Career Advice

‘Found myself commenting on a Facebook post asking for what career advice people would give to college grads looking at careers in web development.  I took a quick stab at it, and was surprised enough at how well it came out I thought I’d post it here:

If you have the opportunity to work in Silicon Valley at any point in your career, jump at it. It’s not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be forever, but the insight you gain from experiencing the penultimate hi-tech scene first-hand will serve you well the rest of your career. You’ll make great connections, and you’ll develop a sense of what it takes to be a real “entrepreneur” in the purest sense of the word. And, for better or worse, the tech world is divided into those who have done this and those who haven’t.

Startups get harder the older you get. If you see yourself as an entrepreneur, do it now before you’re weighed down by wife, kids, mortgage, and everything else that makes risky career choices untenable. (which is not to say you can’t do a startup when you’re older, but it’s infinitely easier if you’ve got some experience under your belt.)

If you’re going to do a startup, ask yourself, “what will I take away from this if it fails? Will I be okay with that… will it have been worth it?” Ideally you’ll get enough value from working with people you respect, creating a product you’re passionate about, or getting in-the-trenches education in technology and business that if your startup fails for any of the 100’s of reasons startups fail you’ll still walk away happy. Or at least not angry at what a waste it all was.

Even for developers who do nothing but look at code all day, the most valuable thing in the world are people. Hone your people skills, hone your interview skills, develop your professional network. People, people, people.

I (you’re prospective boss/co-worker/report) don’t give a shit what your degree is in. What I care about is how well you do your job, and how well you enable me to do mine. And for that you will need to understand what I do. So learn graphic design, and programming, and how to balance books, and how to interview people, and sell customers, and quality test products, and UX design, and product management, and the dozens of other things that go into creating web product. Many of these skills will be difficult and you may suck at them. But that’s why this is important: appreciate why they’re hard and why you need other people to do these things for you. It will make you a better employee, a better cofounder, and a better person.