Thiago Ghisi

Thiago Ghisi



How to Build a Strong Career in Tech: A Thread. 2019, I gave a talk. 2020, I wrote an extensive article expanding the talk. 2021, I recorded a podcast distilling the article. 2022, I'm sharing below my favorite ideas researching this topic for past 3 years. ???

1️⃣ Part I - Definition of Career Success What do successful careers in tech have in common? Impact of their ideas on a large number of people directly or indirectly. Success = Impact & Influence! ? The Engineering Career Progression Function:

2️⃣ Part II - Skillset Framework - The 4 Pillars to Grow Your Career What do Career Ladders from many different Tech companies have in common? The 4 Ps: The 4 Pillars of a Successful Career in Tech: 1- Platform ⛏ 2- Product ? 3- Process ? 4- People ?‍?‍?

"Career ladders are a starting point for shared expectations across an organisation. However, career ladders cannot be comprehensive, as people are unique, like snowflakes. ..." @patkua

"The most successful professionals that I know focus on getting better and increasing their impact and influence not only on the 1st P - Platform - but in all the 4Ps: Platform, Product, Process & People." ? The 4 Ps of Engineering Leadership:

⛏ 1st P -> Platform: It is the Codebase, the Scripts, the Infrastructure, the CI/CD Pipeline, the Batch Jobs, the Architectural Patterns, the Databases, your Technical Skills with a particular Paradigm, Language, Framework, Tool or Library. MASTERING is the core verb here.

Mastering by LEARNING & BUILDING around solid engineering foundations & SELECTING & APPLYING the right practices, technologies, and tools. 1st P - PLATFORM: How do you get better at this?

The obvious advice is to focus on mastering one programming language at the time, go all the way in. - Read the Advanced Classical Books, - Implement Design Patterns, - Get Certified, - Contribute to Multiple Open-Source Projects... And that is not bad at all. BUT,

The not so obvious advice that has influenced my career is the idea of becoming a Generalizing Specialist. It helped me a lot to understand how to think about my "IT Career Skills" and to evolve as a professional focusing on being a T-Shaped Engineer/Paint Drip People.

Think about this as an ongoing effort to think about your next move while keeping in mind the overall shape of your most critical "IT Professional Skills Blocks" - or, your "Career Capital". The mindful application and accumulation of expertise over the course of a career.

I’m not suggesting here for you to become a Generalist - a Jack of ALL trades and Masters at NONE. What I’m suggesting here is for you to try to be a Generalizing Specialist or a Specializing Generalist, a Jack of MANY Trades and Masters of SOME. ?

" the end of the day, you don’t want either specialists or generalists, you want people who can go deep when it matters but you want those same folks to be able fluidly move to higher ROI tasks. This creates stronger adaptability – a key business imperative." @BrentMJensen

? 2nd P -> Product Delivery. It is the app, the website. It is external. It is what the user is using, what it is being experienced, the features available, what the user is able to accomplish, and how quickly. DELIVERING, especially, delivering value is the core verb.

DELIVER must be focused on customer impact and incremental improvements. Improving only the codebase (the platform), the same way that improving only the process or the environment for the people is not enough. 2nd P - PRODUCT DELIVERY: How do you get better at this?

The obvious advice here is to be more productive. - Learn all the keyboard shortcuts, - Automate everything, - Create a System for your To-do lists, Maximize your Output. - Set Reminders. - Work longer-hours if needed. - Get more done... And that is not bad at all. BUT,

The not so obvious advice that has influenced my career in the last couple of years is to Maximize the Work Not Done. Maximize the number of lines not written. "The Best Code is No Code At All” – Jeff Atwood. One tool that has helped me a lot is User Story Mapping.

? 3rd Pillar -> Process & Culture. It is the HOW. How scalable are we as an engineering organization? How dependent are we of single points of failure? Do we see some folks always working extra while a few always leave at 5 pm? The core verb here is STRENGTHENING!

STRENGTHENING by adding flexibility on how we scale the product, the codebase, the infrastructure, how the people and teams interact. 3rd P - PROCESS: How do you get better at this?

The obvious advice here is to: - Get a Scrum Master Certification, - Organize Meet-ups, - Go visit different companies, - Learn from other cultures, - Learn how other companies under similar circumstances scaled. And that is not bad at all. BUT,

The not so obvious advice, that has made me grow a lot in the last 5 years or so, is to get involved in your company hiring process. Become an interviewer! Try to improve how your company, department, or direct team do interviews.

Why should I become an interviewer? Remember this: "...the maddening thing about most of our organizations is that they are only as good as the people who staff them." Logically, if you are helping to select who gets in, you are helping your organization/team/self.

?‍?‍? 4th Pillar -> People & Leadership How do we collaborate as a team? How do we collaborate across different roles & across different teams? Are people happy? Are people being heard? The core verb here is SUPPORTING! Support & Empathy.

SUPPORTING the emotional well-being of group members in difficult times, celebrating their successes, Inspiring day to day with excellence, maximizing potentials, challenging the status quo in a compassionate way. 4th P - PEOPLE: How do you get better at this?

The obvious advice is to: - Go to Leadership Training, - Read books on Soft Skills, - Give presentations, - Do an MBA, - Ask for opportunities to lead small teams. - Learn how to give effective feedback… And that is not bad at all. BUT,

The not so obvious advice that recently made me see things more clearly is the concept of Being "The Glue Person” or Doing the Glue Work. I didn’t know it had a name. Try to see everything as a system, see where things are falling to the cracks and pick them up.

Do the Glue Work, be the Glue Person. Take Extreme Ownership over the entire project. When you see that something needs to be done, but no one is doing, you jump in and do it. You don't wait for permission, don't ask for approval. Seek forgiveness, do not seek approvals.

Want to Be a Better Leader? Do the work that nobody is doing, but that is critical for success. The more meetings you facilitate, the better you will be at it. The more critical communication you do, the better you will be at it. 'Quantity > Quality' sometimes...

"When it comes to "honing your skills", focusing on the quantity of reps almost always will trump focusing on the quality of reps" by @JamesClear

A big reference for me here is @KentBeck and his outstanding book Extreme Programming Explained, specifically the psychology of it. This quote is not from the book, but from a tweet from Kent. It captures one of the keystones of this pillar: Being empathetic.

3️⃣ Part III - Career Accelerators: ➡️ CI - Continuous Interviewing: Yes, always be open and always take interviews even - or especially when - you are super happy and engaged at your current job/company. At least once a year, accept that invite from that recruiter.

I have a less controversial opinion than @AkitaOnRails on this: You should be changing at least one of the 4 Ps: Platform, Product, Process or People at least once every 2 years, not only during your 20s but actually during your entire career.

However remember: Change jobs, not necessarily change companies. Sometimes you change your companies, but you don't change your job. (the 4 Ps are still pretty much the same) Sometimes you don't change companies, but you change your job. (promotion, move to a different org...)

➡️ Learning vs. Earning: At what phase of your career are you now? Learning Phase or Earning Phase? What is the most important thing for you right now? Learning (getting experience) or Earning (making more money)? Regardless. Build a Safety Net! F**** You Money is Power!

➡️ Short-term vs. Long-term: All the 15 successful professionals I interviewed for my book had one thing in common: They shared a similar story. They all "tasted" in some way or another “their new life” before they start to work seriously towards it. The photo was mine:

Want to know more about the vision of life that I tasted before it became a reality? ? Randomness, Honesty, Naiveness, and Luck: How a mistake allowed me to get a job in NYC

My final recommendation: Spend a few minutes imagining and writing down your future, your “ideal” personal and professional life. Great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is passively waiting to see where life will take them next.

From "On Luck, Leverage, and You" by @gayle "You can’t create your own luck, but you can leverage it. Say yes.” – Gayle Laakmann McDowell

"All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically. The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blueprint of the desired result." – Stephen R. Covey

If you liked this thread and want more tips on: 1. Career, and/or 2. How to Standout as an Engineering Manager or Staff+ in Interviews, and/or 3. Engineering Leadership & Agile/Lean/XP Follow me ➡️ @thiagoghisi

Want to listen to the interview I gave on this topic? Check it out this a podcast:

For folks that are not used to long threads, this one has 41 tweets (42 now). This means you need to tap/click "more replies" to read the entire thing. I really don't understand why @Twitter doesn't fix it with an infinite lazy loading. A lot of people got stuck at tweet 30.

Regardless if you have Twitter Blue or not, if you want to read this full thread without distractions, check out my @typefullyapp's page. I just published it!

I hope you've found this thread helpful. Follow me @thiagoghisi for more. Like/Retweet the first tweet below if you can:

If you want a great list of articles to read that are super complementary (and was a big inspiration) to everything I wrote here, strongly recommend this thread:

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