Rough Road
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Rough Road

A guide for building software engineer career from ground up to top level based on twenty years experience

About the Book

READ THIS BEFORE YOU BUY IT: This book is still in its early stage of writing. Content is subject to changes. I am adopting lean publishing model here. Which means this book is published when it's not complete and sold at lower price at very first (you can adjust the payment). Over time, when I add more content to the book, and I will raise the price correspondingly and finally to the target price. For the readers who bought this book early, you can enjoy your early bird discount while there's more content added later on.

Software is eating the world, and the force behind this trend is software engineers. As the software jobs demand surge, more and more people want to ride on this once in a lifetime wave. Programming is not that hard to learn, but it's challenging to master. Just like many people can swim doesn't necessarily mean they can all swim as fast as Olympics champions. As you can imagine, it takes years after years training and practice to be an Olympics champion, so as a topnotch software engineer. However, given the high demand for engineers, you can find plenty of software books or courses out there claiming absurd things such as mastering programming in a few weeks. Surely if the goal is to learn fundamental programming skills and find a job in the tech industry, yes it's possible. But to master it, certainly not.

Like all different kind of skills, programming takes if not decades but many years to master. And yet to be a great software engineer, many skills other than programming are also required. It's a marathon rather than a sprint. When we look at the history of sport world records, the numbers were renewed year after year. Is it because human beings evolved in these years to be able to run faster and jump higher? No, the key is knowledge. People learn the experience from the past, think about what can be improved, such as the way we train, or the tool we use. The same applies to being an engineer. While there's no lack of books teaching you specific programming languages, frameworks and project management, but what about learning to program and building the career as a whole from the ground up? There aren't many books talking about this aspect, be it what programming language to learn, how to develop and practice your skills, how to find your dream job or even create one your own.

As a programmer, I was lucky to find out what I love to do in my life at a very young age and dedicated almost every single day in the past twenty years to programming. Twenty years is not a short time, assume I spend 5 hours a day in programming, twenty years means 36,500 hours spent on it so far. It's not an exaggeration to say that I dedicated my life in programming. When I look back at the years of a lifetime spent on learning programming, the hard way by teaching myself everything, I recall this is very challenging. But I never felt regret that I took this route since it's also rewarding at the same time. I enjoy the journey and would do it again without a doubt if I can make a choose another time. However, from time to time, I wonder, wouldn't it be nice if there was someone who could guide me. Even if it just helps to move the progress forward say one year in the long run. Given how much money a software engineer can make in a year nowadays, it's tremendous. So far, I didn't find a mentor in my life, but yet I still came pretty far by myself. With the experience I gain in the two decades, I want to write a book I wish I had twenty years ago, for you, like me, who enjoys programming and thinks about dedicating their time pursuing to be not just one, but a great one. Brace yourself, it's going to be a rough road, but the view is going to be beautiful.

About the Author

Fang-Pen Lin
Fang-Pen Lin

I am a Master Generalist Software Engineer who taught myself programming by building a hobby MMORPG from scratch when I was a kid. So far, it has been twenty years I spent in programming almost every single day.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Updates
  • Motivations
    • Code is magic
    • Build something you want
    • Grit
    • Desire to learn
    • Money
    • What kind of engineer you want to be?
    • Have fun
    • Treat yourself well
    • Positive feedback loop
    • Am I in a negative feedback loop?
    • Break out the negative feedback loop
  • Meta-learning
    • Learn by building
    • Learning is an investment
    • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
    • Learn once and apply everywhere
    • Grow your sense of good and bad
    • Oh my! There are too many choices
    • How do you pick what to learn?
    • The optimal path to learn
    • What about university? useful or not?
    • Open source projects?
    • Pencil and paper are your friends
    • Always ask why
    • The Building Blocks model
    • Dig the rabbit hole
    • Don’t trust book blindly
    • Be open minded
    • Do I need to learn math?
    • Teaching is learning
    • How to search for the answer
    • How to ask a question online
  • Practice
    • Deliberate practice
    • Write a tons of code
    • Read a tons of code
    • Disciplines
    • Build pet projects
    • Long life time project, see your own consequence
    • Dig the rabbit hole
    • Don’t be a leetcode machine
    • Get outsourcing projects
    • Learning project vs production project
    • HIIT
    • Tick tock
  • Fundamental skills
    • Version control
    • Write automatic test cases
    • SQL
    • Use debugger
    • Design Pattern
    • Functional Programming
    • Reactive Functional Programming
    • Regular Expressions
    • Docker
    • Kubernetes
    • Vim or Emacs
  • Best practices
    • Coding style
    • Technical debt awareness
    • Write tests
    • Review your own code
    • Automate the repeating tasks
    • Setup CI and CD early on
    • Write documents
    • Write comments
    • Write logs
    • Polish your tool
    • Think about security
    • Think about a bus runs over you
    • Great engineers reuse code
  • Career
    • Build your portfolio
    • Improve your writing skill
    • Write blog
    • What makes a popular open source project?
    • Yourself as a brand
    • How to find a Job
    • This is a game of number
    • Recruiters
    • Negotiate salary
    • How to write your resume
    • How to interview
    • Big company vs small company
    • Comfort zone risk
    • Tiny scope risk
    • Coding with people is different
    • Code review
    • Teamwork
    • Bad co-workers
    • Dilemma of a good engineer
    • Build your own startup
  • Miscellaneous

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