In my last 20 years with the tech industry, I was fortunate to work with some of the great minds and wonderful organisations. My tech career is peppered with numerous successes, several failures, happy moments, things to forget and above all – valuable lessons learned for life.
In this post, I am sharing my thoughts on effective ways to build a tech career – specially targeted at young and early-stage professionals. Though it makes equal sense to experienced professionals, being mindful of these early in your career has potential for maximum returns.
#1 Create a primary techstack for yourself
Choose a primary techstack for yourself. This is essential.
Current industry landscape requires you to switch between multiple technologies and platforms, almost on a daily basis. But this doesn’t mean you don’t have your primary techstack.
Think of it as a “T” shaped skill. Depth is where your primary skills are.
Your techstack should be well-rounded, to be able to create a technical solution end-to-end
Here’s one example techstack: Java / Spring Boot / ReactJS / AWS / Redis / MongoDB / PostgreSQL
If you have deep skills on each of these components, then you can create a production-grade solution from ground up.
#2 Focus on solutions, not just code
It is great to start as a start programmer. But as you grow in career, start thinking about solving problems in addition to writing good code.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when developing software components:
- What is the business problem I am trying to solve?
- Does my solution offer the best user experience?
- Do I have to code the entire solution or integrate with existing ones?
- Are there low code (or no-code) solutions that can solve the business problem faster and cheaper?
- Is my solution easy to maintain and change as business evolves?
Being aware of business context and having a customer focus, helps you stand out as a great software engineer.
#3 Never underestimate the power of soft skills
Strong soft skills can take you to places that your technical skills alone cannot.
Here are some common skills that will make you stand out from others:
- Simple and clear communication (verbal and written)
- Giving feedback the right way
- Negotiate priorities
- Giving impactful presentations
- Managing conflicts
- Persuading everyone to get things done
A good technologist can not only build great software but be able to ship it, by navigating the challenges and constraints.
#4 Build a strong network
A strong network of like-minded professionals is essential to thrive in your tech career.
Have a diverse network – consisting of fellow engineers, interns, senior tech leaders and other industry influencers. It will not only broaden your perspective in the current job but may open up irresistible opportunities.
Here are some ways to build a network:
- Attend meetups and conferences in your regions
- Volunteer to help student communities
- Engage with technologists and the content they create, using LinkedIn, Twitter, their own blogs etc.
- Make it a habit to regularly be in touch with your ex-colleagues and other acquaintances
Remember to give more than you take from your network
It not only creates good karma but get you the support, when you need it.
#5 Be a fast learner
At any stage in your career, never stop being a learner. Also, be a fast learner.
Technology advancements are never ending and it is essential to be aware of them. A good technologist must constantly expand their toolkit.
When there is a problem to solve, use your toolkit – the broader and wide range of tools in it, better will be your solution.
Use opportunities provided by your organization or local government, to up-skill yourself. Treat it as an investment on yourself that has long term returns.
#6 Grow people
And finally, a good leader creates more leaders. Find opportunities to help and grow people.
Here are some ways to grow people within and outside your organization:
- Mentor junior employees
- Participate in new employee onboarding programs
- Train others on things that you are good at
- Give back to the community by sharing your knowledge
- Genuinely elevate your team members and if there is a need, be ready to fight for it
Here are some tips to build a strong tech career from the start:
- Create a primary techstack for yourself
- Focus on solutions, not just code
- Never underestimate the power of soft skills
- Build a strong network
- Be a fast learner
- Grow people
A bonus tip is to be self-aware and aware of power dynamics around you – so that you can grab right opportunities when they present themselves. It can take you a long way!