Last week I was invited to speak to a group of engineering students about how to start a career. Sure! No pressure. 😅
We mainly talked about four things: craft, network, ownership, and impact. Here’s a summary.
How do you improve? Well, skills are important but if they never reach anyone they’re useless. So you have to find an audience.
Talk to your peers, customers, users, whoever has a problem worth solving. If you’re shy, write to them. This is by far the best way to improve.
How do you figure out what to make? By avoiding analogies. Do your research, but realize that you can’t step into the same river twice.
You need to spend time to learn first principles
, so you can stop working on analogies. Take it away Elon!
Make it easy for people to evangelize you. Send forwardable messages, share regular updates, respect their time, send them your work, have them review your writing. It pays off.
That first person that trusts you, mentors you, boosts you: Treasure them. Help them help you.
This was an all-female group, which was great to see. I’m a white dude and I can’t begin to imagine the crap they’ll have to deal with in tech. All I could say was this:
What makes you stand out makes you unique. Wear it like a medal. Don’t accept any judgment. Only you decide how you feel.
The best way to build things, and IMO the most fun way, is to have ownership. Ownership gives you unrivaled personal expression and passion.
It’s also a great way to compound your efforts, which you should look to do. More on that from Sam Altman
Start a company! Work at one that makes you an owner! Choose what fits your needs.
I did both and each worked. Sometimes, I had to sacrifice more ownership for less cash. That has always worked out for me in the long run.
(But seriously, start a company.)
They worried about teamwork but nothing in tech gets built without engineers. That makes engineers really valuable.
The best leaders have huge empathy for engineers. They don’t code, or master that skill, but care for it.
So if you’re not an engineer, give a damn.
Focus on shipping things. Be efficient and ruthless in making sure the things you make can be launched and will be.
Make sure that whatever situation you end up in, there is always efficiency to ship.
One inherent quality of doing new, innovative, surprising work is that it’s always unique. Unfortunately, that also means nobody can tell you how to exactly do it.
I pretended to, for just a brief afternoon. Let’s hope they didn’t listen too much. 😉