Great career advice

This is an issue of my newsletter focusing on the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, particularly remote work, online economy, and cognitive load.
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The job market in Tech isn’t what it used to be. Even the biggest tech giants are laying off thousands of employees in preparation for the upcoming market downturn. Those who have coasted in their jobs may have a hard time keeping them, and I think (as always) this is a good time to:

  1. Be good at your job
  2. Make sure people know that.

A few links with good career advice

I gathered a few links to help you with that:

Writing in Public, Inside your company

Brie Wolfson helped shape the writing culture inside Stripe. In this piece, she shares advice on how to keep your colleagues in the loop, superiors well-informed and yourself recognized for your great work. The writing culture at Stripe sounds similar to the company I work for (Automattic), where we put great emphasis on writing things down and distributing them to colleagues as well. Brie writes:

Without meeting notes and documentation, companies become reliant on unreliable verbal accounts, 1:1 updates, and needing to be in the room to get things done

She outlines 2 broader categories of documents you should be producing:

  • Paper trails (Decision Logs, Meeting notes, FAQs), designed to be searched later,
  • Curations,

While paper trails are about accurately reflecting the state of some area, curations are more creative – they let you connect a few seemingly disparate pieces of information into a strategic recommendation. if you make them a joy to read, you will garner a bit of a reputation, or even some impact, which I can attest to.

One memo I wrote in 2018 garnered the attention of the CEO and resulted in me leading the introduction of Creator Economy offering to WordPress.com and later Tumblr.

In her piece, Brie also advises keeping some other documents up-to-date and handy for when that performance review comes around:

Brag document: I call mine “what Brie is proud of” and it includes things I did and things others have said about me or my work that makes me smile.

Personal OKR/Shipped List: An OSR (ongoing/objective stack rank) is simply a list of all projects in the order you will do them. I also include any signs of ongoing impact that can be attributed to these ships.

What I learned today: A personal FAQ of sorts. Transcribing something usually helps me internalize it better.

Re-writing my job description: what I actually do. I re-write this every 6 months or so and talk to my manager about this

You should definitely read “Writing in Public, inside your company”

Willingness to look stupid

Dan Luu advocates keeping your ego in check and risking looking stupid if you want to do great work:

when I learned things that were hard for me and tried to think of this feeling as “the feeling of learning something” instead of “feeling dumb”, which half worked (I now associate that feeling with the former as well as the latter

don’t necessarily have to be particularly smart or talented or hardworking to come up with valuable solutions. Often, the dumb solution is something any idiot could’ve come up with and the reason the problem hasn’t been solved is because no one was willing to think the dumb thought until an idiot like me looked at the problem.

Work on What Matters

A great blog for Staff Engineers gives great guidance on how to do the work that matters:

If you’re in a well-run organization, at some point, you’re going to run out of things that are both high-impact and easy. This leaves you with a choice between shifting right to hard and high-impact or shifting down to easy and low-impact. The latter choice–easy and low-impact–is what Walk refers to as snacking.

Instead, the most effective places to work are those that matter to your company but still have enough room to actually do work. What are priorities that will become critical in the future, where you can do great work ahead of time? Where are areas that are doing ok but could be doing great with your support?

Grueling interview process is the whole point

Tech interview processes are famously broken. Hadrous shares on Hacker News why it may be the whole point:

FAANG (& similar) have more applicants who can do the job than they have positions, so instead of checking for that and calling it a day, they filter for some combination of IQ and how bad you want it—willing to do a ton of otherwise-low-value prep work & practice, and to go through the painful interview process itself, likely several times at different companies, even for successful candidates.

The reputation of their interviews also means they likely don’t get a ton of candidates who can’t do the job. So they could likely just start randomly selecting from their candidate pool and do damn near as well as they do with all the interview effort—except as soon as that become known, they wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. Plus they’d lose the hazing factor, which likely helps build company in-group identity. Having a lot of your employees feel like they only have their job because the finally got “lucky” in an interview may also help with retention, especially when everyone else who pays as much interviews in similar ways.

In a sense, being a huge, unpleasant waste of time is the whole point of their interview processes.

A thing I wrote:

Last week I published a thread summarizing my last 2 years of work: Unlocking the economic potential of Tumblr users and enabling them to sell on Tumblr. The hard part was making sure our solution plays nice with the Apple App Store rules. If you are curious about building marketplaces on top of the App Store, give it a read:

Party Animals!

Bob Venables has created fantastic illustrations of party animals for a Casino in Thessaloniki. Check out his page for other beautiful work.

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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.

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