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My advice:

- become good at either C or C++ or both. Lots of fun jobs/projects involve codebases that happen to be written in those languages.

- become fearless and systematic with assembly. You don’t have to be great at it. You just have to have had enough experience looking at it and writing it that you can hack it if you have to.

- learn to read code quickly and accurately. The only way to do that is a lot of practice. It’ll be hard at first but as you practice your reading speed will go up by >10x and eventually it’ll feel like second nature.

- become great at working with large code bases. What makes “systems code” so interesting is really just how big “systems” are. This kinda goes along with the bit about reading code - reading is how you survive in large code.

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