, but I didn’t realize how slow the mobile space moves compared to web so sometimes I feel like I bet on it too early.

swyx

oh! it always feels like that i suspect. objc was clearly not going to vanish overnight the moment swiftui was launched, but you can see apple moving more and more over to it. i wouldnt be worried about it, as long as apple doesnt suddenly deprecate it overnight then you’re just playing a long game

Anika Tabassum

Hello swyx! Thank you for taking the time to answer questions. I wanted to ask, for a lot of companies how well you interview via Leetcode-style questions seems to be more important than a personal brand/public image. As such, what specific advantages does a public image provide to navigate the interview process?

swyx

hey Anika! well I have personally been able to skip some technical interviews because the interviewer has seen me livecode or attended a workshop of mine. however not all companies will do that.

swyx

still, almost everyone googles you or looks up your profile before interviewing you. if you can demonstrate proof of your expertise in a difficult field (eg speaking at a well known conference, publishing in a well regarded publication, repo with lots of stars) then it can help to reassure the interviewer.

swyx

at the end of the day the interview process is a risk minimization framework, people are looking for clear strengths and lack of critical weakness, and a public profile can help with both.

Anika Tabassum

Thank you !

Anika Tabassum

Another question: if you are trying to get into a role that you aren’t in yet (eg transitioning from traditional SWE to ML/data engineer), besides building things in public, what else can you do to not get boxed in to the same role that you have professional experience in?

swyx

important question! make sure your resume reflects all the work that youve done towards the identity that you want to have, not what you used to have

swyx

then think about doing internal transfers rather than trying to go in by the “front door”. in other words - its much easier to join the company first and transition to that role internally (often by volunteering to do extra work for that role) than it is to pass the interview bar for the new role direclty

Anika Tabassum

Thank you.

Alexey Grigorev

What’s the number one thing you’d recommend doing for people who want to become senior devs?

swyx

write more - documentation, internal design docs, sprint retrospective. document what you did and how you did it and make sure people know what you did (marketing) and you distill lessons from your experience (teaching, identifying core principles)

Alexey Grigorev

How important is social media accounts in coding career, in your opinion? Can we get around in our career without them?

swyx

social media accounts are not necessary, but they can be great help to networking! so… highly recommended, so long as you dont get addicted to their worst properties.

Alexey Grigorev

That last part is the most difficult one! Thanks =)

Alexey Grigorev

Not related to the book, but it’s more about this “second brain” thing.
I have a wiki which I used for notes. It was an awesome way to categorize my notes and knowledge - and I often used it as a sort of “second brain”.
But I quickly realized that taking care of this wiki requires too much time. And I eventually abandoned it.
Do you have any suggestions for that? How can I maintain a system of notes that doesn’t require constant attention and a lot of effort in keeping it organized?

Matthew Emerick

It would be interesting to develop a system that takes your thoughts/notes and organizes them like a wiki for you. I used to do the same.

swyx

ohh.. here 🙂 https://fortelabs.co/blog/para/
i am a BASB mentor for the ongoing cohort right now

Alexey Grigorev

Thanks! Looks quite useful - I’ll give it a try!

nithishr

I really enjoyed reading about the big l notation. I am curious to know about your thought process while coming up with it. https://www.swyx.io/big-l-notation/

swyx

thanks! it came out of a desire to illustrate why years of experience is a terrible metric to evaluate engineering skill/talent/progress. When you break down the factors and think in terms of scaling like with Big O, it then becomes quite obvious what kinds of behaviors scale better than others, and therefore what we should do over a long career 😄

Alexey Grigorev

And check our interview with swyx from yesterday! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkBCPqWKCL8
(Thanks swyx for the chat!)

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