Gaining Deeper Knowledge In Order To Grow in Your Career

Doug Lawrence

SVP of Engineering at Convex



"I remember a really fun session with one of my previous engineers. He was a full-stack developer and his colleagues acknowledged his strength on the front-end. But one of his long-term goals was to get comfortable with relational and node SQL so that he could cover somebody on it in a year or two from now. He had never designed this style of database, it just wasn't in his wheelhouse, so we went through it together."

Actions taken

"In this case, I was able to guide an engineer so that his interests and goals aligned with a path that was relevant for his future and for the future of the company. Oftentimes, though, I see individuals investing their resources in multiple different areas or in areas that aren't applicable to their career growth. I think the key is to be careful and find opportunities to go deeper into suitable areas rather than just trying to be too broad. Try not to dabble in too many sectors knowing that each one you tinker with is a specialty all on its own. At the end of the day, in order to become knowledgeable in that field, you would need to study over the course of a year- a large investment in time and resources. Contemplate the trajectory you wish your career path to follow. For example, if you have been working with Ruby on Rails, do you think going in deep on Rails - beyond fundamentals - is the right direction for where you want to be long-term? Rails is a framework very opinionated so it is worth considering its benefits and drawbacks for a long-term career. Additionally, one should read and examine the market and trends. Furthermore, how you are investing your time should be aligned with your career objectives. I recommend looking at companies that you admire, from an engineering perspective. Search for blogs or great products. Take a look at their staff level engineers, their job descriptions and requirements, what skills and depth of skills they have, and what kind of tech are they using. Then ask yourself if any of that aligns with what you are working on now. If not, use the information that you found to your advantage. Focus on it and let it guide you towards that aspirational target."

Lessons learned

  • "The biggest challenge is knowing what topic to choose, how much to invest, and when to invest. I think that one-on-ones, as well as 360 reviews, are a great time to discuss these types of things. Look to your manager or leader for help and guidance."
  • "Whether you are a front-end, back-end, or full-stack engineer, you need to be sensitive to what you devote your time and resources to. Find opportunities to go deeper rather than broader."
  • "Ultimately, the goal should be for you to be able to coach and mentor other engineers. You should know an area well and deep enough that if someone asks for help or wishes to transition and learn your field, that you could coach and mentor them along the way."

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Doug Lawrence

SVP of Engineering at Convex

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationMentorship ProgramsTechnical ExpertiseTechnical SkillsSoftware DevelopmentCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor RolesStaff Engineer

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