Five lessons from 5 years in tech

Five valuable lessons I've learned by working in tech for five years

Five lessons from 5 years in tech

I started my career path five years ago.

Nowadays, I’m a Senior Engineer. And along the way, I have learned many valuable lessons.

Here’s a lesson per year that I have applied to improve my career progression drastically:

  • Year #1: Get started. Salary is meaningless—My first salary was 11.9k€/year. Everyone around said that it was pretty low, and it was. But that got me a job after a single 30 min interview on the first try. I haven’t even graduated. I still had two years left of university. I just needed a salary to pay the bills, although I can relate that it does not apply to everyone — we know that “No money, no honey!”. But, if you can hold on for a few months, just get started. Having the initial experience on your resume will pay by itself in no time.

  • Year #2: Move on when there’s nothing else to learn there—Six months into my first job, I was already doing the same every day. I felt terrible at my first job too. And, even though I wasn’t experienced, a couple of months after, I decided (thankfully!) to move on. I did all the prep for the interviews, which got me a salary of 19.6k€/year. That was a 6.7k€/year increase from my first and previous salary. Thus, move on as fast as possible if you’re not learning, especially during your first years in tech. Life is too short to get stuck.

  • Year #3: Be ambitious (not greedy)—Around the third year of working in tech, my ambition started to kick in. I had finished my master’s degree and was, for the first time, ready to dive in and focus on my career. To grow as a professional, I spent a whole year working hard, studying during my free time, and learning from my senior peers. That got me to ask for a deserved salary raise twice. I was going from 19.6k€/year to 23.8k€/year, to 26.6k€/year. You should be ambitious for learning and growing your career, but, as a bonus tip, you should also learn how to write outstanding self-performance reviews. Those will back up your case when asking for a raise or a promotion.

In less than 3 years, and while still going through my master’s degree, I went from 11.9k€/year to 26.6k€/year. By the end of my third year, I got promoted to a senior engineer. Money-wise it improved tremendously. Rest assured that the first and super low salary was totally worth it!

  • Year #4: Focus on impact—The ambitious mindset I built during the last year for learning and accomplishing results started to get in better shape when I improved my business perspective. I began to look differently at the tasks I had and often asked myself, “What is the impact of this task on the team, the product, and, more importantly, on the whole business?”. Prioritize your tasks according to their impact, and the formula is relatively simple. No matter what, focus on impactful work 2/4 hours a day. By simply doing that, you will be a top performer.

  • Year #5: Be visible—Visibility is the cherry on the top of the cake for your career progression. Doing impactful work without your peers knowing about it will not get you that far. Make your work visible, and work heavily on your presentation skills. Within five years, you’ll already be a seasoned engineer with a solid career.

Grow your career. A lesson a year, for five years.

© Sérgio Martins

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Sérgio Martins by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!