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Ask HN: What was the best decision you made in your career?
460 points by sardaaraz on Sept 26, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 472 comments

Moving from permanent to contractor.

I made the jump 5 years ago and have worked for a number of companies since, on 6-12 month contracts. The money has jumped each time, such that I’m on what I consider to be silly money now for the job I do — Ireland, not US.

The work is always interesting for at least 6 months and I learn a ton of new stuff with every contract, much of which I use when building my own products (Downtime between contracts).

Every aspect of contracting is better than being permanent: the ability to jump ship quickly without affecting my hireability, the exposure to so many different technologies and different ways of doing things, the constant freshness of new things and new people, the ideas that come with seeing how different teams create and build different software, the ease with which you can step into new contracts (often one 30 minute interview as opposed to multipel interviews tests and take home projects for perm roles), and of course the money.

In terms of learning, each contract is like spending 3 years in a permie job, and I’ve had 7 in the past 5 years.

I've been contracting for two years now, and I agree with the majority of what you said. (UK here)

However, I've recently started considering returning to permanent, primarily for one reason. At the age of 50, half of which has been in a software development career, I find being a code-monkey -- even a senior one -- quite unsatisfying. I would like to return to leadership roles I had while I was permanent, but they are nearly impossible to find as contracts.

This is very true. Management roles tend to be kept in-house.

If you have the experience there are plenty of project management contract roles.

Contract PM roles tend to be axe-men -- you're there to kick people and crack whips because you're not part of the org and don't have to worry about future interactions or consequences. Also makes it easy to shoehorn in new ideas and break out of groupthink, which is necessary for big orgs, IMO.

Plus you're gone when the project or milestone is completed, instead of having to worry about finding another role or laying you off.

I've been doing it for 10 years now, and that hasn't really been my experience. Sometimes you might have to push, but you should be doing that as a permanent PM anyway.

You can sometimes have to leave when the project is completed, but more often than not they have a new project kicking off.

Hi, for someone who is interested in starting contracting in UK, what should one know about taxes? Did you have to create a limited company? Could you please advise Thank you.

You don't have to make a limited company but it might be necessary for some contracts. You might also have to carry insurance. An umbralla company might also be appropriate for you, especially if you're not 100% sure. It has been a few years since I quit contracting (to start my own company) so some of this stuff might be old.

Definitely read about IR35 and how it might affect you.

In all cases, an accountant can answer these questions for you, even if you're not sure you want to commit.

I concur. Consulting works for some people. Myself included.

Two years ago, I went one step further and moved from SF Bay area to Saigon, Vietnam. I've had a variety of tech jobs while here, but I am currently consulting for two primarily US based companies.

My expenses are almost nil (compared with before) and I live a very minimal lifestyle (own and purchase very little). I plan on going nomadic in the next couple months (I've never been technically homeless) and driving a motorbike around Vietnam, Cambodia and wherever else I want. I can work during the week and travel on the weekends.

I'm so much happier with my life. I was doing it wrong before.

what were the first few concrete steps you took to make this happen? did you just start cold emailing?

Short version of the story...

I started a business in SF that brought me to Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang (3 separate trips). I fell in love with the country and told everyone I'd move there someday. A year later, I quit. Immediately started searching for jobs in Saigon online and through contacts. Found a company through some mutual friends who hired me to come over and teach them about agile (I'm an ex-pivot). Got rid of everything I owned... Moved... haven't looked back.

Prior to my current consulting work, I randomly met a guy in a coffeshop in my apartment building who had a bitcoin book. I'm into crypto. Started talking, got invited to help install some litecoin asic machines for a new operation they were running just outside of Saigon. Became cto. Grew that to 1500 machines in two data centers (~5MW of power), ran that for 8 months until they pulled everything out of Vietnam (longer story).

It has been a very interesting couple of years.

I'd be interested in hearing from some US-based contractors who feel the same. The thing that has stopped me going down that road is the insane health insurance costs here.

Yeah, contracting is very tough if you're responsible for a familiy's welfare. I did it for a few years, 2008 - 2011. But back then HSAs were quite reasonable. With a wife in kids I can only imagine what premiums are now days. However, when the kids leave I'll seriously consider going back to contracting.

One other thing I found out was to stay away from the "butts in seats" contract. That's often the model these contracting houses (middlemen) use so, in essence, you're the same as an employee with non of the benefits. It can still be good to go through one of these companies but make sure and tell them that if you're work is blocked because the customer is dragging their feet on requirements or the like, you reserve the right to work on other contracts. Don't let them bill you out at 40h per week if there's not 40h per week of work.

I'm in the fortunate situation of having a wife whose traditional employment includes good health care benefits for the family, leaving me free to focus on cash.

Add the cost of paying for your health insurance into your rates. A full time employer would be calculating it into compensation all the same.

I was a contractor for 4 years before going back to perm mainly because of health insurance costs (I'm in the US). One of the troubles I had switching back to perm is that my future employer looked at my resume and saw me as a "hopper" since most of my contacts were 6 months to a year long. Luckily I had a friend already working at the company that put in a good word for me. But this experience made me think twice about doing contracting again. This is really the only negative thing about contacting I've encountered. It's a great way to be introduced to a variety of different environments and get a large bump in pay.

On your resume, you can list the name of your contracting "company", even if it's just "Sakopov Software Consulting", and consolidate all the client work into that entry, rather than separate resume entries for each contract. That mitigates the "hopper" perception and also gives the reader less noise to process. Obviously you'd still want to list recognizable client names prominently if possible.

I made the jump to contracting 2 years ago and it was an unmitigated disaster. Clients would change course and drop me, leaving me without a revenue stream. I was always playing catch-up, and had actual work less than half of the time, the rest consumed with trying to drum up more business. I read a bunch of consulting books, which all said the same thing: Get satisfied customers and leverage them to expand. But that presents a bit of a chicken and egg problem while your finances sink dangerously low.

If it works for you, great, but there's a lot more to it than people in the business will say.

Thanks for sharing that! How did you transition to contracting?

I spent about three years contracting, and the way I started was to ask the company I was a permanent employee at (who routinely hired contractors) if they would like to hire me as a contractor instead of as a perm. They said "OK" and so I quit as a perm and restarted as a contractor (I actually also managed to negotiate a four day week and one of the four days at home, back when remote working was much less of a thing, for effectively about twice the money - man, I really knocked that negotiation out of the park, in retrospect); I spent about three months there before moving onto another contracting gig, which I think I got through a recruiter. I know a few other people who have done exactly the same thing as their initial contract.

Derek has mentioned basically all of the positives of contracting - the downsides are that shorter contracts (three months, or anything less) tend to be either quite dull (very routine work that nobody else has the time for) or unpleasantly intensive (desperately trying to ship a disaster); in some organisations you will be treated as "just another bloody contractor" by the perms, who will know you make more money than they do and hate you for it; you may get less responsibility than you would have as a perm, or generally "less say"; and if you end up contracting for the sort of company that you'd hate working for as a perm, it will be just as bad as a contractor, except you'll probably care even less for them because you will know that you can quit very easily, which is, itself, a bit demotivating.

I transitioned from contracting to running my own consultancy, which is much harder work, much more stressful, and with a lot more risk, but quite a bit more rewarding (for me personally - definitely not something I'd recommend to everyone).

I'm interested as well, but I wonder, how early can you start (career experience wise or age wise)? I'm happy to email you if it's fine and requires a longer answer

I don't think you can meaningfully call yourself a "consultant" without having at least a handful of years of industry experience; I think you can probably get started as a contractor just a few years into your career (I personally wouldn't hire someone starting out from scratch as a contractor, though perhaps other people would).

Emails always gladly received!

Where are you located? I'm quite interested in transitioning to a consultancy, but I've always had trouble doing selling. Any hints you could share?

Hey, feel free to drop me an email to have a chat - there's an address in the web page linked from my profile.

Contracting in Ireland and in the UK is an easy transition as most contracts are run through agencies, so you don’t have to network or go looking for clients like you might have to do in the US. A simple start point was to approach agencies who had active contract roles in the same way you would for permanent roles.

Starting a new contract is just like starting a new permanent job — hand in your one month’s notice and move on. Though, I tend to just quit, take a couple of months off, and then find the next contract, but most contractors move directly into other contracts with no down time.

Could you maybe name such an agency or at least what they are called?

Every IT recruitment agency in Dublin places contractors as well as permanent. You'll find them all listed on IrishJobs.ie. Search for .net, c#, java, and filter for contract roles.

(Stay well clear of Computer Futures. They have a terrible rep in Ireland and in the UK.)

Hays, Montash, People Source Consulting, GCS Recruitment Specialists, Glocomms, Third Republic, Citrus Global, Gulp, iPAXX, Modis Contracting Solutions GmbH, Etengo, Templeton Recruitment, and on and on and on... :)

Hays is a huge one and I've done one contract through them which went very well. They seem to be well organized, know when I'm becoming available and more or less what kind of work I'm looking for.

Computer Futures on the other hand spam me with tons of irrelevant stuff. That is partially my fault however, since a long time ago I submitted a CV to them with lots of keywords that I don't care about any more. Having said that, I recently got an interview through them and the client wanted to hire me. Ultimately it didn't work out, but I don't think they are to blame for that. I certainly did not put them on the blacklist. :)

Some of the other ones are smaller agencies from the UK and Ireland, where I am regularly in touch with one or more of their recruiters. You can probably find all of them on LinkedIn. The good recruiters often post new contract opportunities including rates (a nice habit in the UK, still uncommon in Germany).

They all love phone calls, which is a bit annoying, but not the end of the world, IMHO.

I've been contracting for 8 years now. I'd recommend CWjobs / ContractRecruit and PurelyIT - just search and refine based on location / skills / required rate.

I'm also based in Ireland, would you mind giving a range for what you consider 'silly' money? My impression is that Contracting works well at lower salaries but once you move into the higher tax bracket (40%) then the the disadvantages of contracting start to outweigh the benefits as most of the additional income is eaten up by tax.

That does sound like an ideal career path to me – I'm one of those people who gets bored with everything far too quickly. What's your tech stack and how did you make the switch?


Dev jobs in Ireland are predominantly corporate enterprise software — very few start-ups. This means Java, .Net and front end Javascript roles are most common. I actually landed my first .Net contract after a 10 year career as a C++ developer and learned on the job.

There’s an idea out there that contractors need to be expert or top rung developers, but this is not true. You can learn on the job and usually end up doing so as most companies have unique ways of doing things.

I'm also in Ireland and I've also found that a majority of jobs are as you say -- Java, .NET and frontend roles. I work primarily with PHP (three years industry experience) but there are only a fraction of positions available for it and so I've been tempted to step in to contracting, especially as the idea of working more independently really appeals to me.

I have the same assumption in that I've always seen it as a pipe-dream at the moment and that I'll need another five years plus and additional languages under my belt before I'm worthy of even considering contracting, so it's refreshing to hear that this is not the case! I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience in making that step to contracting, and how you felt yourself 'ready' for it.

Despite what you might assume from being on HN, the same is true in the US. Most jobs are corporate enterprises software here to.

How did you started with contracting?

Same question. How did you find your footing with contracting?

I work with mobile robotics and machine learning. I wonder if it's too niche for it to enable me to comfortably start contracting instead of jumping from one permanent role to another.

Mobile robotics sounds so cool. But looking around it seems most jobs are concentrated in a couple of locations and the rest of the world seems to be a desert. Just curious where are you located and how is the mobile robotics scene over there?

Montreal. I work with autonomous driving currently, but I agree that jobs in my field are restricted to barely half a dozen cities in 4 countries.

Hi there. Any obvious and non obvious suggestions as to how should one switch from permanent to contractor?

How old are you?


Taking a chance and joining a very large corporation.

Previously I was all about startups or small companies and was very much against the mega-corp environment.

Over several months a colleague "recruited" me to join their team and I don't regret it.

I've been able to climb pretty high within this corp and it has been a wild ride. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd have any sort of influence over technology strategy that one of the largest US corporations would follow for the next decade.

So, I've learned to keep an open mind and not let preconceived notions on how others do business until I see it for myself. If I had not done this I'd still be hopping from start-up to start-up.

I did something similar. The HN community had been pretty much my virtual mentor ever since I stumbled upon here. Consequently, I had a subconsciously ingrained aversion for BigCorps and joined a (3 person)startup right out of college.

On hindsight, I consider it a mistake. Micromanagement, lack of depth in terms of engineering & vision made me rethink my career path. Joined a BigCorp as a result and I regret not doing it early enough.

Work-life balance, clear decision makings, freedom to experiment with new tech, time to work on personal projects, financial stability and most importantly ability to bring real impact to real users – I clearly see now things that I'd have missed if I continued with that startup.

patio11 wrote a brilliant piece here regarding this, along with other awesome career advice - https://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-pr...

Conversely, I took the opposite leap from a relatively successful corporate career to startup.

I’ve learned a huge amount and appreciated the opportunities and flexibility I have.

I think experiences in both worlds are valuable and wouldn’t trade either experience for anything else.

I'd love to read a write-up on the trade offs between the two in 2018's context.

Some quick notes...

Corporate Benefits:

- While a lot of folks look at bureaucracy as a huge drawback, in retrospect, I learned a lot about how to influence people and trying to see all sides of an argument.

- In some cases, it can be freeing to work for a big corporate environment if you manage to find yourself on a team with a green field project. It's got a lot of benefits that startups have with little to no risk of failure.

- Structure can be good for some folks, especially early in your career if you haven't got the slightest clue what you're interested in doing long term. I view it sort of like bootcamp for the military - you get a routine, you learn to function as a group, without the stress of needing to survive.


Corporate Drawbacks:

- Bureaucracy - it can be utterly draining. Some fights feel like such a slog for minute improvements.

- It's easy to get lost in the mix - bosses can change frequently if an organization is unhealthy, team members bail, and product groups fall apart. The healthiest corporate groups can be incredibly freeing to work in and the worst corporate groups can really burn out your creativity because it turns into monotony.

- Golden handcuffs - I walked away from a big chunk of money when I went to startup land. It wasn't easy but ultimately it was the right choice.


Startup Benefits:

- More work than you have people to do it. There's always something to do, you never end up with busy work, and you're almost always learning something you didn't know the day before about the business or your technology.

- Smaller groups that feel more like family and less like work. I get to work with my friends, people that I'd hang out with outside of work. That can be a double edged sword, but for me I enjoy it.

- Closer connection to the customer. At a big corporate job, you're so far removed from your customers as an engineer that it can be very isolating. For startups, you often interact with a customer if something's broken or a customer wants a new feature. I enjoy that a lot.


Startup Drawbacks:

- More work than you have people to do it. If you don't set good boundaries and have a good culture of identifying the most important thing to be done, everything can feel like a "tyranny" of the urgent.

- Pay is lower, especially at earlier stages. I'm not terribly obsessed with money. I like to have money to travel and enough to get a few things I want but expensive cars or collecting guitars isn't my jam.

- Unpredictability - Business needs change quickly as you fight for deals, you experiment or cut features to try and drive costs down. It can feel like you built something and then aggressively cut it prematurely.


These are just my notes on it - and really it's stream of consciousness. I'm sure if I sat down to write a real blog post, it'd probably be a little better reasoned.

Were you able to remain technical as your rank and responsibilities expanded? Or did you need to move into a management-only role to reach a turning point in the "influence" you mentioned?

I started off in management with a small team but as I continued to deliver I kept on getting more and more teams.

Turns out I am not cut out to lead from such an abstract level, directing other directors and barely knowing how stuff is being shipped.

However this is where I was most surprised. My senior leadership recognizes where my skills are and have let me “manage myself” out of my role and move into a senior (think fellow/principal/staff) individual contributor role where I manage peers and work hands-on with whatever interests me (as long as i can align it to some product).

I have influence in a couple major tech areas for this Corp. influence in a type that I develop strategy and report on a semi regular basis to the C suite and am actively brought into other silos to contribute or kickoff ideas.

Long story short. I’ve spent years as “lead developer” at startups with no where to go except perhaps CTO. Here I am able to carve out an influential space that can maximize whatever talents I have while working closely with others who can augment skills I lack.

I had such a negative view of this corporate world prior to joining that I am ashamed of myself now that I know what the reality is, at least for my own experience.

I work at a megacorp and I'm familiar with lots of staff/principal-type ICs who lead big high-impact technical projects that are tremendously influential around the company. We really need the tech lead types to complement the people managers, so each side can focus on what they do best.

I totally agree!

Large tech focused corps usually have a career path for individual contributors to rise up the ranks without becoming people managers. This career path is almost meaningless unless there is a corporate culture of collaboration between ICs and directors/VPs.

A senior IC should not be navel gazing all the time and just building whatever or getting into peoples business while VPs should not be so protective of their thing to dismiss or wall off outside contributions.

"Assume positive intent" and "It's all the same stock price" is heard around here a lot.

Did you feel like you had agency when you first started? I'm talking to a Global 500 for a senior engineering role and I'm super torn. The role seems cool, but I like my agency and have alot of it currently. It's a hard thing to risk giving up.

I had similar concerns before I joined up. I didn’t want to get swallowed up in some massive project or shuffled around in reorganization after reorganization.

The guy who was recruiting me made all the assurances that would not happen. I respected this guy, it’s the only reason why I even entertained being “recruited” for this role. Even with that though his word was not good enough.

What put me over the edge was meeting with his boss and then his bosses boss. I got the impression that these people had great skills in running an organization. They both were ex engineers who made the leap to senior management prior to joint the mega Corp (VP and Exec VP). I felt like I could trust them to a degree. It has proven out for me.

So, I suggest trying to get information to gauge how much you can “trust” your senior leadership beyond whomever will be your supervisor since those are the people who will really have the most control over your agency and future at that company.

>Taking a chance and joining a very large corporation.

I have two questions if you don't mind answering.

How large is the company you are referring to? 10K people? 100K, 250K, 500K?

What type of company is it? A company that builds and sells mostly software, or a company that uses software to sell something else (e.g. automobiles?). Amazon+AWS is a an example that is a hybrid of both.

Its a mega corp in terms that it is comprised of several large enterprises. If the "arm" I worked in was spun off as its own corporation it would be Fortune 30 by revenue. Worldwide I think we have about 40k of the 270+k total employees in the corp group. The group as a whole is in the Fortune 10 and serves the health care industry.

My part of the corp is all software. Product development both "commercial enterprise" grade to individual consumer facing. This involves plain old software development, data science, infrastructure as well as R&D (some basic, mostly emerging tech)

Thanks for the info. Very helpful.

>My part of the corp is all software.

I was hoping you'd say this.

Out of all the places I've worked, two of them were/are huge (250K+ people). For the first, I was in the business side of things as a data scientist/software person, and now I'm in the the software org as a data scientist.

In theory I should have been doing the same job; using code to to address business problems using data science. Both companies were investing heavily into cloud and analytics, and were theoretically moving in the same direction.

My experience in the non-software org was a nightmare because nobody understood what it meant to build or engineer anything. Now that I'm in software org of big company and I'm MUCH happier because people actually understand what it takes to solve a technical problem.

Lesson: if you are a software person who likes to be technical (coding or not), work in a the software org of a big company!

That'd be United Health Group, McKesson or CVS Health.


I was a mid-level developer at a large software company making a very competitive salary and quit to join the U.S. Marine Corps and train to become a Naval Aviator.

I'm now a 'mid-level' AH-1Z pilot.

I work longer hours and have generally a lower quality of life but there's something to be said for the immensely unique things I've gotten to do and how profoundly well-rounded the entire experience has made me.

I will be re-entering the software industry in a few years unless another passion pulls me in some new direction.

The military is obviously not for everyone but picking up the phone, ducking into a side conference room across from my cube, and giving a verbal commit to my 'recruiter' that day (after a years-long selection process) has been the best decision I've ever made.

With respect I'd like to ask if you don't have ethical issues. The military forces of USA has been doing pretty bad stuff in the last 50 years, so I have the feeling that you're not saving lifes but rather ruining them. War became such a common thing and nonsense in the US that at this point thatnpeople is not sure if they're at war or not.

You're either very young or naïve or both. Almost everything we do in this world has good/evil direct/indirect consequences. For example, should I blame you for polluting the planet because you are using an electronic device to post naïve comments on the internet that likely gets its energy by producing some sort of pollution? What about the vehicle you drive? What about the slaughters that take place because of your meat consumption? What about the carbon dioxide you breathe out that's toxic in high quantities? How dare you add to our carbon footprint!

In the end good/evil are myths. They are human constructs and they can change depending on time and place. Ethics is not a hard science and your belief that something is good does not make it a fact.

The military can cause a lot of destruction and grief around the world, no doubt, but it can also cause a lot of good and stability. In the real world there will always be "winners" and "losers" An action that benefits you may directly or indirectly hinder someone else.

Our military's mission is to defend our country and that means that sometimes other countries will lose if they decide to engage. Inevitably there will be innocent casualties. This will never ever change. It is an honorable thing to do what we can to minimize it but unrealistic to expect it to ever go away.

You will likely see the world in a different light the older and more experienced you get. You're not a good person. You're not a bad person.

You're just a person.

OPs question was relevant and respectful, your answer is not. Good and evil may be a spectrum/scale rather than discrete categories, but they are not a myth.

OP's comment: "I have the feeling that you're not saving lifes but rather ruining them." was not very considerate either. As a veteran myself, I found that assumption highly offensive considering I was involved in multiple missions were we provided food, shelter and security to many people around the world. OP's comment was very much a naïve one because either he did not know how much good the military provides around the world, or willingly chooses to ignore it and conveniently leave it out of conversations to support his stance.

Also, ethical myths have very real effects on societies, but they are myths nonetheless. That realization may be inconvenient to some and that's fine.

Thank you for your insight and for pointing out the offensive part of my question. Thinking better I'd certainly not have said something like that if we'd be having a face to face conversation.

I never been in the armed forces, but I understand well enough that joining the army is a sacrifice in many ways, including one's agency in respect to those above you to make good and bad decisions in an morally indifferent and complex world that hungers for control (as is human nature). An army could not function and protect if everyone retained their agency. Thus, taking up your (IMO ignorant) moral qualms with the OP instead of your government is NOT respectful and is in poor taste.

The US Military is a huge employer and there are a variety of jobs and roles in the organization. Your comment is like telling employees of a company they should feel ashamed because management cooked the books.

Really depends how blatantly obvious it us the company's cooking the books.

Also, if that bad accounting is leading to the death and torture of humans.

They might be a huge employer but they also murder people. Even if you work in a role that supports murder and doesn't actually do it directly, I'd say that the ethical side is a concern. Certainly not something to be dismissed out of hand, even if you make the decision that you are ok with it.

I am of the opinion that a "well it's far removed from me even though that is what the organisation's main goal is" stance is doing yourself a disservice.

> but they also murder people

Not murder. Unfortunately, people are killed in war. Not the same thing.

Right, and the US military played a central role developing internet. But as a pilot you might be order to drop some bombs.

So, you don't think the US should have a military at all? How does that work in the real world?

Where are you getting that?

Its hard to analyze which way the balance tips if on one side of the balance his job is fulfilling, while on the other side of the balance sophistry gets upvotes. They're almost orthogonal issues.

All in all, if you’re working for US military you cannot make a claim “I save lives and do good ladila”, indirectly you may be ruining many many lives.

I don’t think the US has a good reputation as peace makers, albeit the opposite.

> I don’t think the US has a good reputation as peace makers, albeit the opposite.

Depends on which part of the world are you asking.

I live in Eastern Europe. US military (and NATO, but I am just repeating myself) is currently the only reason why Russian armies are not marching through our streets. Western Europe alone would gladly sacrifice us at any moment.

I understand that if you asked e.g. someone from South America, you could get a dramatically different answer. But I am speaking for myself right now.

Thanks for this response. I'm going to graduate college soon and I've been thinking of trying to join cal fire. I know I want to be in tech, but I don't know if I am ready for it yet. I think I need something more exciting/meaningful while I am still young.

Live life to the fullest, while you still can. Find something that's meaningful to you and do it. There's time for fluff later on.

May I ask how old you have been when you made the transition? And whether you had family or not? Because I learned that this significant change in lifestyle is a lot easier the younger you are and the less other commitments you have. Respect so for becomong an aviator, that definitely isn't the easiest career path.

And I could imagine that a former naval aviator who is also a programmer has a bright future in the defense and aerospace industry if you want.

Years long selection process? I'd love to hear what was involved and why it took so long. That's definitely a pretty drastic switch!

Long story short: Medical waivers; bureaucracy; initial screening and training as well as the peculiar program I was in and my place in it at the time.

Cool! Congratulations on cool job.

I'm jealous. I always wanted to do something like that, but my eyes suck.


What do you mean to sound like? A cool guy who just drops truth bombs? The guy did what he wanted to and he is happy he did it. Sounds like he won to me. Love what you do and you never work a day in your life right?

*Point 3 on meritocracy: The Marine Corps aviation community's entire qualification basis revolves around merit: your ability to plan, brief, and execute complex missions is directly reflected in your placement in the squadron.

Even rank gets thrown out the window to a degree. Our little community in particular (the HMLA) is a meritocracy that is enforced on a tribal level.

I won't say (nor do I care) whether you do or don't sound like a dick but you do sound like you didn't read my post or perhaps didn't appreciate the spirit in which I wrote it.

Point 1 on bureaucracy: Generally agree. Point 2 on the feasibility of changes in career: Wholeheartedly disagree.

Circa-2000 I was in my final year of university and working as a Windows service desk monkey in the SysAdmin team of a Sydney-based company that developed a platform for hosting (legitimate, regulated) gambling websites.

Sun Microsystems happened to be across the road from us. My mind was blown the first time I saw the value of the invoices for servers and Solaris licenses that we bought both for ourselves and on behalf of our customers. That's where a lot of those dotcom-era "investment" dollars ended up - at Sun.

One day we needed a router + firewall for some internal service. One of the Unix sysadmins in the team grabbed a spare i386 desktop PC, stuck a 2nd NIC in it, installed Slackware Linux and configured ipchains. Job done: no budget, no managerial approval, no licenses, nothing. I couldn't believe it.

I asked him about Linux and after learning more came to the conclusion that it could basically do most things that Solaris could do but was 1) free and 2) ran on cheap, commodity hardware.

That was the writing on the wall for me. I taught myself Linux and pretty soon had my first bona-fide Linux Sysadmin job. Linux went on to become the OS that runs the world and I've never struggled to find relatively interesting, well-paid work since then.

Does anyone have advice for starting on a path towards sysadmin work?

Ive used linux for years, I develop on a chromebook running an all cli ubuntu chroot and have loved working this way for the past two years. Im very interested in devops (Im a fullstack JS freelancer) and enjoy working with servers and the cloud a lot. But Ive never considered myself “learn-ed” in the ways of linux.

I have the time to devote to linux sysadmin training, and intend to do so.

Specifically: What areas of linux knowledge are most useful from an employer’s standpoint that would make a candidate attractive? Is it mostly experience architecting systems in production?

I think devops as a realm of work is very interesting, and would like to gain experience doing it professionally to find out if I’d want to pursue it longer term.

Beyond joining a team and learning from real world applications, is there anything useful you would recommend I look into? There are training courses available online for these things (AWS certs and linux foundation training comes to mind), does anyone have an opinion about the usefulness of such material?

Not the person above but doing some thorough searching through the subreddits below might be helpful. Quite a bit of DevOps/AWS Cert discussion on /r/ITCareerQuestions.





Would also recommend looking at A Cloud Guru for certification course learning:


There is no loyalty in business. Keep your loyalty for your family and may be friends, not for the company you work for. The company will never be loyal back. Have an opportunity to make more or work more interesting? Grab it with both hands. If you are 99.99% of the workforce, you are not indispensable no matter how much you think you are.

And I'll fly the opposing flag here. Loyalty to people is everything in business. Got a good working relationship with people? Stick to them like glue. Make your moves as a unit. Having a team of people consistently work well together is lightning in a bottle.

I've built relationships with people just by doing right by them in tough situations that have lasted decades and paid fantastic dividends.

I think you're agreeing. Loyalty to people is awesome. Loyalty to corporations is not.

Both is true in my opinion. Strange thing I witnessed, loyalty between corporations matter (e.g. suppliers and customers) and loyalty between people matters (just pick wisely, not everybody is worth it). Loyalty between corporations and people doesn't exist and is usually a one way street.

Yes, only be loyal to people who demonstrate some kind of altruism. I've had a client offer me a big raise on my hourly rate once without me even asking. It's a sign of trustworthiness.

I think it's both. You won't get very far if you treat everyone at your job like an enemy. Don't burn bridges if not necessary. If you find a better job, leave graciously and do what you can to help transition. You don't know when you will need the help of somebody there in the future.

Also understand the motivations of people more powerful than you. They want to succeed, get promoted and make more money. If your goals align with theirs, you're golden. If they see you as being an impedance to their goals, you will get tossed aside, no matter how much bullcrap they heap on you in orientation and all-hands meetings about caring about the employees. It's just profit and loss, raises and promotions- nothing else.

So true! When you experience sudden group layoffs you realize rescuing the balance sheet matters far more than retaining good talent. I once had a boss tell me “Working here should be your career. Don’t treat this place like just another notch on your resume.” Sorry boss, but it might be just a footnote on my resume. I’m only staying here as long as the work and the pay is satisfactory otherwise I’m already interviewing someplace else. Nothing personal boss, it’s just good business.

In my second job, the company was not doing well financially. They stopped 401k match, reduce salary by 5% across the board etc. I still stayed because I liked the work and the people. Then they started laying off people who were with the company for 25+ years. One of them was my good friend. An asian guy who worked day and night and treated his work like his baby. He had two kids in medical school and a house with mortgage. He also was the only bread winner in family. I could see the pain and anxiety in his eyes. He had to sell everything and move back with his family to be with his brother and extended family.

That was it for me. I found a much better paying job within two weeks and never looked back.

The next company I worked for laid people off on schedule even though they were growing like crazy. In my four years there they went from 2b to 6b, but laid off many employees every year or so.

Its hard to swallow but you have to be worth the money someone is paying you. If its the opposite, you will most likely get laid off.

With 25years in corp, you should have at least contacts to win contracts. If it was manager position ofcourse.

Disclaimer: I have a company and I've started a few in the past.

My take is that the loyalty a company has towards a given employee cannot be the same, simply because it lacks the emotional basis that usually makes that loyalty as strong and/or as irrational. It's completely a matter of company culture which, in most cases, isn't very empathic to employees.

I don't think lack of loyalty is a rule though. I think that if the company culture is set up properly, it can totally have some form of valuable, albeit different, loyalty towards its employees.

Thing is though from the other side even if you have good intentions, you still have more then one people to think about. So your loyalties are split. For an employee, it's only one entity to be loyal to.

Most employees have split loyalties as well: Family members, personal projects, etc., which to varying degrees affect their loyalty to the company. It's how it should be. Neither side is free from conflicting loyalties. Nonetheless even within those constraints, both side can show loyalty if they treat each other with consideration and respect.

As they say in boxing: If you want loyalty, buy a dog.

I did following things that helped me grow,

1. My engineering ended in 2013. I was shit broke. I started doing online courses in 2016. Till now I have done 51 online courses in different things and just a month ago I got moved into a DevOps role (from a WordPress developer role). $0 invested in it.

2. The other best thing is growing my LinkedIn network. I grew my network from 200 people to to 15000 people (most of which are founders and recruiters). I invest time in writing articles and sharing new opportunities via LinkedIn.

3. I started reading a lot of books (related to tech and business).

4. I started emailing, tweeting to people (and getting heard by people like Jimmy Wales, Elon Musk, Tim Draper, Craig Newmark, Charlie Cheever) etc. This helped me grow exponentially.

5. Planning ahead. I started visioning life 30 years ahead. What was what I wanted. If your goals are clear, it will be much easier to find the path.

6. Ask, ask, ask. I asked a lot of questions on StackExchange, Reddit -> r/webdev and Hacker News. Whatever I plan to do, I take feedback from these groups. I have also joined Slack channels of professionals from different groups where I talk and take feedback. From ideas to resume review and career guidance.

7. Anyone that could teach me, I made him/her my mentor and listened to them and acted on their advice. Everyone I work with (founders, coworkers etc) see the passion in me and tries to mentor me. The trick is to always be willing to listen to others and keep connecting dots.

Ye gods. I'm glad that is working for you, but that's a little beyond what most people can manage


> 15000 people

I can't imagine the low SNR because of that enabling you to derive any use from it.

Sounds like one of the random LinkedIn requests I get on a pretty much daily basis that I just hit the "Ignore" button on. I guess there are people who accept them. Furthermore, if I do get a random LinkedIn connect request that's immediately followed by someone trying to sell me on something, that's a recipe for reporting spam.

Like I said, I don't randomly add people. I network with founders and recruiters. I never send them a private message until we have something to talk about and I don't do sales.

I have a ton of questions for you but I'll boil it down to several for now:

1) Which courses would you recommend?

Which had the greatest impact?

How would you do things differently?

Would you forego engineering entirely?

2) Suppose one doesnt have friends from school or work, how does one build a linkedin following?

What did you write about?

How did you promote your articles?

3. Again, favorite books? Most impactful?

4. Maybe once you get back to me, we can talk about 4 this sounds super interesting! But maybe you can give me the jist of what you did? For example why did they bother replying to you when tons are reaching out to them everyday?

1. The courses on AI/Machine learning and blockchain (or anything that has do with 4th Industrial revolution) are great. Coursera is great for this.

The greatest impact was the combined effort of being able to do multiple courses (in so many different things) and being able to better understand different programming languages, technologies and marketing (SEO, ads, content marketing, referral marketing, driving sales).

Can't leave engineering. Engineering is the passion. I have a strong belief that all parts of business should be driven by engineers from development to sales and marketing. Yesterday I went to a meetup and I met sales people on the booths who had no idea on the product they were selling worked and how it could help others.

2.) If you don't have friends in school, go out to events, network. Talk to people, add them on LinkedIn. Found someone interesting online? Feel free to email them and get to know each other. Thats how I have built my network. Don't forget the nurture professional relationships. Your network is your networth.

3.) I have a 15000 people following, the articles that are of interest get viral. A few times I tried to post my articles on some FB groups. It did work out well but I don't do it anymore. Best is to just keep writing (you may post on Reddit, FB etc but be aware that you might get banned for self promotion).

3. 'The Lean Startup' and 'The defining decade' are the most impactful books.

4. You can see my Linked: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ifahaduddin/

'The Startup of You' by Reid Hoffman is another great book.

Thanks for getting back to me!

Would you be able to link me to the exact courses? Or, the authors at least?

Were you trained in engineering, or self taught?

Where do you go to for your marketing knowledge? favorite sites, blogs, books, thought leaders?

How do you combine marketing with your other skills?

Any other advice for a person aspiring to be in your position?

1. You could Google the authors/books/courses. 2. I did a CS degree but I worked almost full time as a freelancer learning technology while I was at University (this helped me pay my University fee and also make extra money for everything I wanted to try like different ventures). 3. For marketing. The basic ideas came from doing my own ventures. When you really need to get the word out, you start using social media, link building, backlinking, SEO, SEM, Ads etc. There are really good Udemy courses for that (try the ones that are free). I read the book called 'Traction' for exploring marketing channels. Its great. Most of the other things come from daily feed coming from different sources. I like gary vaynerchuk's stuff on it these days. 4. I combined marketing by giving business ideas and opportunities for expansion to each employer I worked for. Things like sharing links to good content, doing analysis of competitors and helping young marketing guys (in startups). 5. Read a lot. Don't try to be someone else. Adopt the things you like in someone and keep moving!

blockchain voting?

Yes. I am working on a blockchain based voting system too.

For the 4th thing. I got replies because I asked very relevant and to the point questions. If its very specific and they can really help, they respond.

Would you mind sharing where you found leads on technology oriented Slack channels? I'm old school, used to hang out on IRC some 15 years ago, but went silent and passive after starting a family. However my boys have grown and I'm looking into getting back into general or topic oriented technology talks and banter, but have no idea where to start looking for like minded people.

If you are interested in a particular technology, googling for "slack for <technology>" usually works.

If more interested on cross technical concerns (leadership, regional) I have found the best thing is word of mouth (I know several Colorado slacks, but found them through people I met at meetups). Though again you could try Google.

I have also found that most non project oriented email lists I am on have a link to their slack in the email footer.

I Googled slack channels list for things I am interested it. Like Front End, Startups, Laravel, WooCommerce etc. You would find 100s of channels. See the ones which have many members. They would have a online form to join them. Join the ones that are free. There would be some who would ask for a membership fee. I personally don't think paid ones are worth the money. https://medium.com/startup-frontier/100-slack-communities-fo...

One thing I learned along the way is to be very honest to yourself and know that "you don't know what you don't know." When I was at University I always felt like I know it all. But the more you explore you learn so much that you don't know.

What are some of the business related books you found interesting?

Business Adventures, Crossing The Chasm, Hard Things About Hard Things, Only The Paranoid Survives are great books.


Hey, can you mail me (in my profile) would love to chat

Hey! Thanks. I have emailed you.

A few times throughout my career, I noticed a pattern of dreading waking up and doing the work that I do. Once I've identified that, my number one priority is to figure out if that can be fixed or find something else to do if it can't.

Maybe I'm lucky, but every single one of these changes (there have been 4 major ones in ~15 years) has led to something better than what came before it in one way or another.

Life is too short to hate what you do. That will always be the guiding principle of my career, through all the ups and downs.

By far, applying to work remote for a US based company 3 years ago. I am living in Romania.

I still work for them.

Theoretically I should be able to retire in about 5-10 years, in my mid 40s, depending on how frugal I am with my expenses. This wouldn't have been possible working for a local software company, even though I was paid about 3 times the average national income.

it's so sad that from where i live (SEA), 3 times average gdp per capita is no where enough for retirement.

insurance and healthcare system is a joke. so whenever you got health issue, be prepare to spend butt-load of money.

i have no idea how gdp per capita is so low yet people have so much of money (unreported income, corruption probably)

I make about 25 times the national gdp per capita yet i'm just above average in my country.

I had 3 times the average national net salary, not GDP, which I guess should be even more. But that income wouldn't have allowed me to retire either. It would allow us (me, my wife and a child) to live a comfortable life though.

As a back of the envelope calculation, if you can live with 30% from the income, one should be able to retire in about 7 years.

What is the formula to compute the 30%, how did you compute it? After you retired, how much (%) of your salary will you be able to spend monthly?

ah i see.

>it's so sad that from where i live (SEA),

Well then. Move to Romania. Problem solved.

Moving from EU to SEA is easy. Moving from SEA to EU is significantly more difficult.

I'm privileged to be a EU citizen, but not everyone is. Also see: https://www.passportindex.org/byRank.php

I do the same as Tudor. 10 years since I work as freelancer, before that was basically changing jobs in Romania every year or at best every 2 years. For me the site that enabled me to have US/Canada clients is Upwork (former oDesk when i started)

Could you please tell us how you got that job? I'm constantly on the look for a full-remote job, but I find difficult to get one.

I found it on jobs.perl.org. I already had about 5 years of Perl programming experience. And I offered to work on US timezone, which I think also helped.

How did you find the vacancy? Isn't there some dedicated website for Europeans who want to work for an US company remotely?

Im also interested in this

I found it on jobs.perl.org. I already had about 5 years of Perl programming experience. And I offered to work on US timezone, which I think also helped.

Cool to see that there are people hired because of Perl! These days you only here about these new, fancy and very hip programming languages that you must learn...

All the best on your job!

Our company is currently hiring an SRE in EMEA. US(Seattle) based. Full remote.

Please send me some details, timezone, spec. My email in the profile, thx.

Demn im more in software dev role currently

Joining a trade union.

When I got made redundant from a very large company, they were able to secure me a severance package which I pivoted into running my own startup.

They also gave me a huge amount of training on pensions and dispute resolution, which I still use to this day.

They also helped boost my confidence in public speaking by inviting me to address a huge conference. I was a few speakers before the then Prime Minister.

Being a union member also got me face to face with several senior leaders within my industry, and with people from a wide range of backgrounds that I'd never have encountered otherwise.

Basically, for a few quid a month, I was able to completely transform my relationship with work and my peers.

Which trade union?

I can't pinpoint a single one, but a few in a sequence:

1. Before I built my reputation and experience, I said Yes to a lot of things. Not all of them I could do, but once I said yes and jumped in the deep end, I found out I can do them and do them very well. Necessity was a big driver.

2. Life style trumps "exit". I worked with various start ups for 20 years. I founded and co founded 4 of them. At some point I decided that if a company succeeds or fails, I want it to be because of me, not despite me. So in 2 of those startups I had no investors and full control. I work at and dictate my own pace.

3. Best decision: My time and family come first. Nothing urgent has never been really that urgent. Nothing requires me to work 20 hour days. Nothing justifies my family being hurt because I'm somewhere working more than I should be.

Learning to say no is definitely high on my list. Only when saying no do you start getting valued by others.

Taking job interviews not as events where I had to prove myself for a chance to get validated, but rather as a discussion between two parties to see if what they have to offer to each other matches is another that comes to mind.

I can really see a before and after break in my career.

Yeah, decision 1 to say Yes was only applicable until I felt confident enough to say No. Perhaps I should have added 1.1: Unlearn decision 1, and say No when you don't want to do something.

I have a 4th one, also quite important to me: 4. I decided that a rule that cannot be broken when pragmatism requires, is not worth having. Common sense must prevail, always.

Long story short - I was brave and stood up for myself, demanding the righteous thing.

I was 15 years old back then. I had just learned how to code and my hunger for programming was insatiable. I didn't think much, browsed through relevant classifieds and sent out a couple of honest e-mails stating that I really want to have a job, but I have no real life experience.

A company replied within a few days and they were interested. It was a very small company, consisting of a CTO and CEO. We agreed on 200$ for a portal type of website(it was a thing back then), with user sign-ups, public and private posts, comments and a few more things.

This company was hired by a rather large media company, to develop a dedicated website for them. I knew who was behind it and I was hoping that I would get recognized by the media company.

I dreamed about writing lines of code in my sleep, daydreamed through school and spent all time I could on coding the whole thing.

I think I was done in three months or so, and then came the day I asked to be paid. I had put daily changes on their FTP server, as we agreed, so I had literally no leverage. And they stopped responding. I tried reaching out to them in numerous ways, such as using my mom's cell to call the CEO, but he hung up immediately after realizing it was me who called.

As I realized that I had been scammed, since we did not have any form of written contract and had agreed that I would be paid in cash when the whole thing was done. Therefore I went on the media group's website, found the contact section and somehow managed to stumble upon the personal cellphone of the CEO of the media company. And I called him. I was an emotional teenager, but I spoke the truth. I did not have any demands other than to be heard. After a 10 minute long discussion where I explained that I was ripped off and worked for free for months, the CEO invited me over. I still remember the awe everyone was in, when they realized that a kid had just called them and walked through their front door in a few hours.

That phone call has been the best career decision I have ever made. The media company terminated their contract with the agency that had ripped me off because of terms violation - they were prohibited from outsourcing any development to any third parties, without a written permission given by the customer a.k.a media company.

And so I landed my first job! The people working for this media company were so genuine, mature and supportive, that I did not lose my love for what I did and had been in web development ever since.

It pays off to be brave and righteous in the end.

Glad it worked out in the end for you!

I wish I could say I had a plan that lead me down my career path. I made one dumb random decision after another, and somehow they all got me where I am today. The best decision was way back in 1999 I started a blog because I loved Slashdot. I used that to learn how to program, and that has lead to every job I've had since. So my long winding dumb successful career path is all thanks to me wanting to be like cmdrtaco! (I once got to thank him for that here on Hacker News)

Similar here. To this day I have no idea what I'm doing or how I got here. I made fan sites for various stupid shows, while selling white goods, and apparently they were good enough to get invited to a career in web dev. Then I took lead on projects because our project manager didn't know what "html codes" are, so they sent me off to do PM courses and suddenly I'm an IT PM.

I still feel like I should be selling fridges, but they keep getting good performance reviews, so I'll take it. Sure pays better than selling fridges.

Still here. Still appreciate the kind words ;)

Teaching myself to program. Nothing caused such a hockey stick in opportuinities. I was able to make way more money in a very short time period and work in much more interesting companies.

I never took anything so seriously in my life as when I decided to become a programmer. I bought dozens of used textbooks, read and meticulously underlined them, relentlessly wrote code and read all the programming interview books, made guides for myself to study, said yes to every contract and bug I could help with regardless of the tech stack. I refused to be anal about picking one programming language over another.

I have a marketing degree from a not good school. If I could do it again I would (a) drop out and move to a major tech metro and (b) identify a high growth tech stack and study it intensively. Never should have wasted time getting a useless degree.

The best thing learning to program taught me was how to read books properly - Write in the margins, take extensive notes, phrase and rephrase the lessons, write my own articles and guides to solidify the learnings.

This year I mad $350,000 and got promoted to manage five people. I couldn’t have gotten here without learning to code.

Wow 360k is insane. Are you still hands on keyboard or strictly a manager? Mind sharing what industry this is that can afford that salary? Thanks.

As a salary, that would be high. As total compensation (salary + bonus + RSUs/options) it’s not uncommon for managers or senior individual contributors at large tech companies.

The stock compensation is a big deal after several years if the stock does well. The initial grants can become worth a bit more than they started at. Also, at senior or management levels the raises get smaller and the stock grants get a lot bigger.

> I refused to be anal about picking one programming language over another.

Given that, what is your opinion of where is the puck going/gone for programming languages?

ReasonML? Go?

I enrolled in the JET Programme [1], got accepted, quit my job at 39 and taught English for 5 years in Japan. Oddly, I think I'm less effective as a programmer now. Before I left I was definitely an "alpha dog" programmer and pushed my way towards success. Teaching changed my perceptions and I think I am more effective as a person. It's been a hard transition and often frustrating because I now back down in situations where I know the team will suffer. But young people have to learn and they need someone who is willing to let them do so. I still need a fair amount of practice not being grumpy about it, though ;-)

Note that while I feel this is the best decision in my career, I think it's debatable whether it has helped my career in the traditional sense (i.e. more money, more influence, etc). Probably not :-) Still, I like the direction I'm going, which I would not have said before I made that transition.

Edit: Link :-P [1] -http://jetprogramme.org/en/

interesting that you did the JET program at 39. I figured it was all 22 year olds.

Out of curiosity, were you a single person? Wondering if they accommodate adults with a spouse and one or more children.

I was single, but the programme does accommodate families. I've even met more than one single parent on the programme (and universally it seemed to be a wonderful experience for the child, which surprised me greatly). The spouse even gets a working visa (or did 10 years ago when I was on the programme). It's a great job.

I haven't looked at the situation recently, but there used to be an age limit of 40. I applied when I was 38, which is essentially the very last time you can do it.

In case you (or anyone else) is interested, I'll write a few things about my impression of what the JET programme is (which differs slightly from the official version). The official version is that JET is the "Japan Exchange Teaching" programme -- so the idea is that people come to Japan to teach English. In reality, it is a rather brilliant plot by the Japanese government to both get rural people used to having foreigners in their communities, and to expand awareness of Japanese values abroad in order to soften the position of foreign powers in business and trade negotiations.

Basically, what was explained to me by a few Japanese government officials (after many, many beers) is that in the 1980's Japan was flying high in the world economy, but they were having a lot of trouble with the rest of the world understanding how they did business. There are some great English language documentaries on the subject (I wish I could remember some, but I suspect you can search on Youtube to find some good ones).

You would have American sales people coming to Japan and saying, "We make car parts. Our parts are 30% cheaper than your supplier. You should buy from us". And the response would be, "We've worked with our supplier for 250 years and have developed a level of trust with them. Why should we betray them for a mere 30% discount" Even small things like people showing up for discussions with important business people and not bringing a souvenir as a gift, or refusing to suspend conversations until everybody had properly gone out and had a drinking party would derail a lot of trade deals.

At the same time, the Japanese government was thinking, "Our population is getting older and if we keep growing financially we're going to have a massive labour shortage". But the vast majority of Japanese people had never seen a foreigner in their life. They realised that they needed some kind of cultural shift to accommodate the bringing in of foreign workers.

They concocted this really bizarre plan where they would seek out and hire young, educated foreigners who are from rich connected families and bring them to Japan for a few years. The idea was to indoctrinate these young people with Japanese ideals and then send them back to their home country. Then 20 years later, those young people would inherit their thrones (remember they are from rich, connected families) and they would be in a position to change foreign policy towards Japan. They would also be able to educate foreign businesses how to communicate to Japanese people. They would also send these young people only to rural locations (where there are no foreigners) to pave the cultural way for the inevitable influx of foreign workers.

I think we're getting up over 30 years of the JET programme and it has been a crazy success - from that perspective. There has been a problem, though. When they initially set up the programme, they didn't know what the young people would do. Someone had the bright idea of having them teach English at the schools. So that's what they did. However, young, rich, snotty-nosed kids right out of school... ummm... They aren't necessarily the best workers (of course there are many exceptions to prove the rule!). In fact, historically quite a large percentage of them had never had a job in their life. They didn't know how to work, had never had any real direction in their life and were also suffering badly from other kinds of culture shock. To top it all off, virtually none of the teachers in the school system wanted these people and took it to be a particularly onerous babysitting job.

Over time, the programme has started to hire a percentage of older people into the programme. They still look for people with good connections. Even though I do not come from a particularly wealthy family, I worked for some of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world. That's the kind of thing that has the JET programme licking their lips. You get a person with that kind of influence and a proven track record of working hard, it's great for them. They can send that person to one of the schools that are pissed off about the people who have worked there before. For example just before I came they had to fire a guy who never once showed up for work -- he went surfing every day. They needed somebody that would keep a low profile and just do what they were told.

The JET programme in Japan, despite being wildly successful in their unadvertised nefarious plan, is under a lot of criticism for their public role. The JET programme pays a lot more than private companies charge for "assistant language teachers". Quite a few schools have moved from JET assistants to assistants from private schools. The advantages are many: usually the workers are older, experienced in teaching EFL and they are a good %30 cheaper. Why should a school hire JET assistants?

This has caused JET to hire actual teachers! These are people who have no money and no connections and are probably not a good fit for the original goals of the programme, but they can actually do their job when they are in Japan. I think there is some hope that the teaching skills will rub off on some of the others (it doesn't, but it's a nice thought...).

So that's where it stood about 5-10 years ago when I was involved. I'm not sure how it's moved on from there. But basically they have 3 categories of people that they are looking for - 1. young, rich, connected people from famous universities; 2. older, connected people who have life experience; 3. people with qualifications in teaching. I think you're still more likely to get hired if you are in category 1, but there are a fair number of positions in the other categories.

Disclaimer: many tongue in cheek comments -- I apologise if anyone found it offensive rather than humorous.

This isn't the first time I've seen your comments and thought to myself: "This guy sounds like an awesome dude."

Great write up, once again. Cheers.

Wow, I lived in Japan for five years and have known many people on the JET program and never knew this. Thanks for posting. Would be interested in those documentaries if you remember them.

> The JET programme in Japan, despite being wildly successful in their unadvertised nefarious plan

Any source on that one? I'd love to share this with my friends

Ha ha! Only the aforementioned drunken ones ;-) I honestly believe it to be true, but you should take it with a massive grain of salt.

Thanks for taking the time to write it down - very fascinating indeed!

fascinating, thank you sharing that!

Changing jobs! Seems like it's so much easier to make more money by getting a new gig than by negotiating with your current employer. I've changed jobs every year since I graduated college; each jump has added 20k or 30k to my salary. I didn't have the best grades, didn't go to a good uni, but I've gone from 45k to 170k in 6 years.

Doesn't the employer often ask that why you change jobs every year ? Is it fair enough that if one company offers better gig than other so I can negotiate with other to increase gig?

They surprisingly don’t, in my experience.

Agreed. I've seen only a couple job postings over the years that say something like "no job hoppers". In fact, because of this much change I've been exposed to a lot more technologies/tools/architectures/etc than most people at my level of experience, which if anything has helped me in my ability to evaluate tech decisions, have interview discussions, etc.

Are you in a high cost of living area and what industry do you work in, if you don't mind sharing?

I do live in a high cost of living area, but I work remotely. I'm a software developer.

Bailing out of my first full-time development job after just a few months.

I was driving 30+ minutes to work, working overtime every week, and got a bad performance review on the grounds that I wasn't working enough. The company had a "work hard, play hard" culture, which in practice meant "work all the time and occasionally we'll invite you to take a booze-filled trip without your family". They had flown me in for the interview and let me eat sushi with the CEO, but after that it was "nose to the grindstone".

After a few months I got a call from a recruiter about a job 5 minutes from my house, using a language I liked more. In talking with the company I learned that they worked business hours only. I felt slightly guilty about making the switch, but I got a lot less stress, more learning, and more respect at work out of the deal.

In the nearly-a-decade since then, I've never again been told I don't work enough, and have always ruled out jobs that smelled of workaholism. I'm having a happy career.

I'm actually unsure if I've ever made any particularly good career decisions aside from switching into computer science. Aside from that I have largely been reliant on the combination of being reasonably competent and the generally high demand for developers to make up for lack of good career decisions.

On multiple occasions I have resigned from jobs after 2-3 years with no clear plan for the future, let alone another job lined up, simply because I didn't like my current job anymore.

On multiple occasions I have poured hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours into projects and start-up ideas that never had a realistic chance of working out. I did this safe in the knowledge that I could run down my finances working on some fun speculative project and someone out there would give me a job to let me pay the bills when I needed it.

So I certainly haven't maximized within my career but I chose a career well.

There is a lot of truth in this. Switching to software development from finance was clearly a good choice. Past that, I think "my startup was awesome", "working for a startup was awesome", "big corp is the way to go" is going to be elicited by individual experience.

Delighted to hear such an accurate description of my own career. I'm not alone.

Don't make money your first priority. Take it into account, yes, and fight for raises if you deserve them; but prioritize other things that have a greater impact on quality of life, such as location, commute time or absence of overtime.

The best paid job I ever had was also the worst by any other measure.

My best career decision was transitioning from wet lab biology to computational genomics during my postdoc circa 2011.

I saw the kinds of DNA sequencing analysis our collaborators were doing and said "hey, I could do that", so I checked out all the R books from the library and taught myself some stuff. And then around that time both Coursera and Insight data science were just starting to become a thing, so I looked up the Insight curriculum and cobbled together my own version with Coursera and made a genomic data viz website.

That computational transition set me up to go into data science in 2014, which has turned out to be a succession of being in the right place at the right time for incredible learning and growth opportunities, but it never would've happened if I hadn't decided to analyze my own sequencing data.

At age 42 (11 years ago), going back to school and completing a Masters degree in Enterprise Architecture. I had been in the same job for 5 years when I made the decision. Work had a self-education program that paid for my tuition. The decision was literally made in the space of a couple of days before the mid-year intake. If I'd had to wait another 6 months, I probably would have talked myself out of it. It was hard work (had a young family at the time), but paid off handsomely when my stupid employer not only refused to utilise me in my chosen field (having graduated top of the class at their cost), but literally pushed me out of the company. One of my industry lecturers got me my first contracting gig and I haven't looked back since.

I guess I learned a few things:

1) don't overthink decisions (which is not to say "don't think");

2) to back myself and my abilities with the requisite effort. I'm typically smarter than I think but I need to put in a matching level of effort. When I got my Bachelor degree 20 years earlier, I literally skidded out the door in a haze of alcohol and with a shit grade. That cost me a few years;

3) don't be afraid of a challenge; don't be afraid of the unknown;

4) be sensitive to where you are in your life - can you afford to take a hit if things go pear shaped? Time-box your attempt to shake things up in your life;

5) If you work as a contractor - networking and self-brand management rules. I rely heavily on LinkedIn and the network of contacts I have cultivated, and keep my brand alive with posts and articles relevant to the kinds of work I want to be doing - not necessarily flavour of the month.

There's probably more but that's pretty much it. My income now is almost 3 times what it was in 2007, and while I'm not suggesting that's the only measure of success (far from it), it affords me a professional freedom to be more picky in the work I take on, and to live with far less fear than before.

EDITED TO ADD: The reason I chose Enterprise Architecture was because it suited my temperament. I discovered I was a "systems" thinker pretty early on, and as I moved through a typical IT career trajectory, the "systems" I was thinking about became bigger and bigger. EA probably sounds pretty passe compared to all the "it" technologies people are playing with, but it's kinda like politics - reality is gritty, the problems are hard, endless and fascinating (if you're so inclined).

Wow, I am 35 and thinking its too late for me. Thanks for your reply. Btw money should be used as measurement of financial decisions, nothing wrong with that.

What was the application process like, so many years out of school? Did you need old transcripts? Recommendation letters from supervisors?

By that stage I was already working as a “technical architect” (in reality glorified system designer). I was allowed credit for a couple of units based on industry experience. Combined with the fact I had a bachelor degree (though in the unrelated discipline of physics), that was sufficient to get me in. Being a full-fee paying student didn’t hurt either.

Tactically: public speaking. Strategically: forget about titles and career path and comp and just figure out how to provide value to the people around you. The other stuff takes care of itself.

I like how succinctly you've put it. I may add that as long as you are creating value or reducing the amount of collective headaches for the people around you, they'll keep you around.

Getting a job in a major metro area. I was very resistant to moving away from the smallish city/metro area I lived in until my late 20's. When I did, my career just took off.

I'm not even talking about Silicon Valley. I worked in Boston, Seattle, and Sydney, Australia. Never set foot in the valley as an employee of a local company. Made insane salaries, one company I worked for got acquired, another one went public, etc.

How did Sydney compare to other medium sized cities in the US?

Define "medium-sized". Sydney has over 5m people in it and covers approximately 4750 sq mi. So maybe half the population of the LA metro area in about the same size?

> Define "medium-sized". Sydney has over 5m people in it and covers approximately 4750 sq mi

This reveals something many readers might not have noticed. It's a quirk of politics and history that "Sydney" is defined to include the entire urban agglomeration that surrounds its city core (all 4750 sq miles of it), but this isn't the case in most U.S. cities. For an apples-to-apples comparison, you should be looking at U.S. CSA (Combined Statistical Area) populations (not the populations of core cities).

That puts Sydney outside the top 10 U.S. metros -- considerably smaller than #11 Atlanta (6,555,956), and about the size of #12 Detroit (5,336,286) or #13 Seattle (4,764,736).

The Los Angeles CSA (since you brought it up) has ~18 million people in it. †

In the spirit of fairness, it should be noted that CSAs sometimes cover extremely large areas. If we were to restrict Los Angeles to its MSA (which at 4,850 sq miles covers an area almost identical in size to Sydney), its population drops to about 13 million. The difference between CSA and MSA populations isn't usually so large, but the Los Angeles metro area contains an almost ridiculous amount of urban-ish sprawl, compared to most other cities.

As per your footnote, LA reminded most of Australian sprawl in how it’s all spread out. Brisbane, where I live, sounds big, but the actual city is rather small — and way less dense than central LA!

Haven't down there yet but was really surprised by this photo collection in The Guardian about Australian suburbs:


Quite surprising how closely it resembles some of the US, especially Southern California, in the sprawl, car culture, and surburbia. Then again, I hear Melbourne and Brisbane are quite livable with better public transit options.

Exactly, the structure and subdivision of local government is quite different. The ‘City of Sydney’ has only about 200,000 people in it [1] despite the population in the entire metropolitan areas being similar to that of Seattle’s.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Sydney

Sydney felt an order of magnitude larger than Boston or Seattle. The population density was staggering compared to those cities. It took hours to get away from urban sprawl and feel like you were out of the city

I decided to be honest with myself about what I do and do not like, to work my ass off at the things I do like, and to be vigilant about checking my feelings and following my gut. It's paid enormous dividends. I taught myself to program and have gotten good jobs because of it, and I've also avoided going down a lot of blind alleys. I quit academia after completing a Master's rather than chase a PhD I didn't really want and saved myself enormous heartache there. Several times I've started developing skills only to realize, "I hate doing this." So I just stopped. I left numerous jobs where I was unhappy for various reasons and have stayed at one where so far I've been happy. And overall this attitude has kept me growing and pretty happy in my career and life generally.

EDIT: As a part of this: I was honest with myself that I cared about money (to a point). For a while I stayed in a job I liked that didn't pay me well, trying to convince myself that "quality of life" was more important than money. The reality for me is that money is part of the quality of life equation, and I'm glad I admitted that to myself. It was also sort of a canary that I wasn't being challenged and could do tougher work that paid better.

I started waking up early (5am) to start work. I typically am done with the important stuff by 11am which frees the rest of the day for things like "not working at all" "learning something" "experimenting with something". This also means that on the once or twice monthly occasion that I have too much to do, I still get it done by 5 or 6pm at worst instead of working into the late-night hours like I used to.

I agree with many of the people here that say understanding the relationship between worker and company is crucial. In the words of Don Draper "That's what the money is for." The mission of the business is not the same as your mission as a person. Giving too much of yourself to an employer is a mistake.

What time do you go to bed and how much sleep do you need each night?

I've been trying to get up earlier, but evenings/nights are still prime time for family, spouse, and "me time." So, starting work at 5am seems out of reach.

I struggle to wake up early in the winter months in particular. My body resists being up before the sun. Do you have this problem? If so, do you just will yourself through it or is there a better solution?

I'm not sure about the effectiveness but have heard there are "wake up" lights now that gradually come on. I have a light on a timer that suddenly comes 'on' but don't think this is the best solution. It works but I get more surprised into wakefulness than really liking it.

Also, Dan Pink has a new book out about timing with some discussion of the 'stages' of our day. Some people have naturally different stages.




I'll also second the OP as I'm not what I consider a morning person (when unemployed, more 10a-2a for natural rhythm) but my current job has me getting up around 5:30a. I might be a convert though because, as they said, getting a lot done early is pretty amazing. I like being home by 4 and having a large block of time to do spend however I want. And it translates to weekends too where I find myself up in the world early. I live in LA though so our daylight shifts aren't as drastic in winter as other places.

Getting off of the people management track and focusing on individual contributor roles. I quickly learned that I do not enjoy being responsible for the productivity, pay, morale, HR processes, deliverables, disputes, and career progressions of other people. I’d much rather just be a helpful coworker than a boss.

Did Recurse Center in 2012. It started a snowball of growth that hasn't showed signs of stopping. The Recurse Center is a self-directed, community-driven educational retreat for programmers. https://www.recurse.com/

I wish it was easier for international people to join.

Changing careers. Left software to become a doctor. I'll graduate in 7 months.

If you eventually find yourself in a residency matching program, don't let a horrible human being acting as a chief of staff deter you from your hard earned accomplishment. These chief of staffs think that they are doing good by abusing residents, perpetuating abuse that they may have received long ago. You may be able to avoid this by not selecting any top ranked healthcare programs.

Yeah unfortunately that's an attitude that still exists in some places. Fortunately I'm going into a specialty (EM) that has much less of that, and my first priority is to find a group of people I like and that I want to go to work with every day.

Since this is mostly a place where those in the software industry spend time, your story is generally going to veer off the path most people here took in their career.

Can I ask for more detail about why it was that software was not the proper path for you?


I found that I was spending an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer and not interacting with anyone. I also was extremely disappointed with a general lack of self-improvement; I think part of that was that I just graduated, where I was used to everyone constantly studying and working to improve themselves. These experiences may have also been in the minority in the industry, but they were my experiences.

I also had EMS experience in college, so I knew what it was like to treat patients, and I missed that very greatly. I've loved every day I've gotten to talk with patients here in medical school, and can't wait to start truly practicing medicine.

I do still do some web development work, including incorporating my current predicament - traveling the country interviewing for residency. I worked with two current residents to build Swap&Snooze (www.swapandsnooze.com)

Don't discount your expertise! I met a doctor who programs and that lead him to becoming the resident health informatics guru on staff. We met at a local Meetup for a programming language.

for sure! I hope to be able to incorporate my previous life into my future career. My real dream is to build an EMR designed for patient care, but is also able to do billing (all EMRs were designed and built for billing specifications, and is one of the reasons they all suck to use as clinicians). But I don't have the time or energy to pursue the enterprise sales apparently necessary for the field.

Most doctors I've talked to, my Pulmonologist, and doctors that do the checkup during company required medical checkups talked like robots. Saying the same sentences every patient every day gets old fast.

I remember one doctor playing his gameboy while waiting for the next patient in his very small examination room.

That looked to me very uninteresting. What do you think?

Edit: My Dad however long ago, a GP, had his own clinic in our remote town. Went to medical missions to an even more remote island riding on a speedboat. That should be interesting.

Very interesting observation! I would say that that is definitely a stereotype - accurate, but not as common as you might think.

For me, the real difference is every patient's response - some (many?) doctors treat the job as a job. For me, this is a calling. I'm there to help every individual (in my case, in the emergency department). So every interaction is unique because every patient is unique. I go through roughly the same questioning and physical for most patients, but the interaction, their responses, how we get along, etc. is always, always different. I could see two patients with the same exact problem and do the same exact things, and take away two completely different experiences.

To analogize to computers, its as if you ran the same program on different computers and got a slightly different result each time. Or perhaps that each terminal responds slightly differently. Though I suppose in those contexts it'd just be annoying/frustrating... it's not a great analogy lol

Another analogy would be is working with different client. Every client has their own domain and can be very interesting. You'd however might need to quit and change jobs if currently in a company focused on one product/client/domain.

One of my previous companies was about writing automated betting software for Horse Racing. Interesting.

And for sure there are lots more domain.

That's a good way of putting it!

Nice website. 1/2 my cohort of close friends are doctors and I'm sure they would've loved something similar. I'll send this their way in case they know people that might be able to use it.

The top comment on this recent HN is from an orthopedic surgery resident who also has a side business so seems there's plenty of ways to continue to integrate both in your life:


Congratulations! How did you make it through Orgo? I assume you had to take some undergrad courses in Biology and Chemistry prior to applying.

I have a relative who did the same thing. She is now a doctor.

Thank you!

I was fortunate to have completed all prereqs through my bachelor's degree. I worked in software for 3 years or so, then left to go to med school.

The best decision I ever made was when I bought my first computer and when I started working in an internet cafe here in Romania (so I can learn what a computer is and how it works).

I was 19-20 years old, without a home of my own (sleeping on 2 chairs side by side for many years in a single room with my grandparents), working in a fast food and with almost no education (just high school night classes done - I was working since I was 17.).

I've started learning on my own (every day I read), learned Linux and at 36 I am an accomplished man. Ambition, self education, learning and reading got me where I am now... and maybe a bit of luck.

Read “Who moved my cheese?”, and promptly quit IBM. It was obvious they considered engineering a cost center and were determined to offshore as much head count as possible. I moved to another company where engineering was valued as the driver of innovation and the core competitive differentiator. It was like night and day.

I just read it. Very interesting I must say!

Getting out of an industry I knew I wasn't right for before it was too late. I took a job at an animation company about 5 years ago. Initially making iPhone applications as they were trying to break into that market at the time. That work dried up and I found myself doing more work as a pipeline director and technical artist. Work in that field requires a lot of specific knowledge and I did not want to invest the time to understanding it if I did not see myself staying in that industry forever. I moved to another company as a web developer and never looked back.

Prioritizing the relationship with people in the team rather than the money I was making, or the type of product, or the location of the job, or the benefits it had, or the tech it was using.

People are everything and I find myself being much more motivated going to work knowing there is a group of people I trust and which challenge me everyday.

When I will feel that I'll have nothing to learn from my comrades, or that the friendships have degraded, I will probably switch to another venture where again: the type of relationships will be my priority.

Taking a 'risk'.

I was working in an infra/support role at a state government run education institute, and following a reasonably interesting (compared to most of the work) project I started looking for work I would enjoy more (than the regular stuff) elsewhere.

I got a call from an interstate contracting agency (and I still don't know how this part happened) about a job I couldn't do (flash dev) and didn't apply for. I explained that I hadn't applied and wasn't interested but then they mentioned they were also looking to fill a federal government contract for a front-end developer. I had been applying for web jobs (despite having zero commercial experience in it, it'd been what I originally intended to do when I started studying years earlier) so I said I was interested, and within 10 days (I think? It was a while ago) I had confirmation I'd won the contract, over someone with 10 years experience.

I've long since moved back towards ops/infra (albeit in a web focus - load balancers and DB clusters rather than desktop management policies and file/print servers) and dev-tooling type stuff, but that first big step - away from family, and a reasonably safe government job, to a fixed-term contract definitely played a big part in getting me where I am now.

Chasing the JavaScript train back in 2007, weirdly. Now my experience set is worth large amounts of money, there’s basically infinite jobs, and it’s been easy to move out of it and into other lanes in the industry.

Founding a startup. Two years before that I had very low self-esteem, due to having dropped out of a PhD program and coming back to my country, basically giving up the life I had built abroad over a few years. It took me one year to go back to being a functional person, and after one more year working at a company I felt confident and wholesome again.

Then I quit that company and co-founded a startup, to which I dedicated myself 100%. In 6 months we had a functional product. In retrospect, that might easily have gone south, but I had the good luck of choosing to build a product that obviously had a market, and the extremely good fortune of having great partners.

I never would have thought that one day I would achieve such professional and financial success.

I am an introvert and have difficulty making and maintaining contacts. Yet all of this was possible because of people I knew. On the other hand, it was my history of dedication, passion for engineering, and 'tackling difficult engineering problems' that led to people having a high respect for me and my abilities.

Introverts, consider that possibility that people respect and like you more than you think.

What does your start-up do?

Sorry for the late reply. Computer vision.

For me it was leaving my PM role at a digital marketing agency for a developer role on a small but focussed product team. It was a sidestep in terms of remuneration and initially had fewer prospects for career progression, but only once I made the move could I see how toxic the agency environment had been and how much more rewarding the engineering work was (for me) than project/product management. I have since moved on to work for a startup. I work 100% remotely and love what I do and it wouldn't be possible if I didn't take the risk on that earlier move.

Leaving my cushy public company job for a startup.

And then four years later leaving the startup for a job at a public company.

In fact, my entire career has been startup/corp/startup/corp/startup. So far all the money has been made from the corp jobs, but the big learning spikes came from the startups. So that pattern has served me well.

I wrote a doctorate in Applied Mathematics. The process totally transformed how I think about problems, helped me develop a lot more mathematical maturity, and got me my first job in a then obscure field called "machine learning".

It's certainly not the right choice for many people, but it was for me.

Nott that this was your situation, but do you have any recommendations for learning advanced math as an adult hobbyist? I sort of missed the boat on doing advanced math in college, and while I likely won't be able to go back to school for it, I'd like to invest a lot of my free time in learning to better think about problems.

Learning Python! (in 2003) It led to a lot of learning and a lot of opportunities.

I often wonder what language is the "new Python", or if that question even makes sense in 2018.

Related: http://www.paulgraham.com/pypar.html

I can relate to that. Learned python in that timeframe and this has opened opportunities but I'm not seeing the next python or web, being a programming language or technique. ML maybe but the hype is much higher than low key python was.

In terms being a language that you can attract smater programmers with, I'd say Rust. A lot of smart people are loving Rust, but there still aren't many jobs available.

Go-Lang is almost certainly positioned to be the new python.

Accepted a silicon valley job offer [tech hotspot, eng job] in 2004 over a research lab in Princeton, NJ [small town, paper-writing job] and another in San Diego [small town, eng job] upon the advice two elder folks I knew very little.

Switched to machine learning circa 2007-2009 from signal processing (my PhD area) after reading the first few chapters of Elements of Statistical Learning Theory. Quit my eng job. Took a job in ML after studying many nights.

Working part time. Inspired by a comment here in HN I decided 3 years ago to take the leap and moving from 5 days/week to 3.5day/week to spend more time with my family.

My paycheck is less but I get to enjoy life a lot more and I have more time to replenish my energies. I remember that before this I always felt out of breath at work. Too much high paced, too little time. After this change I got more efficient (and I was efficient before) and that feeling of time missing to do things has gone away.

For anyone reading: if you have a decent pay and have been employed in the company for some time, consider this option. Chances are they'll agree to moving onto part-time with no trouble and the benefits are well beyond the change in the money you earn.

How do they handle company benefits like 401k, health care, etc when you reduce your hours down from "full-time"?

"The benefits are well beyond the change"...unless you lose your benefits for not working full time.

In Most circumstances employers don’t actually define “full time” as 40 hours. My employer, for example, defines full time as someone working over 32 hours which means I can work one less day and retain full benefits.

after a quick review here, it seems like folks who try (for however long) something different are content with their decision, in spite of the fear they had in what they defined as comfort, or whatever they happened to be adapted to at the time.

ie the developer turn usmc pilot. another example is the police officer i met the other day who was previously a developer at ibm for TEN years.

not to be too dark, but seems like we get a limited amount of time here on earth being conscious, so spice it up!

my bias here is that i'm currently craving something different; something totally outside of my current tech gig (recruiter, hello, DMs open ;) and have to courage to jump into the unknown...if only i could figure out how the finances and budget might work.

Get married and have kids. They are my biggest inspiration for all successes that I have.

My best decision was to get a remote job so I never have to come to the office. So now I live on small beach in Thailand instead of living in a big European city.

Quitting my job at an enterprise software company. I worked for a series of companies that wrote software that they didn't actually use (or at least their operations didn't depend on using it). Not eating their own dog food meant they could get away with selling software that didn't work very well. It was demoralizing to be told we had to prioritize making new things over fixing what we had.

Now I only work for companies that use their software to provide a service. There is more of an incentive for the software to actually work.

Note: I just graduated and have about 2 years of working experience at most. So my view presents on how to start a good early game. Also my view is EU-centric. I think this strategy would fare less well in the US (in some places).

Working as a freelancer with only 6 months of programming experience before that. (1) Best entry job salary ever, (2) you act and move like a consultant and see different industries, (3) you realize that there are industries for which graduate programming level knowledge is enough, (4) tax benefits and (5) it gives you some time and experience to actually think about what you want to do as a career after freelancing.

The rub: I am terrible at getting clients. I just have 1 friend who knows that I'm capable of and he thinks I'm awesome and always recommends me whomever he talks to. So having a champion is vital. The thing is all kinds of companies see him as a good programmer (he graduated a bootcamp, top/1st of his class -- by a landslide) and he thinks I am as good as him but with a lot more in-depth knowledge due to my CS background. So for him it is very easy to recommend me.

The tip I got from some people was: don't be a freelancer for too long. You don't want to be one in a recession, so being a freelancer should always be either (a) a side gig or (b) a temporary full-time thing (for a couple of years). I wonder what people think about this statement.

Immediately investing the excess of whatever you earn is amazing too.

Transformative moments in my career:

- Learning Vim and working from the terminal

- Going through the book 'Seven Languages in Seven Weeks'

- Learning typed Functional Programming

I think the above three things are solid, foundational skills — proficiency with power tools, learning to learn, and learning to think about problems differently.

Another transformative moment in my career was when I learned that many things popular and shiny today are just bad implementations of things we've had for 40 years. Specifically I realised this after learning GruntJS, and then Make.

Strategically burning bridges when appropriate, putting forth a will-do attitude even if it means doing things outside scoped responsibilities, and just being kind to people.

strategically burning bridges? Sometimes it’s tempting but I always tried to leave each gig on good terms, no hard feelings, no matter how good or dysfunctional the situation was, since you never know when past connections can be helpful later on. Curious to know when is it helpful to burn the bridge.

If a manager was mean to the woman on your team, and you stood up for her and called him out and maybe taken it to HR and thus burned the bridge with that manager, the woman and her team might be much stronger connections in the future.

If you have enemies, or for that matter people who just hate/envy you, the bridges are burnt no matter on what terms you leave. They will just be happy to see the end of you.

Don't burn bridges is for relationships where people like each other.

Strategically burning bridges is cya in a way that you benefit while leaving, leave others wondering before they deliver a blow.

How does that benefit you though?

When was it appropriate for you to burn bridges and how'd you go about it? I'm going through something similar.

Not the OP, but there is a lot to be said for the concept of karma. Karma is the result of some action. You can hold on to some karma, or you can let it go. Sometimes you have a connection with a person or an organisation. That connection can have consequences that are not good for you. You are free to hang on to that connection, or let it go most of the time. Usually it's a good idea to let it go. Sometimes the other side persists in trying to keep the connection (for one reason or another). In those cases, it's probably a good idea to be perfectly clear about your desire to sever the connection. You don't have to be cruel about it, but it's usually good to be crystal clear.

This is often super difficult to do, and the Seinfeld "off like a bandaid" approach is probably best. By doing it clearly and quickly, you allow yourself to focus on what you really want and not to carry around a lot of baggage. For example, I've been approached by previous employers about working for them again and I've had to tell them politely that it's never going to happen. Usually I try to give them some constructive criticism if they are able to receive it, but I admit to having done the "It's not you, it's me" routine before. Basically, I think it's important to focus on explaining that the paths are different and that each party needs to concentrate on their own path without needing to try to drag the other along. A couple of times I've received the, "But I've changed..." thing and I just have to reply, "That's great. I know you'll be able to find great people to work with because of that. I need to focus on my own stuff."

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