Getting that senior title is easy. Just stick around. Being a true senior takes a new way of thinking. Do you have it?
Get a series of curated essays on the mindset of a senior software engineer. What it takes to get there, what should you do when you're there, how to change the way you think.
Get a free chapter from the Senior Engineer Mindset book and a sample audiobook chapter, followed by a Senior Mindset 101 email course.
You'll get insights to apply at your work right away.
Trust your wings, not the market
Success in your career doesn't come from relying on the market or job stability. It comes from trusting your own wings - having a clear vision, treating work as a value exchange, leveraging your skills, and owning your path
September 13th, 2023
Clarification on how ownership makes careers
Aa few readers wrote in with questions and objections to last week's Ownership makes careers email. Here's a few clarifications.
June 26th, 2023
Ownership makes careers
Own shit. At least put your name on things. Yes, before it's successful.
June 23rd, 2023
What does "solve problems" even mean
Focus on solving problems, not just doing work or writing code. Think creatively, question existing processes, and prioritize effective outcomes
June 13th, 2023
How one sentence guides your career
Unlock the secret to guiding your career with a powerful positioning statement. Learn to stand out in the job market and attract opportunities that align with your expertise and values.
May 31st, 2023
Why a tech meltdown is the best time to invest in your career
Invest in your career growth. Seize the moment to develop new skills and prepare for a brighter future
May 23rd, 2023
Own the outcome, not the work
Efficient problem-solving in engineering with a shift in perspective – focusing on user outcomes can lead to innovative solutions and change your approach to system design.
April 26th, 2023
Insights for interviews from Kahneman's Noise
everything people say is bad about modern tech interviews is actually good 🤯
April 14th, 2023
The programming tutorial SEO industry is dead
20 years ago greybeards laughed at us for Googling. Now they laugh when we ask ChatGPT. But the leverage is 🚀
March 28th, 2023
Coding is the easy part
Behind the scenes of a vendor migration project. What senior+ engineers do so you can focus on the code.
March 24th, 2023
"If you're so good, why aren't you making 600k at BigTech?"
Swiz shares why he's not making the big bucks at a tech giant, from the soul-crushing grind of corporate to the funny money of tech compensation.
March 10th, 2023
Own your career like an expert
You can achieve more with your career by leveraging your experience, advice, and ability to clear blockers, rather than just working hard. This approach of "force multiplying" your team can create more value than working alone
March 3rd, 2023
Squash merge? Really!?
Learn why squash merging is your friend - from hating it to loving it! Squash merging helps you keep moving and focus on the work instead of recording the work.
January 27th, 2023
Why trunk-based development is best
Merging finished work straight to main and deploying to production right away, scales to teams of thousands. This approach is counterintuitive to many engineers who may be used to working on their own
January 24th, 2023
Can you stay a senior engineer forever?
Here's an idea that can take the pressure off your career: Yes, you can stay a senior software engineer forever. But how?
November 24th, 2022
Shipped code wins
November 2nd, 2022
Grow your career ... in this economy??
if you've been following tech news lately, things feel ... 😖 Between the layoffs, hiring freezes, investors suddenly caring about revenue, and whatever the heck stock markets are doing, we're in for a rough time. BUT!
October 12th, 2022
The art of the cowboy merge 🤠
how do you catch a critical deadline that cannot be missed? We're talking external stakeholders, millions on the line, and it all hinges on *your* team getting it done on time. No overtime
September 8th, 2022
Reader Question: What do collaborative teams look like?
New members on our team invariably say 2 things:
1. Wow I've never seen a team move this fast 2. This approach feels weird. I'm uncomfortable
Teams like this are not common.
August 27th, 2022
What coding tutorials and teachers get wrong
Chatting about teaching and learning complex technical skills with an engineer I'm mentoring. She's a former chef. We shared the same frustration with online resources.
August 12th, 2022
Reader question: So about that perfect burndown chart ...
If your approach works so well, why isn't every team doing this?
August 6th, 2022
Nobody is coming to save you
How do you react when you don't like The Process at work? Most programmers complain on social media, make a wry joke, and ... suffer. Not great
July 29th, 2022
Reader question: Feeling guilt as a tech lead
Keep getting the guilt, that I'm not able to code, just running around for discussions and solving other issues, managing people. Any idea to manage all the fronts and get rid of this guilt?
July 23rd, 2022
You don't *have to* build it sloppy to go fast
My favorite mistake to make when I'm in a hurry is to think that I _have to_ build new features the sloppiest way possible. Find the quick fix and move on. But that's not true.
July 19th, 2022
What makes a great software engineer?
In 2015 a group of researchers asked 59 experienced engineers at Microsoft "What makes a great software engineer?". Here's what they found.
July 11th, 2022
Write abstractions, not just code
Wherein I use a silly example to show why you need more than small reusable single purpose functions to write good software.
July 8th, 2022
Always have 3 answers
How do you stand out as an expert amid tech layoffs?
July 1st, 2022
Coding forces you to understand the problem
Programming translates fuzzy understanding into exacting specifications. That’s why it’s hard. The Illusion of Explanatory Depth reigns supreme
June 22nd, 2022
A lesson on expertise from a great mafia movie
You cannot make something good until you understand who you're making it for.
June 16th, 2022
There are no bad teams
it’s the leader, not the team
June 3rd, 2022
Writing software is like kicking a can
Writing software is a playful process of exploration and discovery. Like a game of kick the can on a Sunday walk.
May 25th, 2022
The role of a senior+ engineer
"Every product org should have a senior+ engineer whose job it is to run around and make everyone else more productive" 🤔 That IS the role of a senior+ engineer
April 26th, 2022
How we made the best burndown chart you've ever seen
My entire career I've never seen a sprint finished on time. The new manager said "Oh I think we can fix that" ... 18 months later he proved me wrong
April 12th, 2022
When to join and leave a company, project, or trend
Timing changes everything. Who do you think has better engineers? The team that built Google from 9 million daily searches in 2000 to 1 billion in 2009, or the team that launched Google's 10th chat app last year?
April 7th, 2022
How to give and receive feedback
Feedback can save an airplane from crashing, or upset everyone around you. But for you personally, honest feedback is the fastest way to become a better engineer. Fixing what you're bad at is where the gains hide.
March 4th, 2022
Be their shit umbrella
because if you go to bat for the team, the team goes to bat for you
February 16th, 2022
Quick tip for system design interviews
What are system design interviews for anyway?
January 28th, 2022
What is the goal of engineering?
How can you know you're succeeding if you don't know where you're going?
January 20th, 2022
Try to work for a brand
Brand helps your career in subtle ways.
January 14th, 2022
What to do when bugs are whack-a-mole
What do you do when every bug you fix creates 5 new bugs? You could laugh and move on, or realize it's a sign of bigger issues
January 6th, 2022
When it’s okay to work overtime
Not all overtime is bad overtime
December 11th, 2021
Small choices can wreck your codebase
wanna see the strangest looping construct I've found in production code?
December 3rd, 2021
Getting from junior to senior
The difference in salary between a junior and senior engineer can be orders of magnitude. Many multiples at least. But what's the difference in mindset that gets you there?
November 19th, 2021
How defensive coding leads to bloat
Defensive coding is an important lesson and over time and engineers it leads to massive bloat, if you're not careful.
November 15th, 2021
Your job as an engineer is to make yourself unnecessary
November 9th, 2021
What's more productive, a team or a talented soloist?
Engineers *hate it* when you say it doesn't matter how good they are because a team will outcode them any day. But it's true, you can't build something big on your own.
October 15th, 2021
Meetings – a senior engineer's secret weapon
Boo meetings, yay code, right? There comes a time in your career when coding is no longer your highest impact contribution. Might even be holding you back. 🙊
October 1st, 2021
How to rewrite your app while growing to a $100,000,000 series B
When you're in a company desperately trying to meet demand, *ship*. You'll have money, time, and professionals to fix code later. Even if you start with jQuery.
September 18th, 2021
A great engineer knows their tools
Earlier in my career when I thought I was god's gift to engineering but wasn't, I failed one of those stupid interview questions that "have nothing to do with the work". It was a great question.
September 9th, 2021
How to ask for help
what makes a senior engineer stand out in an interview?
No it's not the amount of side projects or their leetcoding speed. It's knowing how and when to ask for help.
August 27th, 2021
Reader question: "When do you fix tech debt?"
Long time reader Phil asks when do you fix the tech debt you used to ship faster. Heroic efforts don't work. The real answer is "always" – a mindset of gardening.
August 17th, 2021
Tech debt is a tool
If your house was on fire, would you mow the lawn first?
August 13th, 2021
What I learned from Software Engineering at Google
When I first picked up Software Engineering at Google I thought it was another one of those FAANG books full of lessons that make no sense at human scale. I was surprised, lessons apply to teams as small as 5.
July 16th, 2021
Your career needs a vision
In his book, The Art of Science and Engineering, Richard Hamming says the key to a great career is vision. What does that really look like?
July 14th, 2021
Why a coding AI like Github Copilot won't take your job
It might. What's your job? If you're in the *"write code to exact specifications"* business ... now's a good time to start leveling up. The AI's not ready yet.
July 7th, 2021
How to own projects like a senior engineer
The best skill you can learn is ownership. The second best is to let go.
July 2nd, 2021
Do important work
Next time you finish a project, ask yourself: *"Might this work be important?"*. Add the polish.
June 19th, 2021
Why you need a positioning statement
High value experts use positioning statements to say what they do for whom. Most engineers don't have one. 🤨
May 14th, 2021
What matters in a senior engineer job interview
Degree matters if you have nothing better to show, consulting and BigTech backgrounds are negative, too many seniors can't code.
May 7th, 2021
Flow good for programming, not engineering
Friend, how good are you at your best? ... Nobody cares. How good are you at your average? What about your worst?
April 24th, 2021
Your luck & opportunity surface area
Here's a comment that resonated yesterday and you might like. It's about how to maximize the opportunity in your work.
March 26th, 2021
How do you know if serverless fits your project?
The hallmark of a true expert is understanding about the pros and cons of your technical decisions.
March 25th, 2021
Can you code faster?
What slows you down most while coding? It's not lack of skill. It's not lack of ideas. It's uncertainty. Fear.
February 26th, 2021
The Magic Function principle
Write functions, mostly magic.
February 5th, 2021
"silicon valley is like hollywood"
and I don't mean Silicon Valley the place, I mean Silicon Valley the concept.
January 29th, 2021
Why you can't find an engineering coach
Wanna learn boxing? Join a gym, find a coach. Tennis player with a kink in your game? Find a coach. Software engineer with a missing skill? Google, random blogs, fun newsletters, dubious podcasts, noise on twitter 🤨
January 8th, 2021
You're not asking for a job, you're selling a service
You're not asking for a job, you're selling a service. The true question behind every interview is "How can you help us?"
November 20th, 2020
How I use delegation to get more done
Productivity porn shows you how to pack more into your day. Productivity porn is wrong my friend. You need to remove things to grow.
October 23rd, 2020
Should you take a pay cut for equity
Would you take some % of your salary in bitcoin? The joke is that compared to pre-IPO equity, bitcoin is predictable and has a known value.
October 9th, 2020
Computer science is not software engineering
Wow, college was such a waste of time ... when did you ever invert a binary tree outside of an interview? Honestly I never inverted a binary tree in college either ☹️
October 2nd, 2020
Why senior engineers get nothing done
You start a new job and it's amazing. Code all day, clear objectives, easy guidelines, ship a bunch of features be a hero. Then something happens and suddenly you get nothing done. 🤔
September 11th, 2020
Why Understanding beats Knowledge
Understanding beats knowledge every day. To have a strong career, learn to understand, not just to know.
August 28th, 2020
What if engineers were paid like athletes
July 31st, 2020
Why engineers are worth so much
Engineers don't do the day to day work, they build assets the business can exploit for years to come. That's the magic
July 24th, 2020
Why you should talk about engineering salaries
February 21st, 2020
What a hockey legend can teach you about career development
Say your boss gives you $1000 to grow your career. What do you do?
May 9th, 2019
4 years of coding in San Francisco, lessons learned
April 15th, 2019
What makes you a senior software engineer anyway?
I used to think a senior engineer was someone who gets a project, understands the context, puts their head down, and gets it done. But no. A senior engineer does so much more than just write code and design systems.
February 13th, 2019
Why you aren’t drowning in recruiters, too
October 17th, 2018
Should you work at a startup
October 5th, 2018
How resumé-driven development shapes our industry
All that once was new is old again
October 19th, 2017