Metamorphosis of software engineer

Layoffs have gone from taboo to fashion after the pandemic. The world is becoming skewed in terms of opportunities. The engineers chasing trends, and the corporate juggernauts trying to survive the trends. How is this transformation affecting the profession?

Why so many layoffs?

The pandemic remote hiring on steroids seems to be the prominent factor. The governments were pushing cash into the markets to alleviate the pandemic-created crunch. The liquidity ended up in the coffers of the conglomerates who chose to believe the show would continue. But there are caveats yet to be understood.

Looking at the posts on social media portals seeking jobs, it is evident the pruning was across the hierarchies and years of experience. The trends suggest an attempt to pivot. For someone like me who has seen three earlier sudden transitions of job markets in 2001,2008, and 2020, the current events were imminent. I cover these basics in my course about personal finance (reach out the discount coupons).

What are the takeaways from uncertain times?

Understanding your necessities and then choosing a professional is the only solution. The talks about passion and motivation to improve by 0.1% every day are nice, but the speakers never pay the bills of the audience. Being aware and prepared is possible to survive. In recessions, survival is victory.

A career in software is high paying but short. The longevity of a career has to be compensated with an investment. People who take risks on both fronts might not get a second chance. For example, consider a recent graduate on an H1B visa who got the dream job with a ton of equity that will only vest after a year and starts dumping money in crypto markets, receiving news about getting laid off.

Conclusion

The metamorphosis of the ad fuel tech seems to be pivoting to leaner infrastructure-heavy roadmaps. The software engineers are no longer the beautiful butterfly; they are the cocoons. Following courses can help you pivot in your career.

Discount coupons

https://www.udemy.com/course/software-career-planning-bootcamp/

https://www.udemy.com/course/system-design-interview-upskill-career/

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Software self learning roadmap

Software engineers often obsess about trending topics and limit their growth. In addition, the interview process slows down the learning process further.

Software = People + programs

Treating people like “resources” with predictable behavior is disrespectful. The tendency to automate human interactions in professional environments leads to an unfulfilling career. Often the blame is targeted toward technology, but the real culprit is ignorance. 

There are more non-computer science-trained programmers in the industry than CS degree holders. The gap leads to unfair competition and often a conflict-prone career growth trajectory. In addition, software engineering brings the human element of the profession to the center stage. With all these variables in play simultaneously, getting overwhelmed is only human. 

But that sounds like an excuse. Is it?

No. Unfortunately, the hyper-growth of online learning tools has created a false bubble around trends. If getting certified gets easier, getting a job with it becomes that much more difficult. The only solution is knowledge—diverse and relevant awareness. 

Dealing with teams needs a broader perspective and understanding of fundamentals. Knowing computer science fundamentals takes time. Job changes disrupt the learning processes. 

Solution: https://www.udemy.com/course/fundamentals-software-programmer-career-engineering

This course provides a lifelong learning roadmap and references you can keep following up on to build a solid foundation for your career. Long-lasting careers don’t depend on a framework or a language; fundamentals forge them. 

Book recommendations for professionals: https://rougeneuron.in/books-recommendation-for-career-bootcamp/

Course Topics

  • Engineering
    • Algorithms and Data Structures 
    • Compiler Design 
    • Computer Architecture 
    • Programming Language Language 
    • Databases
    • Distributed Systems
    • File Systems 
    • Mathematics 
    • Networking
    • Operating Systems
    • General Programming and Design patterns
    • Software Engineering
    • Security
  • Non-Engineering
    • Advertising and Marketing
    • Business Management
    • Economics
    • Finance and Behavioural Economics
    • People management, including introspection
    • Psychology
    • Evolution, History, and Philosophy

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Layoffs and reality

Layoffs are becoming a common element of discourse within software engineering circles. The recent Twitter layoffs have triggered a lot of emotion. I choose to look beyond the sentiment and ponder some realities. The post will have more questions than answers.

This post might sound like a rant; if it doesn’t, it is supposed to be one.

Most people in software engineering jobs do so for money. Those who don’t care about the money aspect can do it as open source as well very few do so. My journey of becoming part of the software ecosystem is captured in the following episode of my podcast.

Layoff, Recession, and me

I lost my F1 visa after applying for 4000+ jobs in the US for over 18 months during the 2008 meltdown. I was part of a team let go on 31 March 2020. The rest is part of my podcast episodes based on the context of the episodes. For example, during the pandemic, our team got news on a call during lockdown with zero seconds’ notice.

On both occasions, I have been an active LinkedIn user, and on both occasions, I had to find the resources to survive on my own. In 2008 most of my friends didn’t have enough influence to get me an interview, and now they have too much influence to touch my radioactive resume. I understand. In 2008 I finally realized the difference between Arjuna and Eklavya in Mahabharata — branding.

It’s not about the intent of people to refuse help; it’s about how news feeds build up and how your networks might never get your broadcast message. The DM’s go cold in a recession as well. Only “jobless” people are most active on the professional network!

Layoffs messiah syndrome

The news about layoffs suddenly has filled my feed with reposts of Tweep profiles seeking to save their visas. The trend has been rising for other famous valley names or India-based unicorns throughout the last month. The wave of support that often follows such events is beyond the comprehension of my third-world programmer mindset.

Unicorn in bad health sitting on top of computer peripheral trash.

I have my answers, do you?

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan
  • Tweeps knew about the change in leadership as a real possibility for over six months. Were the tweeps who chose to stay back willing to carry out all orders if not fired?
  • Do you believe that a 2000th repost is going to make a difference?
  • How many layoffs affected people have been helped by the tweep you are supporting in the last 90 days?
  • If the court overturns the firing and demands the tweeps return and at least serve the 60 days notice period. As someone who has hired them, will you be happy about it?
  • Are the tweeps going to take salary cuts? Will they opt for positions outside the US, like places in India?
  • Will you trust their stories of contributions if the outcome app on your phone tells the opposite story?
  • As a hiring manager, will you prioritize your sympathy over skills?
  • Is fast-tracking the application of a tweep to protect their visa status bypassing the candidates in the pipeline fair?
  • If the job seekers are surprised at layoffs, then there is a high possibility there are not “leetcode hard problems in 20 minutes” ready. They will still get hired. Do you think that is fair?
  • The top payers are all on a hiring freeze, yet you will see the valley layoffs resulting in people getting hired there. Is it fair?
  • The magnanimous engineering managers can DM the candidates from the posts, yet they choose to post a comment among hundreds. Is that PR?
  • How many thank you messages are you expecting to receive for your spamming?
  • Will the favor be returned if you are employed in a city like Pune and seeking jobs in the valley?
  • Will you take a salary cut if it saves jobs in your company?
  • Why are you doing the reposting?

Be honest with yourself. Please don’t post the responses to the questions on my profile or this post; remind yourself whenever you hit like, share or repost. Hypocrisy is avoidable.

I am on a break from motivation and bureaucracy to figure out the next career stage, till then, I am teaching everything I know to people who might be in a position to avoid burnout.

https://rougeneuron.in/shop/

Role of designation in career

“Software engineer” has become synonymous with a get-rich overnight scheme. The reality is that a software engineering career often begins with this lie, leaving many burnt out and, in the worst case, broken. I have designed a couple of courses to help people understand the gravity of the situation and navigate the maze.

Software Engineer role is not the same as designation!

Most aspirants on the FAANG bandwagon have no clue about software engineering. It isn’t part of the curriculum. The interview portals don’t like to talk about reality. In the course I offer, I explicitly answer the following questions along with the roles and responsibilities the aspirants and recruiters should be talking about during the interviews. The course caters to both participants equally without diving into code and focusing on the processes.

Course link

https://www.udemy.com/course/rookie-coders/

FAQs were answered during the course.

  • Why do product companies demand a different skill set than service companies?
  • What is the difference between engineering managers in product companies and project managers in service companies?
  • Does a designation like “Senior software engineer” translate to the same responsibilities across all companies?
  • Why do service companies have many more designation levels than product companies?
  • Why do product companies tend to pay more?
  • Does getting an onsite opportunity mean massive progress in your career?
  • Should working in product companies be the sole purpose of a career in the software industry?
  • Do managers control my career?
  • I didn’t get a promotion. Should I focus on improving my skills or look for a new job instead?
  • I have three years of experience. Can I move from testing to development?
  • Why do certain companies insist on certifications in job descriptions?
  • Why is having a computer science degree essential to thrive in the software industry?
  • Should I focus on trends or fundamentals?
  • Should I stay at one company for a long time or keep switching jobs?
  • Is it better to be a generalist or a specialist?

Planning a career is essential.

The period of a career as a Software engineer is much shorter than people want to believe. List down all the 50+ years older developers in your office, and you will get the answer. Being promoted is often mistaken as career growth, which is not the case on most occasions. The following course takes a deep dive into factors leading to choosing a software engineer job and then growing to a CXO level. Every software professional must read the post following post once every year https://norvig.com/21-days.html!

Course link

https://www.udemy.com/course/software-career-planning-bootcamp/

The financial aspect of being a Software engineer

The affluence associated with the designation makes one a target for misselling. Loans and subscriptions will target software engineers till they either subscribe or leave the industry altogether. The most significant factor, though, is the ESOPs.

Not understanding the best of ESOPs can leave one in a huge mess. To understand ESOPs, one must first learn about stocks. Again personal finance is always sold to us as a bouquet of products and rarely as awareness. Knowing the fundamentals of income, insurance, inflation, and investment is mandatory. The following course covers the basics in a couple of hours without any ads or product placements. This a simple reminder that the home loan of 30 years cannot be knocked off overnight with ESOPs in CTC.

Course link

https://www.udemy.com/course/financial-awareness-for-students-and-professionals/

Following books will guide you better than any posts and newsletters.

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Mocking by the MOOC

MOOC, or Massive Open Online Courses, came into fashion with the cloud revolution. Unfortunately, over the years, the value of the content has diminished drastically, and the repercussions are unfolding. This article will highlight my experiences as a student and instructor on these online learning platforms. I still find the medium useful, but there is an urgent need to fix things. The last section suggests the optimal use of the platforms.

Using MOOC as a Student

Being from non-computer science background is a disadvantage in the software industry in general. The imposter syndrome is imposed from the first ever interview one faces. For some getting the first program completed is the start. You might still see traces of this complex in viral posts about “asking a fish to climb a tree.”

I use MOOCs to get an idea about the depth of the subject. Once I know all the key buzzwords, I dive into the books and certification preparation material to build the skills. Finally, I invest in skills from a 5-year perspective. There comes the first problem. The majority Instructors are just making to get monetary returns, not value.

One must understand that MOOCs are marketplaces first, just like the education system they pretend to challenge. The tools used in many courses are outdated or unnecessary. For example, one of the top Machine learning courses worldwide used software no one used in production. The obsolete software meant assignments and setups took twice as long, and some operating system compatibility bugs had to be resolved with a ticking deadline. The deadline was critical from the course payment perspective. Finish the course in a month, and you could save a lot at the cost of burnout.

The assignments are just low-hanging fruit to keep the dopamine rush going till the refund deadline passes. Students care about the certificate, assuming it will make them stand out. The recruiters value the certificate since only a few have it; hence it must be valuable. The interviewers ignore the credentials because even if they have them and know it doesn’t help in getting a new job.

So who wins in the royal rumble of apathy? The MOOC. Remember, the house always wins.

Using as an instructor

As I mentioned, MOOC is a marketplace first. It’s a software product as well. As a software professional with scars from the scrum, I can vouch for the platform’s inefficiencies and ridiculous sharing models.

Following are some of my observations

  • Like ad platforms, the platforms are vulnerable to bots and click farms.
  • Content storage is a huge problem since many instructors believe rambling till eternity counts as customer engagement.
  • The recommendation engines are as bad as movie recommendation engines. Transfer learning, I suppose.
  • Quantity is priority over quality; hence categorization is broken.
  • Once the marketplace opens to internationalization and billion-user markets, the debacle accelerates exponentially.
  • Getting students with coupons is easy. But unfortunately, the platform now ignores their ratings and lets the instructor figure it out.
  • The platforms are always trying to push the early movers as recommendations since they are driving traffic from other platforms, so keeping them happy matters more.
  • Certification scams are still rampant. For example, if a certification expires in three years, adding 3X (some cloud) means renewing the certificate twice. How is that aspirational? At least I don’t get it.
  • The brand of coding taught is not valuable for production setups. I have written a book about the problems with using such reactive learning based careers.

Tips for effective online learning

  • Define the area that will add the most value to your career. Plan your career first before jumping into any course
  • Set aside a budget for learning every year. Don’t wait for sales. Your career moves every day.
  • Don’t fall for interview portal scams and certification delusions. They will only burn you out. If employers demand it, you have to counter with time and funding.
  • MOOCs are marketplaces, and instructors are sellers. Your benefits are secondary to them. You need to decide the value of the product yourself.
  • Think long-term and invest in shorter courses. Someone typing on the screen is teaching you typing, not programming!
  • Understanding fundamentals is the goal. Don’t measure by the number of hours or projects completed. Your ability to debug proves your effectiveness as a programmer.

Despite knowing these problems, I continue to host my content on one such platform. I am looking for alternatives to make my content accessible to as many people as possible at a reasonable price. But till that happens, this will be the only way I can share my knowledge. Please check out the offerings that help your career instead of job hunting mindlessly.

You may also subscribe to my Youtube Channel, the best alternative for hosting content and communities once I cross the 1000 subscriber mark. Seems a long way as of Nov 2022. Let’s see how you can help me get there!

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Recession Survival Kit

Recession is integral to shaping my career. 2001-02 taught me patience, 2008 taught me the concept of value, and 2020 tested the learning. In the article, I will share my assumptions and immediate action items for students and professionals—no motivation and optimism, just practical recession survival tactics. I would be happy to be proven wrong about a recession shortly, but what if I am not?

In recessions, survival is victory!

TL;DR

Why write about the recession before the holiday season?

I consider the holiday season from 1 October to 15 January — includes the anticipation and retuning, almost 15 weeks.

Holiday seasons often kill career momentum, especially for those who don’t actively update their career goals annually. It is a mistake to shut down entirely during holidays. Instead, I propose investing in learning something different. Not technical, just something you may be able to finish correctly before the end of the holidays. Something as trivial as making a well-cooked omelet that doesn’t stick to the pan and doesn’t fall apart while lifting it off the pan.

Ideally, I propose you upskill. This holiday season, it seems necessary.

Why is this holiday season so critical?

Inflation has been on the rise throughout the year. As a result, the rate of layoffs in the software sector is picking up rapidly. Vacations and holidays are costlier. The energy bills in Europe are much higher. Overall a liquidity crunch on the personal front is possible.

The advertising tsunami and sale offers will be imminent. Cutting on spending will be more challenging than usual since the businesses are looking at the first entire holiday season since 2019. Companies that survived the pandemic need to regain their profits, and the economy doesn’t seem to be in shape to entertain that scenario.

How to utilize the holiday season to become recession ready?

As mentioned, the possibility of a recession seems high hence the proactive items for being prepared. As an instructor to almost 60k students globally, I feel responsible for at least informing about the possibility. In short, step back, gather your thoughts, identify the necessity, and, most importantly, act in a decisive manner.

  1. Focus on personal finances. Set a realistic budget first and then spend.
  2. Revisit the resume and build the latest version within the next two weeks. Shape it further in the upcoming weeks.
  3. Don’t start learning a new technical stack in the next 12 weeks. You won’t be able to add it to your resume. Avoid certifications at your own cost hoping for a better job in the next quarter. Cash is king.
  4. Focus on shortcomings in your resume and start fixing them immediately. Focus on fundamentals and debugging current stacks.
  5. Start taking stock of the hybrid work situations at your office. Of course, the reality will only be apparent after the holiday season, but getting your routine in shape can give you an edge.
  6. Read at least one of the books I have recommended in this list.
  7. Don’t start applying to new jobs if you haven’t planned your transition.
  8. Don’t start a new investment till the beginning of next year. Hold the bonuses and extra cash in the safest of debt instruments.
  9. Don’t waste time and money on interview portals in the next 16 weeks. Stick to your career plan. The MAANG/FAANG shutters seem to be down for the foreseeable future.
  10. Don’t wait for Black Friday sales on educational content. Invest and get started at the current discount prices. Time is money!

For the past month, I have been working on 25+ hours of new course content, which is available now. Recession survival is at the heart of each course. My survival is based on the audience’s willingness to purchase the courses instead of waiting for free coupons. Let’s hope I can make it through this recession with your support. https://rougeneuron.in/shop

Project Tracking Seduced Development

Writing a program and shipping software are often used interchangeably. But programming and software engineering are not the same. In this post, I will share my opinions about the problem created by this misuse of the term “software” and the consequences.

Note: The events mentioned in the post are my first-hand experiences.

Software as a livelihood

“Is being good at programming as a hobby a way to succeed in the software industry?” No. The software industry has many variations. The Silicon Valley brand of engineering isn’t global; it is most popular. There are more programmers in the third world, just like English language speakers. Building software has become a source of income for the majority.

Looking back at the early days of Silicon Valley, the place, not the series, one will notice that programming is a hobby trend. However, the availability of infrastructure allowed the ideas to flourish. And once the ecosystem stabilized, the industry thrived into going global via outsourcing. The outsourcing meant instructions from H.Q. to be executed locally. It is similar to Remote Code Execution (RCE)!

In non-technical terms, the execution is often a diluted misinterpretation of the intent. (One can make a movie, “The Good Manager,” with this premise. Since “Lost in translation” is already taken.) The problem, in my opinion, has always been the incentives of the person managing the project. As a result, the project tracking metrics become the dominant factor in every decision. It’s almost bordering on narcissism.

Scrum

“Scrum ही धर्म” seems to be the core objective of software development. So, I will provide an example instead of a rant and leave the rest to you.

In a project, a principal engineer used to read out chapters from the book Clean Code to the junior members of the team every evening. In the same project, there were no unit tests and misused technology. The answer to my rhetorical question to the engineering manager, “What should be our priority unit tests or shipping code?” was shipping code. I decided to quit and did quit within a few months.

War is Peace

The idea of giving teams competing for the same task to maximize output in terms of innovations is a primary factor in attrition. There is no data point capturing this aspect. Wondering why? It’s easy;

People don’t resign from organizations. They resign from the situation.

There is no incentive to speak openly in the exit interview. People often blame managers for attrition, but I think the processes are the root cause. Objectivity is a human invention. It is harder to learn than mathematics. Practicing it is even more complicated. I don’t expect managers to be scholars in stoicism but at least be aware that rivalries become personal.

Developers refuse to upgrade stacks to protect their relevance. As a result, the entire team pays the price for technical debt for the rest of their careers. Please stop waging wars within teams to sound wise in management meetings. The ground reality is not that peaceful. Never forget — people talk outside meetings too.

Freedom is Slavery

Letting developers choose the stack is the easiest way to pile up technical debt. Many developers pick a trending stack to please their next employer. There are three kinds of developers in a company: those who didn’t want to be in the previous company, those who cannot get into their next company, and those who have a big enough EMI to allow thinking beyond appraisals! Of course, this is a crude generalization and shouldn’t extend further. But I hope you get the idea.

Choosing a stack has to be technical, but often, it becomes logistical. I do offer a practice test-based course about it as well. Unfortunately, I am not an expert in selecting programming languages, but no books or guidance are available.

If the project tracking drives the deliverable, there will be no room for disruption. Controlled experimentation is complex. Predicting failures for an undefined or barely defined set of requirements is arduous. Imagine people writing domain-specific languages without even referring back to compiler design fundamentals.

The freedom to choose stack results in slavery to technical debt on most occasions.

Ignorance is strength

Managers have little incentive to do reforms. I bet less than 5% of engineering managers across the globe can spot the correlation between the books High Output Management by Andy Grove, Measure what Matters by John Doerr, and Software Engineering at Google.

I don’t expect managers to have read or even heard about these books. But if they are practicing the OKRs and haven’t bothered about their origins, then the problem is evident. Many feel comfortable tweaking one principle or the other to suit the needs of their team.

The intuition-based policy-making on the fly leads to short-sighted project planning. People start conspiring instead of designing. Indeed trade-offs have to be made to maintain stability and quality, not to please someone in the hierarchy.

Software PTSD

The ship of Theseus brand of engineering leads to stress. At least for me, it has. I like programming as a way to get things done predictably. However, the engineering management I have experienced over the years has differed from the sources the people executing it claimed to have referred.

I appreciate companies having a mental health specialist on board to help employees tackle stress. But that is treating the symptom, not the root cause. The problem with “customer obsession” is that obsession in any form is not healthy and, in some cases, illegal!

Stop PTSD to avoid PTSD.

P.S.: If you are wondering about the origins of the subheadings, they are indeed from George Orwell’s 1984. Please do read it if you haven’t.

Cauldron of communities

Communities seem to be at the core of increasing reach. Of course, the purpose for achieving reach varies, but the core element of trust remains constant. But the definition of trust varies in every community. For example, a recent incident involving me getting “kicked out” of a community made me think about the dependency on the mob as an independent creator.

Let’s get the incident out of the way. Once I started creating courses, I had to restart actively scanning boards to post my content promotion. I joined a community about a programming language back in 2017. The community had around 7K members then. When I revisited recently, the number had reached 51K. The community had 10+ admins and a set of guidelines that dictated the content. The following rule captures the gist.

Spammers and Trolls will be banned without warning.

Now comes the event. After posting a couple of times in the group, I thought it was a safe post link to my free resources hosted on Gumroad. The rules mentioned what spammers and trolls meant — self-promotion included. But most of the posts I saw in the community were non-compliant. So, I posted the content. The average impressions of the previous posts on the forum were 7K in 2 days. I stopped seeing the numbers grow on the homepage the next morning. So I assumed maybe people weren’t as keen. After a few days, I checked Gumroad traffic and realized no clicks were there for the last two days!

Interesting, something to debug. Yay! So with all 16 years of programming experience, I logged into LinkedIn. Where to start? Browser debugger, analytics dashboard, google search with Reddit filter, WhatsApp someone, and the regular drill of the pointless wild goose chases.

After a couple of minutes of chaos and inaction, I checked the post itself first.

It was missing. Not available on my timeline or activity. So, the next step was to check the community feed. The community was missing from the list as well. And so I realized the internet had convicted me as a spammer without warning.

The lesson, communities, are bubbles. No matter how benign, the admins are vulnerable to power.

Communities or Cauldron?

As a programmer working with open source software, awareness about communities is imminent. Unfortunately, the average success rate of online communities is the same as that of startups. The dominant factor in the failures of both is the same, people.

The question most people try to solve while shaping a community is “how to keep it alive?” And that’s where the problem lies. The fundamental question is, “why the community should exist?”

Without a clear purpose, the traction leads to the cauldron of opinions seeking an ideology. Sometimes this works, but that’s by accident, not design.

Imagine sitting at a dinner table with 20 people trying to decide what to order. Most of us have been in that situation with family, friends, team outings, or, unfortunately, all. The outcome is always chaos. No one wants to be the leader initially out of obligations, and then almost everyone wants to take control for the sake of others. Social media is no different. And this chaos gives rise to advertising. For dinner example, the person taking the order to pitch the special. If you notice closely, the special is never too spicy or sweet. It always serves two people less than the headcount at the table and always needs an accompaniment of bread or rice. It is cheaper than ordering a single potion of what everyone likes.

As I dive deeper into advertising products, my hypothesis of internet users seems to hold. A billion daily active users are a million bubbles of a few thousand spread across hundreds of countries controlled by tens of companies with one goal, data.

The community model needs to be solid. Else, it will get hijacked as the internet has. The problem with content creation has the reach to get accurate feedback to improve. Applause and hate are almost always available instantly; the critique isn’t.

Internet as an advertising ecosystem is a bunch of V.C.s in their 60s or 70s paying CXOs in their 50s to instruct architects in their 40s to guide the managers in their 30s to lead developers in their 20s to build selling machines targeting teens to spend money of their non-CXO middle-class parents. 

If you plan to start working independently, your first goal should be setting targets for reach and response. Then, design it like a business. Even if you are doing it for free, plan it as if it is the foundation of a billion-dollar enterprise. Laying the foundation of a functional community is much more than getting together “like-minded” people to squabble amongst themselves in an echo chamber. Communities are platforms to filter out the nuisance and amplify the nuance. But…

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Books recommendation for Career Bootcamp

Books are critical for career growth. The advantage of learning from a good book is the author’s focus on correctness. For technical or non-fiction books to remain relevant for even a couple of years, the author has to ensure any forward-looking ideas will stand the test of time.

The following collection is a subset of my complete collection of 250+ books. These books were selected as part of the course material for a course I teach on Udemy.

The course is part of a more extensive content roadmap. The mentioned course focuses on a generic career-building SDK. The first-world career advice is futile in the last-mile job market. I am building content to provide a plan B for aspirants who choose to be practical about their careers. I hope you find the books relatable. This is a subset that seemed most relevant. Suggestions to extend are always welcome.

Disclaimer: Most of the links are affiliate links.

Books for Rebels: Age 20 to 25 years

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Focus on the emphasis of sincerity in all the techniques mentioned.
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Cathartic for introverts, educational for extroverts.
  3. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. A good reminder of the basics and remembering what matters regarding money.
  4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. is An excellent primer for improving written communication in English.
  5. Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. An excellent guide to finding work one enjoys without burning out.

Books for Rebels with a cause: Age 26 to 30 years

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman ( Amos Tversky) Must read. The basis for a lot of behavioral economics ideas and marketing strategies.
  2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D.: Will help one understand why advertising works and the mechanics of attention.
  3. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove: An excellent guide in leadership style that values people. A must-read for anyone currently working or aspiring to work as a people manager.
  4. A Mathematician’s Apology by G.H.Hardy An essay that makes the reader question the validity of the quest for excellence in their respective field of work. Will raise questions that cannot be answered immediately but must be answered. Integrating those questions into major professional decision-making will be helpful.
  5. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss, Tahl Raz is a handy guide for weaponizing communication skills.
  6. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Dan Heath, Chip Heath: Understanding the decision-making framework to make better decisions.
  7. ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried: A detailed discussion about reducing wasteful rework and optimizing effort with simple strategies.

Books for the settlers: Age 31 to 35 years

  1. The Mythical Man-Month, Essays On Software Engineering by Frederick P. Brooks Jr. is a collection of anecdotes highlighting software engineering practices’ limitations when it comes to implementation in the real world.
  2. Software Engineering at Google: Lessons Learned from Programming Over Time by Titus Winters, Hyrum Wright, and Tom Manshrek is an excellent insight into how software engineering is a very different set of decisions beyond programming, filled with specific problems and advice to tackle them. Many issues only exist at a particular scale, and the book highlights this at the beginning—worth the time.
  3. Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott is a handy guide for managing a tech industry moving at a breakneck speed. One of the most ignored parts of professional upskilling is retaining empathy; the book is a gentle reminder about doing so without giving up efficiency.
  4. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr is an excellent follow-up to the Andy Grove books. The new approach to growing 10x in a technology-dominated world. A lot of great insights and interviews. Inspiring, but you must be careful before adopting it at your workplace without planning and analyzing compatibility.
  5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau makes one question the gap between needs and wants.
  6. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is a very moving account of a concentration camp survivor who was also a psychiatrist. It highlights the connection between a sense of purpose and the will to live. The analysis borrows from the experiences of the author himself. The most striking part of the analysis is that circumstances alone are not responsible for much human behavior.
  7. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael E. Porter is a research-oriented approach to understanding a particular business domain.
  8. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen is the ultimate guide to understanding innovation in an organizational environment. Other books by him also have great insights.
  9. Blue Ocean Strategy (Second edition) by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim is a nice set of tools to understand the product space and thrive on untapped opportunities. In addition, the second edition highlights the execution failure of an example (correctly identified as an opportunity) praised in the first edition and shows the authors’ conviction in their ideas.
  10. Books by Jim Collins. Though some readers might find content outdated, now the analysis framework is still relevant. “How the mighty fall” is the one to read with particular attention to patterns to avoid.

For Visionaries: Age 36+ years

Some of the books one might have read already, but if you haven’t, do add them to the list.

  1. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Taleb can sometimes get incoherent, but the point being put across is worth the time. Having familiarity with probability theory will make it even more interesting to read.
  2. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy is Advertising 101. Many things still hold in the digital advertising era since the sharing media has changed drastically, but the end-users have evolved very little.
  3. This is Marketing by Seth Godin is a guide to modern-day marketing in the digital age. Beyond spamming and SEO tricks.
  4. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Edward S. Herman, Noam Chomsky is relevant in current circumstances.
  5. The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship by David Whyte, raises many relevant questions. The impact will be felt once the reader chooses to start answering them.

10 things for a sudden 10-minute break

Ever stumbled on an unplanned 10-minute break? I have always faced confusion about dealing with sudden breaks during the work day. So let’s try and break down the break optimization protocol!

There are more than ten reasons for such breaks like video uploading, meeting getting over early, code just worked in the first shot, long build running, slow build, system update, and so on!

Working in remote teams is enough to have a variable schedule. Hence it makes sense to have a backup plan to optimize such breaks productively.

Breaks are imminent. Getting distracted is optional

10 ways to utilize breaks without using social media

TL;DR

  • Clean Inbox
  • RSS reader
  • Instrumental playlist
  • TODO list
  • Grocery list
  • Organize desk
  • Step away from the desk
  • Clean bookmarks
  • Clean calendar and reminders
  • Close your eyes and just let time pass

Leave your desk, if possible. Break the digital

For me, the biggest perk of working from the office is the access to pantries. Sudden breaks mean not letting the mind wander. I used to utilize such gaps in the office to do a “utility lap.” Refill the water bottle, visit the washroom and get a tea or coffee. Leave empty bottled and return with the moolah of necessities!

Another favorite of mine is cleaning or organizing desks. Office desk drawer printouts are like Instagram feed. You never know why you are looking at them but can’t stop since that’s equivalent to denying reality. I always gauge my ideas by the cleanliness of my desk. The desk is messiest after I have finished with my best effort, and the code still sucks.

Schedule pruning break

Inbox purging is the most unexpected yet productive way to stay focused. Having a zero unread inbox is a great time saver. You save space in the cloud with zero unread emails and always have your top priorities accessible. In addition, some unnecessary emails like OPTs, promotions, and login alerts are useless within a minute of you seeing them.

Eventually, the free inbox sizes are going to be insufficient. With Photos storage getting added to the free quota of GMail, the days of thousands of unread emails are numbered. Start before important emails start bouncing. Doing a purge in a single shot in a rush is bound to lose important data. Instead, use breaks to chip away at the end goal.

Another option for similar cleanup is organizing the calendar. I use the calendar for trivial reminders as well. Some actions are no longer needed but remain dangling in the calendar. For example, I had a monthly reminder to check the balance of a bank account serving the home loan EMI. Once I had settled the loan, I didn’t need the reminder. I deleted it after three months!

Cleaning browser bookmarks is another way I use them. I bookmark a lot of information. It is helpful in the context of a few weeks while working on a problem. Cleanup, as usual, happens lazily.

RSS Reader interval

I have been plodding to use data on my phone — as late as 2018! So, how staying up to date with the world?

RSS Feeds. No social media accounts till 2021. I used to get my news exclusively from sources I trusted. Yes, it was a bubble of 127 feeds, but isn’t that enough? The sources covered global politics, finance, sports, technology, webcomics, blogs, and updates about new distro releases. Scanning imageless headlines prove to be more effective for me.

Listening pause

Many times you don’t have the luxury of leaving your desk. Closing eyes and tuning into something soothing or familiar has worked for me since college. However, programming can sometimes get you into transcendental modes. Leaving the desk is as good as walking back into the chaotic universe. It would help if you had a break without leaving the realm of logic. So change the immediate sense from vision to audio.

Instrumentals and podcasts are different media. Instrumentals will suspend the passing time and allow your train of thought to continue. Podcasts will reboot your thoughts. The key to podcasts is to pick the one you were already listening to. Don’t ever start a new one; it’s as distracting as social media. I started a short episode podcast for such breaks. Do try it out!

Breaking down lists

Creating TODO lists and grocery lists in such short intervals is helpful. Of course, the lists are always overpopulated, but you rarely miss the necessary!

Time management is my priority as I move into the unchartered realms of freelancing. Since time is money, and with a break from the industry, I have a lot of “money.”