Own Your Tech Career

Own Your Tech Career / Don Jones / Manning / July 2021

Rating: 4/5 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑

At the beginning of my professional journey in software engineering, career growth was easy - just get better at coding, then wait for others to notice, rinse and repeat. The path is mostly clear, you don’t have to make a lot of decisions (except, perhaps, the technologies to invest in). That worked well and is a solid strategy for landing a senior position. But it stops being useful past a certain level.

What I didn’t realize is that after a certain stage in your career, you can’t reap huge improvements in the value you add (and, therefore, your price) by relying only on your technical competency. The returns, while still being there, start diminishing sharply. I’ve seen a lot of people arrive at the same conclusion and this book would be a good read for them.

Own Your Tech Career makes you view your career as running a business, by approaching analytically all the critical aspects:

  • strategy - Define a state where you want to be.
  • integrity - Practical advice on being professional and approaching problems by thinking critically.
  • marketing - Establish your brand. Build a network and participate in communities.
  • business operations - Be more effective in time management, remote work, and problem-solving.
  • business development - Be prepared for job hunting.
  • innovation - Keep your tech skills up to date.
  • scaling - Whether you want to become a leader and how to get there.
  • PR - How to communicate effectively, both in spoken and written form.

Practical advice is given on improving each of these areas. Even though this might sound more appropriate for running a one-man consultancy show, I found it very relevant to my experience as a regular employee at a company.

As an engineer, I liked the pragmatic, no-BS approach to the aforementioned issues. This is not a cringe Medium post that feeds you with easy and obvious solutions for guaranteed success, in the 5 minutes while you’re waiting for a build. Instead, you’re provided with a general framework and left thinking through things yourself.

The lists of action items are well-thought exercises, which encourage you to leave the book aside and spent some time meditating on that matter.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to all software engineers who want to broaden their horizons. No life-changing advice, but gives a solid foundation for managing yourself better. I’ll get back to this from time to time.