The Executive's Individual Contributor

Published January 10, 2024

As we move past the zero interest rate era in the tech industry, I think it's important to share perspectives on the future of tech work, especially for those that are just getting into this industry. I've seen a lot of new devs express uncertainty on their future tech careers, given the recent hiring climate, and wanted to share some of the things I've learned over the past few years.

First I want to say that I'm only speaking from my experience, which won't apply to FAANG sized tech companies. Rather I'm going to be talking about companies where most of you will end up - small to medium sized, growth stage startups. In the current hiring climate, there is so much opportunity in these kinds of startups and from what I've seen recently, most people that are able to get hired, land at a company like this. If you want advice on getting into FAANG, this isn't the article for you, but there are a ton of content creators talking about this, so I implore you to seek that content out.

If you're like me, you love getting knee deep into the technical side of building software - creating architecture diagrams, designing abstractions, or just simply writing code. However, your job as a Software Engineer at a startup is not to write code - it's to provide value to the business, and ultimately solve the problems of the business' customers. Obviously, reliability of your software matters, and these technical aspects of the job heavily influence that reliability, but reliable software that doesn't solve a users problem, is useless.

The greatest skill you can learn when navigating this industry, and particularly this current job market, is to empathize with and start to think like an executive. Being able to pull yourself out of the code and learn what the real business challenges are, will propel you forward in your career more than Data Structures or Leetcode scores ever will. If you can put yourself in the shoes of an executive at your company, and complete your technical work with that mentality, you'll spend more time solving real business problems and contribute more to the success of the company.