Jeff Atwood has had quite a bit of success in his career, having been a founder of StackExchange and Discourse. He’s a fellow alumnus of the University of Virginia, along with Alexis Ohanian. Both of them have had a higher profile than me, and I admire what they’ve accomplished. I also think they’ve both been advocates for the technology industry, helping and advising others on how they can succeed in their own careers.
Jeff has been writing interesting posts about hardware and software for years, but the latest one struck me. It’s called Learning on the Battlefield, and it has a lot of the same advice that I recently gave someone. In the post, Jeff notes that approaching your software career is like learning on the battlefield. It’s like making weapons and coming up with tactics. You really need to test them on the battlefield.
Note, I wouldn’t expect that this means we test ideas in production, but rather, that we do test them in a live way, actually using the software. In QA, of course.
Jeff notes that the work of building software is more important than schooling. I agree. I also think that the closer you can get to simulating work, the better off you are when you interview, or even when someone examines your body of work. His advice is to get an internship, go to user groups, build OSS, publish articles, and blog.
All of these things are raising your brand. That’s a lot of what I’ve been writing and speaking about for over a decade. It’s the advice I gave someone recently who wanted to not build software, but become a DBA. Do the work, set up a test lab at home, in Azure or AWS, and then write about it. Blog about what you learn, how you do things, what others advised you about, and even the mistakes you’ve made.
Don’t be perfect, don’t try to show a hiring manager you know everything, but rather show them that you know some things and can learn others. We all make mistakes, even those of us that blog a lot. We can write about mistakes and still impress people.
Make your job search, your career advancement, or your desire for a raise/promotion/project, a battlefield. Do things and share your experience. Tell us about your first year of something, and more importantly, learn to practice communication. Add this to your CV/resume as a body of work, and I am sure that you will find it helps your career.