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Skill Stacking: A Practical Strategy to Achieve Career Success (dariusforoux.com)
189 points by devy 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments





I don't find these sorts of articles valuable.

The template is simple: Write generic advice that sounds nice, and is never controversial. Make sure it's super vague so you don't have to take any accountability for it, you can move the goalposts of what you're saying.

If we remove all the filler in this article (more or less the entire article), it amounts to "be okay at multiple things rather than trying to be good at something".

As per usual with incredibly vague life advice from unaccomplished people, this isn't always a good idea to apply. Being excellent at something (or at least very good) has its merits. For example, I don't want someone who can write "Hello, World!" in 30 programming languages. I want someone who understands even just one programming language inside and out, and really puts the effort into improving.

> "Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds Of Success"

No it doesn't.

Bonus points if you have a modal that pops up to sucker you into a free mailing list in hopes of converting you to an over-priced life advice seminar / program / book.

There is no secret bullet to productivity, and paying $197 for this snake oil salesman's course (how long do you want to bet that "sale" has been going on for?) is not going to help you. Eat well. Sleep. Maintain relationships with people you care about. Work hard, pay attention to what you're doing and think critically. That's all there is to it.

> "Read over 500 books"

Someone bragging about the number of books they read is hilarious.

Congratulations on $1.2m in revenue and a business degree, but that doesn't make you worth listening to.


>>Eat well. Sleep. Maintain relationships with people you care about. Work hard, pay attention to what you're doing and think critically. That's all there is to it.

That’s my takeaway.


Hmm, I don't know...These sound like good advices to do your job well and might even lead to happiness (which is good of course). But if your goal is to have a successful career maybe this would be more useful: Word hard on the right things, pay attention to what the others are doing and praise your own work uncritically :)

The question is: “what is your definition of success?” or “what is success to you? or “what do you think will make other people say you are successful?”

For a lot of uninspired and uncreative people, it’s mostly about the 3rd question, and it’s money, just money...

And they probably subscribe to a blog saying to blog everyday, and that’s how you get poor quality, uninspiring blog.


>>praise your own work uncritically

Am I not supposed to be critical of my work, and review it not pulling any punches, without being economical with the Truth?


Agreed, that article could not be more vague.

I don't argue with the main point, which is "broaden your skills."

But the rest is debatable and not such good advice. Some of the items given in the "skill list" used as an example are absolutely unusable as it. "writing"? writing what, there's a huge difference between being able to write novels and writing technical documentation for instance. I also have a grip on "productivity", that's not a skill, that's the ability to apply a skill. A better pragmatic definition of a marketable skill, I think, would be the ability to write it on your résumé, and only a subset of the ones discussed in the article fit this definition.


>The template is simple: Write generic advice that sounds nice, and is never controversial. Make sure it's super vague so you don't have to take any accountability for it, you can move the goalposts of what you're saying

In technical terms, what you are suggesting is that the article is making a claim which is unfalsifiable. But actually it is falsifiable. All you have to do is find a person who has diverse skills but is unsuccessful.


Finding a single counterexample works in mathematics to disprove a theorem, but not in this situation. It is silly to claim that having diverse skills guarantees success. The article doesn't even claim that; it explicitly mentions increasing the odds of success. To "disprove" this claim, you'd need to design and run a study that looks for a statistical relationship between success and skill diversity, both of which you'd have to quantify somehow.

It doesn’t guarantee it, it doubles the probability, and it is stackable. So there is a metric to measure (somehow).

Now, the author is probably just bullshittng things out of his fingers, an assumption I make based on the lack of any evidence being provided.

Nonetheless, since stackability and doubling at each turn mean you can trend toward 100% very quickly, then you can look at people you see as very successful, no matter what is your favorite measure of success, and observe for yourself.

Now I like “social impact” as a measure of success, but it’s a lot easier to go with “f’ing rich people” because data is being compiled every year by different business magazines. So when you take the list of Billionaires, you can realize that only one thing, sometimes two, where involved.

Now if someone would like to apply a statistical analysis to this, I think it would favor The null hypothesis, which is: there is no relation between the number of skills stacked and the amount of money in ones’ bank account


>Now, the author is probably just bullshittng things out of his fingers, an assumption I make based on the lack of any evidence being provided.

Also based on the author talking about "doubling probability". What does that even mean?


> All you have to do is find a person who has diverse skills but is unsuccessful

I know many people like this, but I suspect the No True Scotsman fallacy would get invoked.


They’re clearly not skilled enough at their diverse skills.

It’d be a bit like me trying to sell myself as a master of multiple instruments.


>> I suspect the No True Scotsman fallacy would get invoked

> They’re clearly not skilled enough at their diverse skills

One of my skills is accurate predictions, it turns out.


I think these articles have value, but in moderation. It's like watching TED talks - watch too many, you become the antithesis of productive. Focus too much on productivity software, you lose sight in what matters. Focus on your life, people you care about, and work hard. But you should be your biggest critic, don't expect someone else to do this for you.

Per the topic itself.

I tend to enjoy many things, so skillstacking is something I naturally pursue. My take on this topic, is just to create value as much as possible. Not just for others, but yourself as well. Things like learning new software, building tools people use, workshops you can use to make DIY projects, and long term relationships.

Sure there will be mistakes, you will write cringey things like "Read over 500 books" in your about page, but it's still progression. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.


> Write generic advice that sounds nice, and is never controversial. Make sure it's super vague so you don't have to take any accountability for it, you can move the goalposts of what you're saying.

Worked for Agile ducks


Well in fairness some Agile is controversial.

I've only ever heard it sold as an ala-carte solution, where you can freely pick-and-choose the least controversial bits. Agile-lite by default.

I think you meant Fragile (tm)

Great comment. For the article writer it seemed like a numbers game or checklist. Learn X languages (whatever 'learn' means here) or read X number of books. IME, what you learn and read is more important than the raw numbers.

I'm selective in what I will devote a large amount of time doing. If I'm reading a book for something other than downtime enjoyment, I want to make sure it's a book that I will get something useful out of (bonus points to books that provide enjoyment and usefulness).

Breadth of knowledge is useful, but someone also needs depth in something.


The SMBC comics this morning was about a Turing test for non-fiction literature, but it would apply to this also

> For example, I don't want someone who can write "Hello, World!" in 30 programming languages.

Would anyone consider this being "ok" at 30 different things? That is just reductive to the point of not making any sense. In the scope the post is talking about "programming" would be one thing. So 30 different languages would be irrelevant. And being able to write only "hello world" would not even qualify as being "ok" at a programming language.


But you can't publish a medium post which reads pay attention to what you're doing. You have to crappify it.

"10 ways in which billionaires pay attention to the right things".

There, now your post has a Medium-worthy title.


It's just this "empty" content that every blogger is spewing these days just to publish something.

> just to publish something

Every blogger knows there is no money in "content mill" style writing. they publish this pseudo-self help stuff to generate leads for their ebooks and training seminars.


so good advice will be: just read technical articles that develop your skills

Also he's just plagiarizing Scott Adams's notion of a "talent stack."

I was going to say the same, no attribution at all, and dubious claims about how your success will increase.

I believe the talent stack is a valid principle, but it doesn't just double your success if you go to toastmasters and learn how to present and at your job you have neither a commission nor any customer contact.


He does attribute, right in the second line of the whole piece:

>> The more skills we have, the more odds we have to become successful. I like how Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, explains the concept of Skill Stacking ...


My bad, skimmed it very quickly and didn't see that.

I searched the page text for Adams before I posted and saw nothing. I guess I missed it too somehow or the page was updated.

Not sure if I really believe this.

I'm someone who likes to pick up new skills for fun & fulfillment. And yet, when it to career success, roughly 80% of my net worth is attributable to two, maybe three skills: being really good at Javascript, and having solid CS fundamentals in data structures and algorithms. Together they got me into Google, where I picked up the third skill (knowing the full Search stack from the crawler to the browser), which made me very valuable to Google and got me a bunch of stock that's done quite well since.

Now, I also picked up a bunch of other skills while I was there: visual design, interaction design, product design, empathy, management & leadership, some machine-learning & data science, distributed systems, how to approach a vaguely-defined problem with no clear answer and make forward progress on it, how to balance lunch & a drink on your laptop and show up late to a meeting without spilling, etc. And I had some skills from before Google: investing (professional, not just personal; I worked for a company that wrote software for hedge funds for 18 months), game design, compiler design, Django, even some PHP from my college days. And I've learned even more since leaving Google: entrepreneurship, corporate structure, identifying markets, Android development, iOS development, watchOS development, blogging, YouTube video production, Photoshop, how cryptocurrencies work, a lot more unstructured data mining & data science, what risk actually means, etc.

But when it comes to cold, hard economic returns, nothing seems to beat identifying an in-demand skill, doubling down on it until you're noticeably better than the vast majority of people a company will interview, and finding a wealthy buyer who will pay you for it. (On a corporate level, this translates to finding a growing and potentially large market, doubling down on it until you're noticeably better than every other company in that market, and finding a wealthy buyer who will pay you for it.) I kinda wish it wasn't so, because I really enjoy the learning-new-things part of life, and I enjoy learning hot new technologies or algorithms more than obscure proprietary frameworks in a megacorp. But people pay you for the portion of your skillset that is relevant to the problem they want solved, not the portion that is personally fulfilling.


Thanks for sharing.

I think it all comes down to the role and career path. Engineers that are specialized are way more interesting for large corporations, because they have a lot of engineers and most of them work on very specialized problems. A CTO of a tech startup should be a decent engineer, but with a much broader knowledge-base than someone, let's say, optimizing V8.

I'm currently finishing my master's degree and got a contract for after graduation for one of the best management trainee programs in Germany for a technical R&D management career path (the company has roughly 1 such position across all roles and departments for every 4000 employees) and it pays over 50% of the average starting salary. I see that as a very successful career start.

What made me interesting for the company wasn't just my internship/work experience as a software engineer (equivalent to about 2 years full-time work) that should place me among the top 10-20% of my fellow students, but my broader experience as a leader in several clubs. The best fit for the role wasn't someone specialized in engineering, but someone with a genuine interest in leading that is still capable and at least somewhat knowledgeable of software engineering.

My skills in hacking LaTeX to do my bidding or knowing the insides of Office Open XML format were absolutely irrelevant or only marginally emphasized that I can learn some niche stuff. Broadening your skillset only helps career success, when the learned skills supplement the requirements of the position.


When I rode my bicycle across the USA from LA to NYC I met a dude named Ryan through WarmShowers. Over pizza and beers at a local joint in Tempe, AZ, Ryan told me about this blog called _Semi-Rad_ - "you don't need to be a rockstar in something, you just need to be semi-rad. Semi-rad people have the most fun, they achieve the most, they experience the spice of life. They're not so caught up in perfection, but they still achieve a degree of greatness."

I approve this message, Darius Foroux, and I encourage others to consider the trade-offs of "perfection" vs. "semi-rad".


In several fields, people at the top 1% of skill level earn many times those at top 10% and the mediocre ones may barely get by. This phenomenon is spreading because better technologies enable top performers to serve more people.

(See: the Superstar effect for the most extreme examples. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Superstar_Effect)

How would the average workers or even ‘semi-rads’ in generally less lucrative fields like arts or cooking save enough for their retirements if they settle for that skill level?


How sustainable is that model going to be? It's mathematically impossible for everyone to be in the top 1%.

Not if we create 10 billion different specialties.

I think what makes it a 1% is the disparity of demand.

Well, consider being a chef. Does it make sense to shoot to be the next cooking superstar Rene Redzepi or Ferran Adria and achieve success on culinary skills alone? Or instead be a competent cook who also knows how to balance a checkbook, hire & manage staff, design an appealing menu, negotiate with suppliers, do marketing and thus be able to survive and make money in the cut-throat restaurant biz where something like 9 out of 10 new entrants fail within a year?

(Mind you, I'm pretty sure Redzepi and Adria also know how to balance a checkbook...)


Live in Europe

This assumes that the pension system there will be able to sustain itself in a few decades hence despite low birth rates and limited immigration.

Also, most people in developing countries, i.e. most people in the world, do not have that option.


> This assumes that the pension system there will be able to sustain itself in a few decades hence despite low birth rates and limited immigration.

Indeed, the system is not perfect and the general outlook of it is pretty bad. But you still have a higher chance of getting a pension at 65 in Europe than in the US while being mediocre. Also don't forget automation, which I'd assume will trickle down to benefit the lower and middle European Class faster than it'll happen in the US. Again, assumptions. The future is unsure for sure.

>Also, most people in developing countries, i.e. most people in the world, do not have that option.

Indeed. But most people on HN are usually from North America or WE, so you know... saying that is a bit disingenuous. You could say "most people are _dirt_ (emphasis on dirt) poor and cannot lift themselves out of poverty". Yes, most people in the world are like that, but we all know that for example this article is not directed at those sorts of people, but rather at "Westeners", who probably won't go hungry in their lives ever unless a major catastrophe happens.


There is a huge number of people in the world outside of the West who are between "dirt-poor" and having European-style pension. They do read such self-help articles.

Yes. Many people cites Europe/France as a good example of retirement/healthcare and forget that the pension system is a Scam.

They are basically paying current retirees with what the current employees are paying. A state-lead Ponzi Scheme.

The system will eventually implode.


As long as you have many young people and few old, that's a good system. Basically "taking care of your parents" but through the state in a collective manner.

Few developed countries--the US and Australia are the only exceptions I can think of--have that population structure.

So which countries would you 'cite as a good example of retirement/healthcare'?

France, Germany, Spain, etc...

Are they perfect? No, though.


Power law at work.

Very valid question at the end. No one can afford settling at moderate skill levels these days


I believe these two things are orthogonal. Take Steve Jobs for example, generalist but a perfectionist, too

Great is the enemy of good-enough. Just getting to good enough (proficient) is an accomplishment. The world's most interesting person has many interesting proficiencies. :)

Seems like a justification for mediocrity.

Yeah, you'll enjoy life more if you're not working 100 hours a week like Elon Musk. But I think you'll be in general better off and happier if you push yourself.

I've always worked very hard at my career and it has paid off. I get to do lots of fun things as a result. It was hard in the moment to make the sacrifices, but that's water under the bridge now. Present and future me are very happy past me spent so much effort getting better.


Is Elon Musk not "semi-rad"? He's seems to have a wide breadth of knowledge in multiple fields (engineering, business). He's not the best at anything other than being himself, which I think is the point.

Elon Musk is not the best in anything? Not even building world changing businesses?

It isn't a binary choice between "rockstar" and "mediocrity". There's a huge area between those two: "semi-rad".

That's the point. Learn to recognize when you've achieved a level of skill where you're qualified more than most, and don't have to double your effort and time to get to the pinnacle. The opportunity cost may not be worth it if you can otherwise spend it pursuing other interests.


Perhaps I just don't understand this semi rad thing. And yeah that makes a certain amount of sense. But it also seems dangerous in that it can easily be used as a justification for underachieving.

I suppose. But at the risk of getting a little meta here: Wouldn't that justification only be relied upon by underachievers in the first place? Anyone looking for a reason to not do more than they are is already in that category I think.

I take it as a "whoa, slow down" message to overachievers that are sacrificing a well-rounded life on the alter of excellence. Maybe they can do more by widening their focus a bit.


Are you suggesting Elon Musk is happier than most? He certainly doesn’t seem happy to me.

No, I suggested that working 100 hours a week like Elon Musk will not likely lead to happiness.

Those interested in the generalist/specialist debate could do worse than to read Isaiah Berlin's classic essay on the subject, The Hedgehog and the Fox: https://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/crag/files/2016/06/the_hedgeh...

Do you mean to say it’s a good read or a useless read? Your choice of words confuse me.

"You could do worse than this" = "There are many of lesser quality than this" = this is of high quality

Parent means it is a good read and it is.

I disagree with this. In my experience as a generalist, most hirers are like customers in a tool store. They're looking for a tool to do a thing. Trying to interest them in a Swiss Army Knife is a waste of time. If they're shopping for skill x, they'll look for the best specialist. Hirers who are metaphorically stocking up for an expedition in the unknown, or who will admit to themselves that they are already lost in the wilderness, are going to be interested in generalists. That's a much smaller (but more interesting) market.

While I mostly agree with you, I am a generalist who has gone deep in a few things (old fashioned symbolic AI, deep learning, and NLP). But, I have lots of experience in many other areas. I have mostly worked as a consultant for the last 25 years, and remotely, and having a lot of breadth has helped a lot. I have different resumes that stress different types of experience and when someone would contact me to possibly do work, I would give them the resume matching what they needed at the time. From my web site anyone hiring me would see the broad range of things I am interested in so I was never trying to misrepresent myself - I just wanted to give the person contacting me the right material to help them get me approved for a project.

Whether you choose to specialise or generalise I think should be influenced by the kind of job you're looking for. In the corporate world being a specialist will get you in the door for well defined job roles, whereas early stage startups are more interested in someone who can do a bit of everything well enough.

It's rare to see arguments in favor of being a generalist over a specialist. In the end, they both have their pros and cons.

> You simply have more chance of career success if you have more skills.

I think that depends on how one intends to apply those skills. Being a generalist means that you don't depend on any one particular skill to always keep you in demand, and you can do more on your own to do tasks that specialists need to do in groups. However, I think a group of specialists will always outperform a lone generalist. Because of that, I imagine specialists are in general more preferable in a company environment.

EDIT: I'm curious if there are people here that have chosen to practice a wide breadth of related skills, as opposed to lasering in to one very specific skill. Do you feel glad/happy about it, or have you regretted it?

EDIT 2: What is a generalist or a specialist is of course very relative. One's specialist is another's generalist. I also get the sense that, in the tech world, what is a specialist today, is a generalist tomorrow. Maybe that's just natural of an expanding industry.


I restarted my software development career around 2009 after being at one company too long and after 8 years and 4 job changes, I went from being what for all intents and purposes a junior .Net developer to the dev team lead based solely on knowing the Microsoft stack really well.

At the company where I was the dev lead, I first encountered outside consultants who were there to “help” us transform the company and “move us to the cloud”.

After realizing in hindsight how easy it was being a consultant - in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king - I realized that coming at AWS consultancy from the viewpoint of a software architect with some dev ops experience and some infrastructure experience I could be the two eyed king that may be had just a little blurry vision in one eye.

So, after changing jobs again last year, and taking a slight demotion (not in pay - in responsible) I’m on a four year journey to be a real “full stack consultant”. Someone who knows the front end well enough to talk to the front end guys, middleware (.Net/Node/Python) , databases, Linux, Docker, Devops, netops (at least on AWS) and maybe a project management certification.

There are a few gaps and a few more certifications I need, but I think I should have enough breadth as a consultant for the high paying jobs and enough depth to be your typical “full stack developer” to be able to land a job quickly.

I will see....


That’s interesting, the career steps you took.

May I ask how much is the general pay in those “high paying jobs”?


I hate to mention salaries ranges on HN because of the HN/Silicon Valley bubble where people seem amazed that not only does every developer not live on the West Coast they also don’t make half a million dollars and are not all bumming it in a trailer park.

But, outside the west coast and New York City. In most major cities in the US, a semi hands on software architect can make between around $125K - $150K. A consultant can make from $140K to $200K.


>>a semi hands on software architect can make between around $125K - $150K. A consultant can make from $140K to $200K.

Do years of experience matter to make that kind of money?


Definitely,

But with diminishing returns. After 8-10 years. Any additional “years” of experience doesn’t matter. What you have done does.

I’ve officially been developing for over 20 years, but my first 12 years might as well been 3 years + 1 year doing the same thing 9 times.

Job hopping over the past 10 years has helped me make a lot more money but more importantly helped me learn a lot.

And by “consultant”, I mean the buzzwordy “implementation consultant”, “digital transformation consultant”, etc.

Yes I die a little every time I say it.


>>But with diminishing returns. After 8-10 years. Any additional “years” of experience doesn’t matter. What you have done does.

Reckon this is when most people establish their own business


Are you sure you need certifications? Not skeptical, just curious. And what would certifications be?

I tend to assume consultancies are exactly the target audience for these sorts of certifications - and it probably does make sense, so they can pitch to a client that they can offer X-many Y-certified consultants for $Z.

Whether their clients tend to actually be familiar with the organisations endorsing or providing the Y certification I have no idea, but even if all it does is give them a warm fuzzy feeling, that's probably enough to make it worthwhile for the consultancy that wants their business.


Just noticed the part of the question about what the certifications would be. For me, they would be the AWS Developer, Devops, and Architect Professional.

I’m thinking about the AWS Big Data later, but I don’t have any practical experience in that area and I refuse to be a “paper tiger” collecting certifications with no practical experience and probably a project management certification because everyone has a PMP after their name in consultancy it seems like.

I would probably study for some type of Linux certification just to transition from the Microsoft ecosystem but whether I would spend the money to get it and keep it updated is another question.


Yes.

In particular, to be an “Amazon Partner” your company has to have a certain number of certifications. It also helps to have some type of project management certification.

Your skepticism of certifications is well founded, I’ve come across many “paper tigers” who had certifications up the wazoo but couldn’t code/architect thier way out of a wet paper bag.


Undergrad in physics. 7 years in the military. Medical school, self-taught computing (mainly Unix, web stuff, and python), surgical internship, more programming, residency, more programming. Now medical director of a clinical lab with 40 staff and major research in progress, published, overseeing clinical and research employees across 10 timezones, working across 13 time zones, have briefed to highest levels of government. Stayed married and my kids seem to be doing ok.

And the sword of Damocles hangs over my neck ever day. Worth it? Probably, but still not actually clear.


Why the sword?

Jesus Fucking Christ. As someone who's 19 years old and struggling with life (see my post history if you want to know more, but it ain't pretty, heh) you've sure done a lot of things and congratulations for you success!

You seem to have an unlimited thirst for knowledge. I envy that at a personal level.


If you’re still 19 years old you’ll get there.

Especially if you want to.


Thanks for serving and glad to know someone with your passionate commitment to knowledge is helping advance medicine.

Ups and downs on being a generalist.

- If I stuck with a focus on database programming from my early career, I would have a very valuable specialty.

- If I stayed more technical I probably would have weathered 2008 with more sanity.

But...

- Being a generalist opened up some international work.

- I met my wife on a career tangent.

- I get bored doing the same thing over and over.

- My last two roles (in a long career) have finally pulled everything together.


That last point is key. You can’t always see how things could come together, but there may be a serendipitous connection there. In my (shorter) experience, when I’m looking for a role I can’t see ahead to predict or drive how things will pull together, but when I look back a few months into a new job they usually do.

I'm only on my third year of being a programmer, and have worked in fullstack, devops, and academia. Those of my peers that have stuck with one thing seem to be much more easily employed. My resume looks impressive but when they realize I only have a year of experience instead of three in the thing they want, it goes down hill. "But I know all these other things (that you don't care about)!" isn't super useful.

I imagine the larger the employing organization, the greater the preference for specialists. The extreme example of a small organization, self-employment, is probably the ideal working environment for a generalist.

> "But I know all these other things (that you don't care about)!"

Having the skills be related to each other is also key. If you can't mix the skills in what you're doing, in a way that no 2 specialists can easily coordinate, then that's not very useful.

I think it's a matter of making use of one's advantages, but it's probably true that it's easier for a specialist, if all they have to do is apply to well known organizations for employment, as opposed to starting a new business or applying to startups.


What you have is the ability to quickly pivot your existing toolkit to suit the needs the teams considering you need.

I have tried to maintain a generalist role[1]. It's worked very well for me so far - and there's some peace of mind in knowing that if needed, you can switch areas reasonably easy. And I harbor the hope that at some point (when kids go to university) I may start my own business, since I've looked for enhancing those skills. It's not without downsides though - you get the occasional impostor syndrome (since you'll never be able have the depth you wish/ know you could achieve, in any area). It's hard to balance being at least "good enough" at the current task with broadening your knowledge, and it can be straining at times. And also, though in theory you can get hired anywhere - in practice, relatively few companies will appreciate you enough to pay you well, since most companies' ideal candidates are really specialists in very narrow fields (also those ideal candidates tend to be unicorns, so companies settle for generalists, but that's a different discussion). The end result of this is that, unless you're willing to take a significant pay cut, the opportunities to switch companies might get increasingly rare (but opportunities to switch roles within company will be present).

[1] I've developed (professionally/ for money) compilers, VMs, image processing, web apps (mostly middleware), desktop apps, "big data"(spark, kafka streams, etc.); Have done product management, data science, and even worked on the architecture of a DSP processor at a time. Worked in most of the "mainstream" languages (Java, Scala, C. C++, Javascript, Python, C#, Vb.net; and of course various kinds of assembly language).


I've sort of accidentally jumped all over the place. In high school I excelled in writing but ran calculations at an electrical engineering company. In college (studying journalism/marketing) I helped a startup with ethical stealth social marketing. Then I left college to do tech support at my dream company while completing my degree remotely. Eventually taught myself just enough Python to pivot into a junior fullstack position (and have since had several promotions there).

Now my interest is shifting to low-level computing and I'm getting my MS with a focus on high-performance computing and operating systems, but applying those principles to our cloud initiative (and after my MS is over, I plan to focus on hardware and electrical engineering MOOCs).

Where that'll take me (if anywhere), I have no idea. I occasionally regret not majoring in CS from the start and sometimes I think doubling down on the fullstack thing would be a more stable career move, but it's been a fun, weird ride and I plan to continue following my natural curiosity at least until stability becomes more of a requirement.


Very curious about the “ethical stealth social marketing” if you care to share more.

Generalist because it's in my nature [1] "When environmental conditions change, generalists are able to adapt, but specialists tend to fall victim to extinction much more easily."

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


One concept I appreciate: you can bridge two common skills together in a way such that you are uniquely qualified to practice this combination of skills and you have zero (or near-zero) competition.

This is article is really good. It could have been better if it was in a little detail.

In short people skills, money/investing skills and work skills. You can't go wrong and the author is largely right.

Its always a mistake to assume that merely your programming skills will take you places, well may be if you are Jeff Dean.

If you are anybody else, people skills matter way above anything you can contribute anywhere. Corporations are large places, where your growth and development largely lie with the people you work with. Influencing, persuasion and in general a myriad of people skills are always what's going to make it rain. In most places what work you do is largely irrelevant to your bosses/stakeholders, in fact you could build the best possible software on earth, but their(bosses) salaries or careers aren't going to see much change because of that- There fore they largely don't care. You have to get them to like you, that's how career progress is going to come. On the same lines they can award you a good raise, a bonus or a promotion, nothing much is going to change in company financials. At their unit levels, the things they give you will largely vanish without a trace because they look at reports by a GROUP BY statement. So what does this mean? It means, while paying you great rewards they can hide you, however if you want these rewards you have to be visible to them in a good way.

There fore influencing, persuasion, psychology and range of people skills like Charisma play a huge role in career growth. No mater where you are. This is a whole different skill set which unfortunately most don't even know exists.

The other ones are obvious. It always helps if you have good skills in the work you do. Always read books on the state of the art, do projects which are in trend etc etc.

And personal finance, of course. Because the money you earn has to be useful to you.


> When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.

While I agree with a lot of the author's statements, that part is wrong in my opinion. I think it is more along the lines of:

- every skill has a value

- some skills complement each other

The value probably rises exponentially with the progress (similar to how much effort you have to invest, to reach a skill level). So having many shallow skills is probably not as valuable as being very good at one thing. Likewise being more skilled than the average (median) person on multiple skills can result in a high value.

In essence: If you want to reach a good value/effort ratio spend your time on a skill set and not just on a single skill.


Agree that you need a balanced set of skills. However the advice in the article is pushing it too far.

Being a generalist is great in terms of broadening you career options, at an early stage anyway. But until you truly master something most of the higher tier opportunities remain closed to you.

These opportunities are much rarer and often not advertised. But the competition is also less intense and arbitrary. It is also in human nature to enjoy getting better at something. This path is actually not as hard as people think, and way more fun than keep picking up new mediocre skills.


Rather than stacking it should be lining up a variety of skills, because it is horizontal integration rather than vertical.

In contrast, i think just become average in many things is counterproductive than the opposite.

The amount of people plagiarising Scott Adams to sound smart is staggering

Using an attributed quotation is not the same as plagiarization.

Yes, self-help article alert. But, what is interesting is to point that it’s true that soft skills are usually underrated. Of course, being a specialist makes you one of a kind, but I don’t think everyone can be that person (meaning, you will become very unhappy just struggling, because normal people has different passions not only one). Actually, this person is the 1%, and trying to be them can be frustrating, so we can be mid-rad. Also, in technology, yes, you want an specialist that solves the problem in 5 seconds, but multiple skills make interconnections and new ideas or relations to other important, not that technical, questions. Meaning, is the 1% because those problems are, maybe a 20% for the company, the other 80% is focused on multiple problems related with reality. For example, Agile, how things are tested, communication, visibility, goals... Anyway, I found the reflection useful. Here, speaking:

- Advertising graduate, ex copy writer, ex music producer, ex bartender, ex journalist writer, QA analyst, now self-taught programmer, now kind of in testing automation and managing infrastructure and devops.

Future is bright




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