I started my programming career at a small startup called Mertado, soon after they completed the Winter 2010 batch at Y Combinator. Nine months into my new role, we were acquired by Groupon to help build out their Groupon Goods platform soon after they had gone public. After the dust had settled, I was placed on the team that built the machine learning system to personalize 100 million emails sent to inboxes each morning. I was responsible for taking the personalized outputs from the MapReduce jobs, rendering the results in our HTML email templates, and performing multivariate tests on different audiences in order to increase the conversion rate, where a one percent increase meant millions of dollars in additional revenue.
It turns out that working at a small, ten-person startup is vastly different from working at a public company on a large engineering team. Not only was I exposed to new technologies, development workflows, build systems, and enormous codebases, I also got first-hand experience observing how high-performing teams deliver software at scale. I started to see how all of my coworkers juggled different tasks and priorities, and as I observed, I started to learn from them.
What I noticed early on was that they didn’t just sit there and code all day with their headphones on. Yes, my coworkers delivered clean and robust code at a fast pace—but they were good at the entire software development process. The most impactful engineers combine technical depth with a broad set of soft skills, people skills, and product skills.
I’ve made many mistakes throughout the course of my career. It took hard work and trial and error to learn how to navigate office politics, manage risk, and work well with others to deliver quality software. I had to learn most of these soft skills on the job and by observing others as I navigated my career.
But I wish I’d had better resources to prepare me for the obstacles on the path to becoming a senior software engineer. My goal in writing this book is to pass along the knowledge I’ve gained so far in the hope that it will help the next generation of programmers be team players and build fulfilling careers.