Simon Willison’s Weblog

26 items tagged “careers”

2020

Stories of reaching Staff-plus engineering roles (via) Extremely useful collection of career stories from staff-level engineers at a variety of different companies, collected by Will Larson. # 11th September 2020, 3:30 am

Develomentor podcast: Simon Willison – Data Journalism, The Importance of Side Projects (via) Grant Ingersoll interviewed me for the Develomentor podcast. We talked about my career so far, and how much of it was driven by side-projects that I’ve worked on individually or with Natalie. # 17th July 2020, 1:33 am

If you have to choose between engineering and ML, choose engineering. It’s easier for great engineers to pick up ML knowledge, but it’s a lot harder for ML experts to become great engineers.

Chip Huyen # 24th June 2020, 5:24 am

2019

My JSK Fellowship: Building an open source ecosystem of tools for data journalism

I started a new chapter of my career last week: I began a year long fellowship with the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program at Stanford.

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One of the standards you have to have demonstrated to being able to reach Principle Engineer inside Amazon is “Respect what has gone before”. It’s very likely you don’t know the why, what or how of it. Often what was written was the best that could be done to the constraints.

Paul Graydon # 25th April 2019, 5:52 pm

2018

The way I would talk about myself as a senior engineer is that I’d say “I know how I would solve the problem” and because I know how I would solve it I could also teach someone else to do it. And my theory is that the next level is that I can say about myself “I know how others would solve the problem”. Let’s make that a bit more concrete. You make that sentence: “I can anticipate how the API choices that I’m making, or the abstractions that I’m introducing into a project, how they impact how other people would solve a problem.”

Malte Ubl # 15th April 2018, 5:23 pm

2017

On Being A Senior Engineer. Thoughts on characteristics of a mature engineer from John Allspaw back in 2012. So much good thinking in here—my favourite piece of writing on the subject. # 5th November 2017, 6:16 am

2016

What’s the first thing you would check if the company is losing money even though there’s a big increase in its revenue?

The company’s expenses.

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2015

What are the best strategies to get a tech job at YC-backed startups in the next 5 months?

Keep an eye on jobs | Hacker News—it’s the official listing of almost all jobs advertised at YC companies.

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2013

I’ve been working alone for about a year, how do I get out of this feeling of loneliness because no one is around me?

This is why co-working spaces exist. I don’t know which country you are based in but here in the UK most cities and many larger towns now have at least one tech-focused co-working space where you can rent a desk on a month-to-month basis and have a work environment outside your home with other freelancers with whom you can socialize.

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What are ways to avoid getting discouraged while searching for a job as a software developer?

Do you have any programming side-projects? If not, I suggest starting one. You’ll learn a bunch, it will impress interviewers (and help you pull ahead of other candidates) and it will help you build confidence in your own skills.

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Http://www.theacademyofbusinessstrategy.com? I’ve been contacted by this ABS to pursue some kind of degree leading to lots of money. It definitely looks like a scam, but is it? Has anyone actually done business with them? Are they legit?

When this exact same question was asked on Yahoo Answers a couple of months ago http://answers.yahoo.com/questio... someone showed up the same day with a very positive testimonial. I wonder if the same thing will happen here on Quora.

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How do I become a global nomad as a software engineer?

Go freelance, start working on projects and build up a reputation as an excellent engineer who gets high quality work done on time. Build up a large roster of satisfied clients who wish to work with you in the future, and know how to successfully work with you via email and video conferencing. Now pack your laptop and head off around the world.

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Would you pay for a service that allowed you to shadow people in your profession of interest?

As a high school student I would not have paid for this. It’s a big gamble (what if I spend money only to find out that the career doesn’t interest me), it relies on me having a good idea about what I want to do first (which I didn’t), it’s something I can get for free elsewhere by taking to friends of family, and I didn’t have any money to spend anyway.

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Which companies in London are using Python?

We use Python/Django for http://lanyrd.com/—we’re based in London.

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How much do personal chefs make?

There was a great AMA by a private chef on reddit last year which touches on this, plus a bunch of other interesting points: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/com...

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How do you become a good programmer?

In my experience new programmers progress a LOT faster if they’re learning with a higher level dynamic language such as Python or Ruby than if they only use C++ or Java. That’s not to say it isn’t a good idea to learn Java/C++ (though I’d encourage you to learn C as a lower-level language) but you may find you pick up programming concepts a whole bunch faster with a language that has a good interactive prompt.

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What are some ways to get a job from attending a conference?

Talk to people. Ask if they are hiring—if they aren’t, ask if they know anyone at the conference who is hiring. Make sure you have lots of business cards. Get other people’s business cards. Follow up afterwards. Connect with people on LinkedIn.

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Which web/software development conferences a student should attend and why?

Offer to volunteer at conferences. If accepted, you’ll get in for free and you’ll get to meet loads of people (including spending time with the speakers)—in exchange for a full days work manning desks, finding speakers in time for their talks, giving people directions and generally helping organise and clean things up.

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Does it still make sense to become a Java developer, or should I migrate to PHP or .NET?

It sounds like you need to expand your horizons a little further. The best programmers I know these days aren’t working solely in Java, PHP or .NET—they may use one those languages, but they’ll also be getting stuck in to dynamic languages such as Python, Ruby, JavaScript or Scala.

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2012

Is it viable to say to an investor that you will quit your job and work full-time on a startup, if you get the funding?

This will reflect badly on you. Why should an investor risk their money on your company if you aren’t even willing to take the risk of quitting your job for it?

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What is the scope, as a career, for a Python developer?

Don’t be an “X developer”. You’re selling yourself short if you define yourself by the technology you most frequently use.

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How long until Ruby developers are as cheap as PHP developers? is it already happening? should I still learn it or it only has a couple years left and I’m better off with SSJS?

If you want to be a highly paid engineer, you should worry less about your expertise in a specific language and more about developing broad and deep skills across a wider range of development topics.

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Where does one start in programming?

Go to this site:

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2011

Would having a maths degree put you at that much of a disadvantage against a CS student when it comes to jobs?

No. Plenty of the great programmers I know have maths, physics or even literature degrees. Read a couple of classic computer science text books and get some programming projects under your belt and you’ll be fine.

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2010

Why is Java perceived as not cool for startups? We seem to be getting a lot of feedback lately that a startup should be using Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, etc., if they want to be agile and iterate quickly.

You should re-evaluate your beliefs. Dynamic language programmers spend a great deal of time thinking about code quality and maintainability. TDD (and BDD), which I believe was first popularised within the Ruby community) are extremely widespread, and profiling and debugging tools are widely used and constantly improved. A strong test suite provides far more effective protection against bugs than static typing and an IDE.

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