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Practical Advice for Establishing Your Engineering Career

3d65a0bc911de24fde5e58d84b0276af?s=47 Liz
April 11, 2015

Practical Advice for Establishing Your Engineering Career

Getting your first job as an engineer is difficult, and growing a career after you've started in the field can be even harder. 18 months ago I was fresh out of an intensive development training program and searching for my first job as an engineer. Since I graduated my training program, I've spent my time growing and establishing my career as an engineer, both as a technical contributor and communicator. During this talk, I'll share my mistakes along with practical advice, followed by a Q&A session.



April 11, 2015


  1. practical advice for establishing your engineering career Liz Abinante @feministy

  2. hello!

  3. i don’t know everything.

  4. i don’t know a lot.

  5. here is what i do know…

  6. this shit is really, really hard.

  7. the same advice doesn’t work for everyone.

  8. do the things that make the most sense for you.

  9. my story

  10. age 7 typing

  11. age 12 building websites

  12. age 15 blogging & designing

  13. age 19 profit… kinda

  14. age 26 building web apps


  16. age 26 first engineering job

  17. my first year

  18. 5 conference talks

  19. 1 conference panel

  20. mentor lots of new developers

  21. organize & attend ~40 meetups

  22. education leader gdi chicago

  23. rails girls summer of code coach

  24. learn 3 javascript frameworks

  25. make ~2,000 commits


  27. 1 burn out

  28. seriously. don’t do this.

  29. i did all of this because people told me i

    had to if i wanted to grow my career.
  30. their advice

  31. speak at conferences!

  32. speak at conferences! introvert? oh, that’s easy! just come out

    of your shell!
  33. contribute to open source!

  34. contribute to open source! be excellent to each other! all

    contributions welcome! (but we will judge the shit out of you) (and possibly harass you) ethics of free labor be damned!
  35. be public! use twitter!

  36. trigger warning

  37. be public! use twitter! twitter is great… if you ignore

    the mansplaining harassment doxxing stalking rape & death threats trigger warnings racism sexism TERFs transphobia
  38. write blog posts!

  39. write blog posts! don’t feed the trolls! NEVER READ THE

  40. answer questions on stack overflow!

  41. answer questions on stack overflow! we promise it’s a ~safe

  42. attend every meetup!

  43. attend every meetup! we promise it’s a ~safe space~ we

    have a code of conduct and NEVER ENFORCED IT because we are all excellent to each other!
  44. introduce yourself to everyone at all of the meetups you

  45. introduce yourself to everyone at all of the meetups you

    attend! even if we’re staring at your ass we promise it’s a respectful stare!
  46. learn a new programming language!

  47. learn a new programming language! prove you’re a REAL ENGINEER

  48. volunteer!

  49. volunteer! free labor + toxic environment = networking!!!



  52. their advice is a mine field.

  53. their advice requires you to take risks.

  54. who are they?

  55. people with privilege who feel safe being public.

  56. people with and without privilege fighting the fight.

  57. people who actually like doing these things.

  58. you do not have to follow this advice if it

    makes you feel
  59. you do not have to follow this advice if it

    makes you feel unsafe
  60. you do not have to follow this advice if it

    makes you feel overworked
  61. you do not have to follow this advice if it

    makes you feel unhappy
  62. you do not have to follow this advice if it

    makes you feel unappreciated
  63. you do not have to follow this advice if it

    makes you feel inadequate
  64. you can follow this advice if it sounds good to

  65. it is not bad advice.

  66. in fact, i will give you some of the same

  67. it simply doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s not the

    only path to career growth.
  68. my advice

  69. two principles

  70. two principles consume

  71. two principles consume share

  72. four axes

  73. four axes code

  74. four axes code knowledge

  75. four axes code knowledge experience

  76. four axes code knowledge experience network

  77. the things you choose to do depend a lot on

    the path you want your career to take
  78. growing on different axes will shape your career in different

  79. consume

  80. consume consuming takes time, the amount is up to you

  81. consume you don’t have to consume everything

  82. consume you don’t have to learn from toxic sources

  83. consume you can consume at your own speed

  84. consume you can consume things relevant to what you do,

    or completely different
  85. consume you can consume in many different ways

  86. consume you don’t have to be present physically to take

    advantage of a resource
  87. consume you can consume online

  88. consume you can consume in person

  89. consume you can consume alone, in a quiet dark corner

    with a cute fluffy puppy
  90. code read the source code for everything you use

  91. code lurk in pull requests for things you’re interested in

  92. code review solutions to popular coding problems

  93. code compare solutions for coding problems across different languages

  94. knowledge watch recorded conference talks and panels

  95. knowledge subscribe to technical mailing lists

  96. knowledge read technical blogs or books by people you like

  97. knowledge attend conferences, meetups, and trainings

  98. knowledge listen to podcasts

  99. experience read things by people who have come before you

  100. experience ask for help

  101. experience ask for advice

  102. network ask for introductions

  103. network turn a friend into an acquaintance

  104. network use resources created by friends-of-friends

  105. network join irc or slack channels

  106. share

  107. share you don't have to share with anyone you don't

    personally know or trust
  108. share you don't have to share everything you do

  109. share you can say no to sharing

  110. share you don't have to be a public figure, on

    the internet or in person
  111. share you can share anonymously

  112. share sharing anonymously will still help you grow your career

  113. share sharing isn’t just to get your stuff out there

    so you can be seen or recognized
  114. share sharing is also about practicing how you present yourself,

    your work, and your achievements to others
  115. share sharing will help you practice talking about your achievements

    when it comes time for a review at work or a new job interview
  116. share sharing will help you catalog your professional history and

  117. share sharing will help you find trends in your own

  118. share sharing will help you find your strengths and weaknesses

  119. code publish what you can, not just what you think

    is “good enough”
  120. code pair up on projects with friends, remote or in

  121. code play with things that interest you

  122. code revisit, refactor, and review your old code

  123. code document your refactoring

  124. knowledge write down or explain your technical decisions, processes, and

  125. knowledge informal lunch and learns with friends and colleagues

  126. knowledge share ideas and work through challenges over email and

  127. knowledge conference talks, lightning talks, panels

  128. knowledge teach workshops

  129. knowledge teach a friend

  130. experience share your story

  131. experience share your mistakes

  132. experience mentor people you know

  133. network work with your friends whenever you can, and invite

    new people to join
  134. network introduce new friends to your social circle

  135. network start a small, informal hack night, discussion, or forum

  136. network contribute to a friend-of-a- friend’s project

  137. network create irc or slack channels and invite all your

    cool new friends
  138. network nepotism

  139. “If you and your friends are in the same field

    and you can collaborate with each other, do this without shame. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s ok for women to do it too.” - Roxane Gay, “Bad Feminist”
  140. final tips

  141. take what works, throw out what doesn’t

  142. take breaks and don’t push yourself too hard

  143. try a new thing sometimes

  144. set goals

  145. measure progress

  146. reevaluate goals

  147. questions? slides: blog: (resources, links, etc) email:

    twitter: feministy irc: feministy