32 Comments
Oct 12, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

I love this article, thank you for sharing and I can already think of ways in which I will apply your insights!

I’m curious what you think about this - what happens to your workload in the long-term? I’m thinking of this in the context of becoming the owner of non-promotable tasks that over time can add up to be a big part of your workload. This has happened to me before, where at first these activities helped me build capital at work, but over time I was doing less and less of what was actually essential. How do you navigate this as you progress in your career? Do you have any strategies for making sure that you can drop or pass on some tasks as you move on to new ones without making your manager unhappy?

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Thank you so much, Barbara. And that's a fantastic question. Totally get you.

Absolutely. It can pile up over time and there were multiple occasions where I had to step down from an outside task or group in favor of my essential work. It might be for a short period or for the long term and recognizing that someone else would be better in the position. The good news is that if you've been in that position for a decent amount of time and did a good job, then you "passing down the torch" to someone else shows leadership on your part to give others opportunities and level them up

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Oct 12, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

That’s a really nice way of framing it! Thanks that’s really helpful

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First and foremost, congrats!

Two things I find super interesting:

- Your drive

- Your ability to spot what you've to do to excel

Very impressive and well deserved!

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Thank you, Tiger. I really appreciate that 🙏

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Apr 3, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

Giving away gems of advice brother 👊 - Keep 'em coming :)

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Thank you so much. That makes my day 👊 will do

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Dec 11, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

This is basically what I need for a Monday mind shaping. Thank you for sharing

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Thank you for the kind words, Fredrick. Gladly!

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Nov 15, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

Thanks for writing one mate ... really insightful, would you like to share your role of Frontend please 😛, mentioned RTL and frontend just wanted to know if you have managed both front and backend

Thanks again 🙌

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Hey Kishore, thank you so much! Yes, I primarily focus on frontend now but have been all across the stack :)

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Nov 16, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

Anytime 😊, Great to know Jordon ....

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Excellent write up @jordancutler 🙌

Good to call out the irrelevance of "years" and experience. I've previously written about that particular topic (https://blog.alexewerlof.com/p/on-years-as-a-unit-of-measurement) but TLDR; it's about the tragectory of growth not the absolute position at a given point in time.

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Ahh love that and saved so that I can share that as I need to!

Thank you also for the compliment. Really glad you resonate that YOE != skill

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Jul 2, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

I appreciate the read but a thought regarding title inflation: calling it out isn’t about putting anyone down - it’s about acknowledging the reality of what one learns in 1-2 years of experience vs. 10-15+

I think this is a great article about how to be effective as an engineer early on in your career, but remember! Titles are inflated but the recognition is not

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Yes, fair! And it still depends. There's gotta be a line somewhere.

Of course, there shouldn't be a bunch of Principal Engineers with 2 YOE running around.

However, depending on the situation, maybe someone was coding since they were 13, or was raised in an environment where growing insanely fast was reasonable, or had amazing mentors, or spent all their time outside work learning, etc. etc. We don't really know the reason, and can set some reasonable expectations, but we also shouldn't close off to the idea that someone could have the skills based on how old they are for example. At least let them show you

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Jun 4, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

I like your mindset. What gave you this inner ambition as a person?

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It's a good question... honestly, it might be something for me to discuss with a therapist to get a better understanding.

However, a few things come to mind

- Having a sense of purpose / meaning and making a difference in the world

- Having a sense of financial security long term

- Enjoyment of growth and learning. If I was to retire, in my free time I'd probably just enjoy learning about random things

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Jun 30, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

I agree with the first one as well, I want to make a difference in the world. I also agree with enjoying learning, I read a lot of articles I come across such as yours. The middle one, I don't know yet, maybe I will feel that when I graduate from my cs undergrad and start working full time :p

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haha makes sense, man. If it's not a worry, its even better

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Such valuable information here - I love the way you break it down into simple actionable steps.

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Thank you so much, Vanessa. That really means a lot 🙏

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May 12, 2023Liked by Jordan Cutler

Great article, thanks for writing it!

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Thanks so much, Brian!

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Very impressive career path. I love the section on how you stood out. Publicly sharing learnings has always worked well for me. It's great that you're highlighting that so early in your career.

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Thank you, Ken!

I appreciate that a lot

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Jan 27Liked by Jordan Cutler

Thank you for the great advice.

In the first minimum responsibilities for Year 1 you say: "Any free time you have should be dedicated to doing your assigned project better, even when you are blocked." Did that include your free time outside of work?

Or more generally: what did you do outside of work in your first year? Any side projects/learning?

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Great question, Eloy.

Sometimes I would work outside of work hours, yes. I would say be cautious about doing that though.

I would generally finish my work during work hours and would experiment with things that I was learning and trying to make codebase improvements at the same time. It didn't feel much like "working" to me but rather learning

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Jan 7Liked by Jordan Cutler

Coming from the contractor and freelancing world, this writing echoes one thing: show people you care.

Care about their problems, the solutions, and the general success of the project aka. their dream.

Once you show signs of caring, you start to build real and long-term connections that propel your business (or career) forward.

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Love that. I didn't realize that until you said it, but it resonates because I gave that same advice to one of my mentees based on a particular situation they were in.

Once they had that and ran with it, the results they saw were massive

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This is a really interesting article and you provide some great ways juniors and mid-level engineers can identify additional leadership opportunities, which can be a challenge for sure.

"Regardless of if that is true, who cares? If your company promotes you for good work and wants to give you a title for it, let them. You deserve it."

This quote in particular stands out. I don't disagree, but I do wonder if you have any additional insight on how to exercise this line of thinking without creating more adversity in the long-term. The few times in my career that I've been concerned about cases of title inflation, the concern that I've had- especially when it comes to senior and staff promotions- is that the engineer is not able to consistently write code at a senior or staff level or build the more complex solutions that a senior or staff engineer would be expected to be able to build and maintain without any hand-holding. In this way, they can become "locked-in" at their current employer because they can't pass a senior/staff-level technical interview elsewhere.

You mention learning from seniors and tech leads and that pair programming was especially helpful; you also point out that you can't take on extra credit without meeting the minimum responsibilities- both these I agree strongly with! Still, the article seems mostly focused on going above and beyond and finding opportunities to increase your visibility and influence rather than strengthening your technical competency or fast-tracking your professional development.

Do you feel like rising through the ranks quickly ever put you in a situation where you felt like you were in over your head on the technical side once you made it to senior? Or did you run into any challenges interviewing for your next senior role after Gusto that you weren't expecting?

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It's a good question, Rob. And probably a long discussion we can have on the topic.

I think that if you can't land a job elsewhere because of your skills, then maybe you are only a "Staff" at this company.

Every company defines it differently so my point is that I was able to get from junior -> Senior "at Gusto" quickly by doing a certain set of behaviors.

Replicating those behaviors and actions at your company might produce different results because of a different set of expectations.

It might put you on a 4 year growth track rather than 6 year to Senior by doing some of the things in the article.

Hopefully, it gets you there faster, not slower.

In terms of feeling like I'm over my head on the technical side, yes and no. There are certain areas I wish I had more experience in like CI or build systems, but I feel like the Senior level in me is that I'm able to learn those skills or work in those environments if I need to do something, regardless of having the massive understanding of everything that in an ideal-world I'd like to have.

In my opinion, a Senior isn't someone who knows everything, but who has a broad understanding of a wide array of things, is an expert at a few things, and has the ability to learn and pick up things as needed fairly quickly. They know enough about each individual thing to make connections to things they do know. They also can mentor, lead projects, and work independently and quickly.

Those are all things I fall back on to knowing that I have if I ever get that imposter syndrome feeling

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