5 Things I Wish I Knew Before 20 Starting my Tech Career

I recently watched the video 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 30 (source). I found this video helpful and was inspired to write an article on a similar topic. I am not an influencer or a coach, and therefore I will not teach life to anyone. That is why today we will talk about 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before 20 Starting my Tech Career. I will share with you personal experiences and stories, in the hope that this experience will help you one day to look at habitual thoughts in a different way. I always welcome criticism and additions to my story, so feel free to give detailed feedback in our community on Reddit.

This article is primarily about choice. When you are not even 20, endless possibilities and, most importantly, choice open up in front of you. You yourself choose what to do and this is the time when you need to start making this choice. To make the right choice - you need to try and experience a lot, this article is designed for this. And I'll start.

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Take your Time

After entering the university at the Faculty of Computer Science, I had so much motivation and desire to develop and grow in the field of IT that my head could burst. I found a job in a small IT startup 2 weeks after enrollment, every evening I studied new courses, and read books and articles in order to grow rapidly, because it seemed to me that the more I know, the more opportunities are open to me, which means a chance to get an interesting project for yourself is increasing.

Over time, for about half a year, the pace of learning has fallen. The more material I covered during the evening in my free time, the more I realized that I needed to learn and study even more. This is literally a vicious circle, from which I did not see a way out. Then, over time, I started to burn out. For example, while studying mathematical statistics, I came to the conclusion that it would be nice to learn Python and probability theory. Starting to learn Python, I began to realize that it would be nice to learn R and SQL additionally, and so on ad infinitum.

Take Your Time Meme

Take Your Time Meme

Of course, half a year later, I burned out with all kinds of training and it took me almost a year and a half to bounce back, calm down and understand that the rush is only a road to nowhere and not too personal growth. It is impossible to learn and do everything. The more you learn, the more you realize that there is even more material in front of you to cover. Therefore, rushing is a stupid idea that will only speed up the burnout process.

Start your Portfolio

If you have chosen IT as your main activity, then you should be well aware that you are nobody without a portfolio. Whatever is written in your resume, no matter what top companies are listed there, everyone will look at what you really know how to do. That is why it is so important to keep a complete record and keep all your projects. A personal website is perfect for this. At the same time, it is important to start it from the first day of your studies at the university or just the beginning of your studies (no matter where and how).

Your Portfolio Feedback - r/webdev Thread

Your Portfolio Feedback - r/webdev Thread (source)

I thought about a personal portfolio when I was 22 and this is my big mistake. The fact is that my entire learning process and I have been studying IT since I was about 15 years old, in my experience there were so many wonderful and curious projects, creative and unique, which were simply lost over time - some were cleared after reinstalling the operating system, some were simply forgotten and left by mistake, some I stopped developing. In any case, I realized their usefulness too late when I had to sit for weeks and remember everything that I once did and not be able to attach a real example (demo version or just an old project).

Keeping such a diary of your projects is also useful not only for finding a job but also for yourself. When you keep an informal report for yourself, very often bright new ideas come to mind for the development of old projects or the creation of new ones. When maintaining such mini-reports, you do not need to take inspiration from new pet projects from ChatGPT, new thoughts come by themselves.

Don't Think About First Money

When I got my first job in IT, I had a lot of responsibilities in my position. At the age of 19, I even had several interns subordinate to me (then it seemed to me something unimaginable and cool), but I was always embarrassed by the salary that I received and I often thought about it. It seemed to me that with all the responsibilities and tasks that I help to solve, I should get more. Then I did not think about the most important thing that I get at my first job - experience.

Of course, everyone has a different situation and it is very critical for someone to receive more. I do not argue. However, the first job is first and foremost an experience. This is the experience of interacting with a team of experts, this is the experience of applying all your skills in real-life tasks, this is working with tools that have long become the standard, which all self-respecting IT companies work with, and which are not even talked about in college (for example, Impala or ClickHouse - which I personally encountered).

Money is important. Of course. However, if you focus exclusively on them at first, then working with any project and with any team will be a burden, which leads to quick burnout. Yes, I made little money from my first job in IT, but I still keep in touch with those people who were my mentors, both business and personal (sometimes we send memes to each other).

Find an Example for Yourself

In any social unit, there is a person with whom you want to spend more time, with whom you want to communicate more and it seems that with this person, even outside of working hours, it will be fun and interesting. At my first job in my team, there was an experienced employee, I will not say his real name, but let him be Mike. Mike did the onboarding for me, he knew a lot more than any other member of the team, he had a lot more experience in a variety of projects, besides, it turned out that we graduated from the same university.

First project experience as a fresher in IT - Quora Thread

First project experience as a fresher in IT - Quora Thread (source)

We immediately had a friendly - working relationship. I think it's the perfect balance between "drinking at a bar on a Friday night" and "sittin' in ties at a Zoom meeting." We worked on business issues during office hours, and during lunch breaks or in the evenings, Mike would often send me either memes or useful technical literature that I could read to improve my understanding of this or that aspect of the company. In a word, he was my unspoken mentor. At least that's how I felt about him.

When I say - find an example for yourself, this does not mean that you should imitate someone or be friends with someone. Rather, you should find someone whose work you respect and someone whose experience and knowledge you would like to learn from. For me, Mike was the epitome of what kind of professional I would like to become (mind you - a professional, not a person). When you are not yet 20 years old, it is very important to find such a person, because it will set the vector for the beginning of your career and success.

More Doesn't Mean Better

Very often I heard from my friends and classmates about their aspirations to get into the largest IT companies, the so-called FAAMG. These are excellent aspirations and ambitions, I myself had such ambitions and desires. But now, looking back, I understand that more does not mean better. I felt great in a young startup with 20 people. Yes, I get less, but the attitude towards me, as a professional, was different. The whole company got me hooked, and I knew all the people I worked with.

Computer Programming - Meme

Computer Programming - Meme

Striving for more is everyone's business, but personally, I believe that while you are young, you will get more experience and knowledge in small teams. Judge for yourself, working in a startup of 20 people, I was a web developer and SEO specialist, technical support engineer, and even a bit of a backend specialist. I tried everything and I had the opportunity to decide what I like best without changing the company or position. This is the most valuable thing when you are young and your whole career is just ahead - the chance of an unmistakable choice.

Everything that I have listed, I am sure can be done in large IT companies, but I very much doubt that the processes for moving to other projects are as flexible and universal because at least they have a completely different team, the way of working with which they still have to get used to. Always choose flexibility and versatility, so you will soon understand what you are really interested in, and what you will never want to do.


Perhaps it was a rather personal article in which I shared with you, in fact, the experience of the first work and what conclusions I made only now, after a long period of time. I really hope that at least one sentence from this article will change the way you approach your career in the IT field. When you are under 20, you want everything at once - I understand very well, I myself was like that and worked hard for this, but not everything in this life depends on us, but everything that depends, I have listed in this article.


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