Set your boundaries

Chain link fence

Dear new developer,

A few years ago, I suggested you over-index at your first month or two on the job. I stand by that advice. Extra effort up front will earn you a reputation as a good employee. I also think that first impressions matter; plan to make a good first impression with your team and manager.

On the other hand, it is important to set your boundaries and learn how to say no.

How can both statements be true? The answer is that you must thoughtfully consider what you want.

Reasonable boundaries

Corey Quinn wrote a great tweetstorm about what to do when you start a job. The whole thing is worth a read, but I wanted to call out one piece of advice in particular, “begin with reasonable boundaries”:

What’s reasonable? Ah, there’s the rub. You want to balance being a team player, helping your company succeed and not being abused. Because there are companies out there that will abuse you. For the past couple of years, the job market for developers, especially once you are no longer “junior”, has been stellar, but that won’t last forever. And there are firms out there whose whole business model is to hire developers, place them in soul-sucking positions or places they can’t be successful, wring them dry, and start anew with another set of developers. Avoid these places.

Other jobs will be less obvious about this, and may not even be intentional. It could be an organizational flaw or a historical artifact that the company’s success depends on violating norms around work life balance for their employees. In any case, considering and setting your own boundaries will ensure that you are “working to live”, not “living to work”.

Think about time and effort you want to invest, both on the job and in side projects. I can’t offer you specific guidance other than to write down what you are thinking and revisit it periodically (every quarter or so). Map what your current job expects with what you are willing to give, too. If the expectations diverge, that’s a signal it is time to move on.

After you have determined your boundaries, set them. As Corey suggests, one way is to set an alarm and leave work at a regular time. There are many other ways:

  • Don’t check work emails outside of work hours.
  • Ask for more money if you are expected to wear a pager (if it wasn’t part of the job description).
  • Avoid tasks beyond your job description (unless you want to take them on).
  • Don’t install slack on your personal phone.
  • Turn off your notifications.

Don’t be flagrant about your boundaries, but be firm. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that” is a phrase you’ll want to use regularly. Some flexibility will help: find out what team norms are and work within them as best you can. For instance, if your whole team starts work at 10am, then align your hours: stop work at 6pm, not at 5pm. You’ll have an easier time maintaining boundaries if the team doesn’t view them as counter productive.

When in doubt, have a conversation with your manager at your one to one. It may be an awkward conversation, so a good way to start is to ask the manager about how they manage their boundaries.

Crossing boundaries

As a software developer, there will be times when you’ll break your boundaries. At the end of almost every project I have worked on as a developer, there was “crunch time”, where I worked more hours than usual. Not 80 hour weeks, but more than 40. This is in part because estimation is hard. There are surprises at the end of every effort. Examples include:

  • New requirements that weren’t clear at the beginning
  • Tasks that the team should have done earlier but forgot about
  • External changes that require software to change as well
  • An accumulation of schedule slips from earlier in the project that pile up at the end

In some cases you can push back on these surprises by shifting dates or cutting functionality; in other cases you just need to grit your teeth and deal with it.

Break your boundaries rarely and intentionally. If it becomes a regular occurrence, consider other employment.

Sincerely,

Dan

Plant a tree

Dear new developer,

Here’s a great quote:

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Unknown

I spent a little bit of time trying to track down the original source, but my google skills failed me. But no matter the source of the quote, it is worthwhile advice.

What does this mean to you? It means that you should start a long play now. That is, an activity which will pay dividends in the future, but does not right now.

What is an example of a long play?

I think one successful long play for me is my blog. I have been blogging since 2003 and it has helped me in a number of ways. Both directly, in being a “proof of work” for employers, and indirectly, by helping raise my profile in the community. But the benefits didn’t accrue in the first 6 months or the first year. It was the continual effort of writing, at least once a month, which delivered the value.

Another example of the long play is this blog itself. I wrote for months before I had any appreciable traffic.

Other possible long plays:

I didn’t realize how many of these long plays I’d written about (or folks had guest posted about) on this blog until I put the above list together. The long play has obviously been a long running theme.

The common thread is that all of these activities accrete value over time. Slowly at first. Oh so slowly!

Here’s the thing, though. The long play can be scary to commit to. It doesn’t have immediate financial returns, just like planting a tree today won’t give you shade tomorrow. You only see the benefits years or decades from now. That makes it tough to invest time, at least for me.

How do you know what kind of long play makes sense for you? The only way I know to learn this is to try different things. Sure, you can read about them and try the activity in your mind. But there’s a world of difference between, say, thinking about contributing to an open source project and actually doing so. When you try a long play activity, you can see whether you enjoy it enough to keep doing it.

A few other fun facts about long plays:

  • Committing to a long play doesn’t mean you can’t stop. You can stop if you want. Knowing this makes it easier to start.
  • Starting small is wise. Don’t expect to, say, submit a PR to rails or another high profile open source project as your first contribution. Finding a typo or expanding the documentation is much more realistic.
  • Different long plays require different levels of effort.
  • Long plays can pay dividends in the short term, but that’s a side benefit, not the main one.
  • You probably don’t have energy to have a day job, enjoy a personal life, and do a bunch of long plays. I’d start with one or maybe two.
  • Pick something you enjoy. An analogy: when starting a two sided marketplace like AirBnB, you run into a chicken and egg problem. No supply means no demand, and vice versa. So you need to kickstart one side, and one way is to have your marketplace provide value for one type of party. This is called “single player mode”. In the same way, a long play is going to be hard, so pick something that gives you personal value and enjoyment. Even if no one else benefits, you still do.
  • The level of effort you put into a long play will change over time. I wrote a blog post every day for 100 days once. I now write one blog post on my professional blog every month because I less available effort and time.
  • You don’t have to know exactly how a long play will turn out. You won’t, in fact. It can change over time as you get a clearer vision of your goals.

However, there are two things you must do for a long play.

You must commit. No activity is fun all the time. Sure, it was a rush to publish a book based on this blog, but there was a ton of dreary activities leading up to that event. I’ll tell you what, I even started and stopped the proposal a few times and needed a kick from my SO to submit it.

You must start. Just start. Pick something from the above list (or another kind of activity which resonates with you) and block out time to do it.

Plant that tree today. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Sincerely,

Dan

Be a mentor

This is a guest post from Akira Brand. Enjoy.

Dear New Developer,

Be a mentor.

Seriously. Find someone a little bit behind you in their journey and mentor them. All you need is an hour a week. Heck, even an hour a month. Work through exercises and projects with them. Tutor them in an Udemy class. Sign up to mentor hackathon participants. Find a code school you like and mentor their students.

You may not think you know a lot right now, but you’ll solidify what you do know in profound ways through mentoring. You’ll find every gap in your own learning that you didn’t know was there, and what’s more, be able to fill it. You’ll start to deeply understand the context behind certain problems, as well as the grander architectural and design systems that underlie all good software.

You’ll learn why things you didn’t care for or regard as important before actually are (for me it was pseudocoding), how to problem solve in a team, and build empathy for not only the end users, but for your mentee, and, for yourself.

Be a mentor. Find someone who needs a teacher and be that life changing person for them. It’ll be one of the most fulfilling segments of your career.

Good luck, and remember to breathe!

Akira

Akira is a full stack developer currently working on building a JavaScript bootcamp with Emeritus. They love to digitally nomad and are currently in Boulder, CO.

Turn off those notifications

Dear new developer,

Shut off your notifications.

There are so many interruptions in your workday that it can be hard to find the time to dive into deep work. Disabling alerts from communication programs can help you stay in the zone and avoid having distractions pushed to you.

Here is a list of the software for which I’ve turned off alerts:

  • slack on my computer
  • slack on my phone (if I even install it there)
  • email on my computer
  • email on my phone
  • any other applications on my phone (except SMS)
  • discord

I know people who have disabled new text message alerts. I think that is a bit extreme, but do what works for you.

Shutting off these notifications lets you check messages in these systems on your time, not whenever someone sends you a message. Even though it feels good to respond quickly, doing so impacts your ability to ship working code (or whatever else you are trying to deliver).

Here’s a playbook for freeing up your attention.

First, think about how much time you should block out for focused work. If you are just starting, aim for thirty minutes of uninterrupted time. If you are working on a hard problem, a block of a couple hours a day will be better.

Then, discuss with your team at work. Find out what their expectations for responding to messages are, for any mechanisms used such as email or slack. This is a great conversation to have with your manager at a one to one. The expected response time will vary based on the content of the message, but try to get a broad understanding. Is it ok to respond an email or slack message within a business day? At the end of the day? In a couple of days?

One thing to be aware of is that as a new developer, you may get blocked. You need to make sure your heads down time doesn’t mean you keep banging your head against a wall if you don’t see a path forward. There’s a distinction between needing to reach out to someone for help and being interrupted by others. The former is expected, the latter is what you are trying to avoid. Make sure you discuss that distinction and have clarity around it.

Another thing to know is that decisions may get made without your input, especially if you wait a couple of days to reply. This is a tradeoff. As a new developer, however, you may be more interested in the decision as opposed to weighing in on it.

Next, make the changes to your applications. Turn off notifications for communication software such as email or slack. I find it helpful to block out time on my calendar to remind folks. You may need to close messaging clients entirely.

Also, don’t forget to provide an escalation path. If someone really needs your feedback on something, how can they get ahold of you? I always add my cell phone number to my profile and tell people that if they really need me, text me. Plan for this. It won’t happen often (at my current job, no one has ever texted me) but if you are truly needed, you want to be available.

Finally, set a schedule to check in, as informed by your needs and the team’s expectations. Think about whether you will check in daily, a few times a day, or every hour. Whatever you and your team have agreed to, do that.

Beware the tendency to check in on email, slack, etc, mindlessly.

You are avoiding the push of distraction; don’t fall into the trap of pulling distractions to you. This is a bad habit of mine. If I’m waiting for a page to render in a jekyll site or a local server to restart, I’ll sometimes idly flip over to slack or email (or worse, an online community like Reddit). Doing so defeats the entire purpose of limiting notifications.

A colleague once told me that there are three types of tasks: big, medium and small. You can think of your day as a container that you are filling with rocks, gravel and sand, respectively corresponding to the big, medium and small tasks.

If you fill your day with small tasks, such as checking your email, you won’t have time to work on the big rocks, just as if you put sand in the container first, you won’t have room for the rocks.

If, on the other hand, you allocate specific time to the bigger tasks, the smaller tasks can fit around the edges.

Turning off your notifications and controlling when you are responding to messages from others is a good way to focus on your big goals.

Sincerely,

Dan

My experience with burnout

This is a guest post from Landy Simpson. Enjoy.

Dear new developer,

This year has put everyone’s mental and physical health to the test, including yours truly. There’s the ongoing pandemic, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the 2020 American elections, the End Sars movement; the list goes on. This year, I’ve dealt with an assortment of health issues, which became incredibly hard to deal with once quarantine reduced the number of available health services. Between trying to manage my mental health, physical health and working from within these four walls formerly known as my bedroom — I’m exhausted.

No, in fact, I am BURNT OUT, and I know I’m not the only one feeling this way.

In the last two months, I noticed it became increasingly difficult to get out of bed. I thought my burnout was terrible in the summer — I had no idea what autumn would bring. On the weekends, I’ve found that I can sleep for over 12 hours and only eat a single meal. I haven’t been fully motivated to write, brainstorm content, or work on personal projects. I’m feeling frustrated because I’m not productive. I’m upset I spend most of my free time sleeping, and I’m a bit worried that my burnout affects the quality of my work at my job. But as I work through these conflicting feelings, I’m starting to realize that I shouldn’t fight them, instead, I should accept them and find ways to maneuver the storm called burnout.

During this time of year, where seasonal depression is upon us, it’s easy to spiral into self-loathing and self-pity. And despite feeling burnout, it’s also easy to force yourself into a rigid routine in the hopes of digging your way out of your slump. In coming to terms with my ongoing burnout, I’ve learned if you treat moments like this with compassion, patience, and a bit of transparency, you can overcome burnout. I started opening up discussions with my mom, my best friends, and even one of my co-workers to see what I can do to improve my situation.

It’s incredibly important to open up discussions with our family and friends about mental health because it’s also essential to recognize signs, like burnout, of declining mental health. Together, we can find ways to help each other take preventative steps, like seeking counseling, incorporating healthy physical activities, and practicing self-care and self-compassion.

I can only provide some essential tips to understand yourself better and take the first step in caring for yourself during burnout. However, if you’re dealing with any form of mental illness, please speak to a professional.

Don’t force yourself to get back into a routine.

Notice you’re going through something and treat yourself like you’d treat a friend going through a tough time. Don’t force your body or mind to adapt to a whole new routine overnight. You’ll burn out faster, and you’ll end up spiraling out of control just as quickly as you adapted the routine. Be patient with your mind and body. Incorporate one piece of your routine a week at a time. Allow yourself to adjust to the changes and don’t be too hard on yourself if you mess up once in a while. You’re only human.

Figure out why you’re feeling drained.

Put context to the feeling so you can understand the draining areas of your life. Ask yourself some questions to help reveal potential causes of your burnout. For example, do you feel reluctant to get up for work or school? Are you dissatisfied or overwhelmed with the progression of a particular goal in your life? When was the last time you spoke to a friend or family member, and do you feel alone as a result? Wherever those draining areas are, it’s important to identify them to know what you need to work on to make yourself feel better. There might not be an immediate or obvious solution, however, knowing the cause of your burnout can at least help you stay sensitive to that problem.

Reinforce your values.

It’s hard to get out of bed or feel like anything you do is worth it at the moment, but don’t lose sight of your dreams. Remind yourself of your goals to help reinforce your values. You aren’t just a couch potato or a lazy little bean. And if you are, that’s fine, but remind yourself you’re a person full of dreams and aspirations. You’re just going through a tough time right now, and that’s okay! You will get back to those dreams soon enough as long as you keep making them a priority.

Even when you adopt a routine, it’s okay to take a break or have a bad day where you can’t get out of bed. Don’t punish yourself for feeling burnt out. You’re doing so much, which is fantastic. But always remember to take care of yourself first, which leads me to my last point.

Take care of your body and mind.

These burnout periods are your body and mind’s way of saying it’s time to take a break. Follow your instincts and indulge a little. Sleep in a little longer, eat your favorite meals, talk a bit longer on the phone, binge a show, take a long bath, exercise. Do something to relieve your body and mind of all the stress that it’s going through.

Taking care of yourself can also be seeking therapy or talking to your boss about time off. Even a small getaway road trip to expose your body and mind to a new environment is a way of taking care of yourself.

We’re living in a difficult time right now, and we must be patient and mindful of our feelings. Look out for your friends and family during this time, and most importantly, stay safe.

— Landy

This was originally published here.

Landy Simpson is an Experienced Software Engineer who is skilled in front-end development. She blogs at https://simplyy.medium.com/

Fewer Applications, More Interviews: How Professional Allies Can Help You Land Your First Jr Dev Role

This is a guest post from Dagny Wise. Enjoy.

Dear New Developer,

Even when your GitHub is a work of art, your portfolio is up and running, and your resume is looking good, it can be rough to get hired as a career-changer who’s never worked as a dev before.

Before you throw your money into an endless abyss of possible certs you could get to try to stand out, try leveraging what you already got – you!

A bit about me: I left my sales job to complete a coding bootcamp. It was part of my bid to get out of sales, and work towards a role where I can bounce between tech- and non-techy stakeholders. What follows is what I’ve learned from the process of job-searching as a career-changer during a pandemic, and landing my first job offer in the hidden job market. While I’m not a developer, the methods I’ve outlined below are useful to anyone trying to land their first job in a new role.

Think about it: unemployment is quite high right now, and everyone applies online. Many qualified, experienced people are among those unemployed. But take heart – you can differentiate by making professionally-minded allies.

What’s a professional ally in this context?

A professional ally is someone who is invested in your success. They might be a friend, family, former coworkers, folks you knew in school but didn’t really talk to, or strangers you’ve never met. You’d be surprised who ends up wanting to help you!

An ally does not have to be someone with hiring power, or domain knowledge, or someone who works somewhere you want to work, or even someone currently employed.

All of these things are awesome bonuses, but anyone who wants to help you may be able to connect you to more strategic people. And anyone who genuinely wants to help you succeed is already awesome, so it’s important to think of them that way.

How do you find your allies?

1). Make a list of all the broad categories of your life where you could connect with people. For example, your schools, former workplaces, that summer camp you did for years, all of it.

2). Mentally go through everyone you remember from each of those categories, and connect with the ones you remember on LinkedIn: everyone gets a message. Something short. It can be simple, but it should be at least a little personalized.

Something like “Hey person’s name, I was looking to connect with more people from name of highschool, and I was excited to find you on here! I hope you’re doing well.

3). If they ask you how you’re doing, respond organically, but focus on your career goals. 3-4 sentences tops. Conversational.

4). If they ask follow-up questions on your little intro, demonstrating interest in what you’re doing, congrats! You now have a new ally!

Why do all of that? Because professional allies open doors for you.

They can get you referrals at companies you want to work at, significantly increasing your odds of getting an interview. They can tell you about hidden market jobs, and they can help you make more strategic allies. And the best part: when you get your position as a result, YOU have the opportunity to become one. Awesome.

What it Looks Like To Make an Ally:

After doing all of the above, I connected with George, an acquaintance from high school. I didn’t immediately see what George could help me with because he’s a contract UX Designer and my dream was to work in Product. I told him what I was pursuing anyway, and he seemed genuinely interested in helping me. Great!

I went through George’s LinkedIn contacts and I found several people working in product, and a founder of a startup that George told me was looking to grow their team. I asked George if he knew any of these LinkedIn connections well enough to feel comfortable introducing me, and gave him some names. He said he was very happy to hit up 2 out of those names, and he did!

One of the product people got back to me, a VP of Product who I’ve talked to a few times via Zoom, and I’m still in touch with. It’s amazing to have someone so experienced in the field to bounce ideas off of, get advice from, and generally have me in mind when opportunities come up.

What It Looks Like to Get a Referral

Companies LOVE referrals – it saves them money when a good employee brings in another good employee, rather than picking from a giant pile of faceless internet applicants. It increases your odds to get a referral on your application – and you can get quite a few of them by nurturing professional relationships.

For example: I didn’t know anyone who worked at this awesome EdTech startup, but I saw them always topping lists of awesome places to work, so I knew I wanted a connection there. Not knowing anyone personally who worked there, I reached out to a couple people I’ve never met who worked in Product. One got back to me, and I coordinated a 20-30 min conversation via Zoom. She was super nice, answered my prepared questions, and said yes when I asked if she’d be comfortable referring me. I sent her my resume, and got an email from the recruiter later that day to schedule a phone interview for the role we talked about!

Fun fact: You can message strangers this for free on LinkedIn by “adding a note” to your connection request – no need to pay for Premium! Just make sure to introduce yourself, mention something specific about why you want to talk to them, and make a specific ask (ex: 20-30 mins of their time for a chat about their experience at company). Some won’t get back to you, but that’s ok.

What It Looks Like to Break Into “The Hidden Job Market”

Maybe you’ve heard of the Hidden Job Market? It refers to jobs that get filled but are never posted online, and professional allies are the best way to learn about these awesome opportunities.

For example: I reached out to a founder of a start-up George told me was looking to expand their team. We’ve had several interviews, and are currently in final talks about logistics. The role is as a Product Manager. I would likely never have had access to this opportunity without George, as it was never posted online.

Make Sure To Do Right By Your Allies

Professional allies are powerful! Maybe as a job-seeker right now you don’t feel like you have a ton to offer them. That’s ok! If someone responds with interest to you, you can proceed confidently knowing that they like to help people/you.

The best thing you can do, though, is do as much of the legwork as you can to save your allies’ time. Check out their profiles before you speak with them. Offer to send the Zoom invite. Keep the conversations within the agreed upon time frame.

And of course, say thank you.

If George introduces you to Jessica and Jessica gets you a referral for an awesome job, thank both of them. It can be a couple lines on LinkedIn, via email, whatever works. Consider keeping track of the folks who help you a lot, message the recurring ones every once in a while to say hey, or update them on your search.

As you develop into the professional badass you are destined to be, you will have ample opportunity to become someone else’s ally: you are working to pay it forward.

— Dagny

Dagny Wise is a a creative problem solver excited about leveraging her background in sales along with her passion for technology to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders and solve complex problems.

Keep pushing through

Dear new developer,

One time I was working with an application framework that had poor documentation. I was trying to figure out how to use it to support a client’s project. But it wasn’t working.

I was less experienced and so had no idea why we’d chosen this application framework. I was simply tasked with making this particular feature work. Frankly, I don’t even remember what the feature was!

But I had to make it work. No one could help me (it was new to everyone). There was little documentation, I don’t recall if I filed a support ticket with the vendor, but I certainly should have. I searched the internet intensely. I ended up downloading a java decompiler to learn what I could about the framework and the class in question.

I finally solved the problem by decompiling a few classes. I found a bug in the application framework that I was able to work around. I did my job, even though I had to approach the problem from a non traditional angle.

Note what I didn’t do: I didn’t give up.

Sometimes you just have to keep pushing. Software development is hard.

By definition, the easy stuff is easy to do and therefore gets done relatively quickly. So you’ll send a lot of time on difficult things. Prepare for this and plan to work through it.

Tips for working through hard things:

  • Take breaks
  • Talk to others, whether in person or online
  • Keep thinking of different approaches
  • Remember the end goal

There are going to get hard. In technology there are ways to work smart and hard. Make sure you do both.

Sincerely,

Dan

How to get a job faster

This is a guest post from Taylor Desseyn. Enjoy.

Dear new developer,

Finding a job was hard for a new developer pre-pandemic…now during a pandemic it is just as hard but add in the fact that you can’t meet anyone! It can be daunting.

Here are my thoughts on how to find a job FASTER than most other job seekers.

Put out content

Put out content (especially on LinkedIn). You’re probably asking yourself. Taylor, I’m an introvert and not a marketer, what does putting out content have to do with finding a job? The answer? Everything. The fact we all are at home and cannot network has everyone on all major social platforms more than ever.

LinkedIn especially. LinkedIn is like tik tok. You can have zero followers and still gain a ton of traction. I know a handful of developers that have documented their journey finding their first job over LinkedIn and actually have landed their job because of putting out content.

Post at least once a day. This could be about an interview you bombed, or a question you missed on an interview and ask for help, or learning a new piece of tech and asking about one part of it. You should also be liking and commenting on other peoples posts as well!

Interview yourself

Video Interviews…Selfie style. This is a big one for me and only a few developers have done it. But guess what, the few that have, landed a job and one specifically because of this tactic.

Hear me out, every first-round interview is the same. Tell me about yourself, tell me your weakness (which we all turn into a positive), and tell me your greatest strength.

Why don’t you just video it up and answer these questions yourself and put it on LinkedIn and ‘pin’ it under the featured section on LinkedIn. So, every manager that visits your profile can see you! Here’s an example.

You need real world experience; get it

Capstone/code school projects aren’t enough. Long gone are the days of having a capstone project and it being enough to land a job. You need real world work experience so, if you can afford it, start asking around if you can help build small things for people. Every church needs help with their website, a lot of entrepeneurs need help with building stuff for free.

I get it, this area is such a divisive topic but for me, the only way to separate yourself is to get real world work experience and what better way to do that then volunteer your time?

Network, but don’t ask for anything

Now you probably are asking yourself, Taylor you said “put out content”, AND I have to now network?

Yes…yes you do. You need to make sure you are having one intentional video/phone call a day with someone in your network at a company that you want to work at or someone who does what you want to do.

You shouldn’t go into any networking call with a stranger asking for something. Be interested in what they do and how they got to where they are. Then ask for another connection but don’t ask for a job. Because when you don’t ask, you immediately endear yourself to that person so down the road if they get a job opportunity they will think of you first because you were different.

The big thing is at the end of every call, ask for a referral. Try to get another connection out of every call. My 55 year old dad did this in the restaurant industry and found a job in 6 months.

It works.

Leverage a recruiter

Most recruiters don’t place junior talent but the good recruiters can give you market intel, help your resume, help your LinkedIn, and can be just a general sounding board for you as you start searching for that first job.

— Taylor

Taylor Desseyn has been recruiting for over nine years and while he recruits on every skillset within technology, his main focus is on software engineers and developers. He has met over 4,000 engineers and helped place over 450+ people in their dream jobs.

Taylor has been very active in the community – he’s been elected VP of the .NET User Group (the second largest user group in Nashville) for 3 years. He has also presented at multiple other user groups within Nashville. Taylor has also been fortunate enough to get on the speaker circuit across the southeast, having presented at code conferences such as Code on the Beach (Jacksonville), Music City Code (Nashville), and Codestock (Knoxville).

Taylor has a knack for scaling teams as well. He has helped scale teams internally at Vaco up to 3x their initial size every stop he has been. He also was chosen to present at Vaco’s Global Conference on branding/marketing. Taylor is currently leading a team of 9 recruiters and has helped scale his currently technology team from $2 million in revenue to $6+ million in revenue.

Use the clipboard from the command line

Dear new developer,

I’ve already written about the power of copy/paste to save effort. And had a guest blogger write about how you should be focus on inspiration rather than imitation.

This letter is going to be extremely tactical and reveal to you two commands that I didn’t know until a year or so ago.

But they changed my life. Well, they at least made my work copy/paste routine better. And reduced my mouse usage.

I spend a lot of time in a terminal, on the command line, but often want to copy between a terminal and a browser.

I might want to do this to paste an error message into a search engine. Or copy and paste a config file into a stack overflow question. Or even just type up something in a text file and copy and paste it into slack so that I can write something thoughtful without dealing with slack’s horrendous editing interface.

To do so, you can use these commands:

On macos, pbcopy. On Windows, clip.

Before I discovered these commands, I used to select text with my mouse and copy it, then paste it. It worked, but was inefficient.

Now, if I’m writing that aforementioned thoughtful response to a slack message, I might do the following:

vi a
# write thoughtful response
cat a | pbcopy
# cmd tab
# paste to slack
rm a

I use the temporary filename a because as soon as I finish writing it, I’ll be copying it to slack, which is where the thought will live permanently. But I still get to use my text editor.

Again, you can use this for any kind of text that you want to copy from the command line into the system clipboard. Error logs, sample commands, text files, configuration, anything. Copy it all!

Hope this helps,

Dan

Take a tour with a different department

Dear new developer,

If you are totally thrilled with your job right now, stop reading. This letter isn’t for you.

Okay. So you may be unhappy with some aspect of your current job. I have some advice for you.

Take a tour with a different department at your current employer.

This won’t work for everyone. If you work in a company with only three devs in the department, there probably isn’t a lot of scope for switching things up. But if you work in a company with 20 or more developers, there probably are focused teams. And if you work for a company with 100s of developers, there are all kinds of specialized teams.

I worked at a consultancy with a couple of hundred people years ago. They had a dedicated database development group. I was not even unhappy with my software position, but I was really curious about the database folks. I talked to my boss and we arranged a tour of a couple of months where I worked exclusively with the database department.

I gained a deeper understanding of relational databases. The database group got a trusted helper who was happy to do whatever grunt tasks they handed me. My boss was able to let an employee explore something new and gain new skills, while being assured I would return in a reasonable period of time.

If this interests you at all, discuss the possibility with your manager at your one to one. Also, reach out to the team that seems interesting and learn more about their work. Just ask what they do day to day and you’d be surprised what they’ll tell you; people love to talk about themselves.

Now, some managers won’t want to let you go, even temporarily. I’ve been lucky enough to never have that happen, but if it does, well, that’s a good piece of data to know.

Doing a tour with a different department is a great way for you to spread your wings and try something new in a relatively safe environment. You’ll be a known, trusted quantity and there’ll be far less risk than if you were to take a leap to a different company and a different role.

Sincerely,

Dan