Decide What to Work On

Choosing a company

Go for the fastest growing company you can find.

Fast growing companies have this Ponzi-schema quality that everyone gets promoted! everyone can work on interesting projects!

there’s this fundamental mismatch between labor supply and demand internally.

(I got promoted) because there was no one better around and we didn’t have time to find one. Someone just has to step up and do it.

Comment: this makes sense, however, well, the author is the CTO of a startup, so obviously he is biased. Also, the team can always hire some manager from outside when the team grows.

Building human capital vs building superficial markers

Sometimes these markers are useful to get somewhere. The key trick is to focus on the lowest cost highest impact ones.

Comment: the author thinks that the cost/value ratio of a PhD degree is too high. It all depend on the strength of that signal.


  • There’s things that you can learn yourself, and things you need to do in order to learn. Skills in the latter category will often be more valuable in the long term because they will be rarer.

  • Figure out where you want to be on the spectrum that I call tools-oriented vs goal-oriented. The former category is if you are super into deep learning or functional programming or distributed systems or something else and you want to get really deep in the rabbit hole and become and expert. In that case, you’re usually better off at a large company where you can truly go deep. On the other side of the spectrum, if the thing that really excites you is to build business value, then go work at a startup.

  • Communication skills, presentation/sales skills are underrated.

Your company is struggling

  1. If you get a retention offer, take it and start looking immediately.

  2. The company is not your family. Some of the people in the company are your friends in the current context. It’s like your dorm in college. Hopefully some of them will still be your friends after. But don’t stay because you’re comfortable.

  3. Don’t think that there won’t be politics because there wasn’t politics before. Politics emerge when the players believe the game is zero sum. In a recession, the players are more likely to believe the game is zero sum.

You’re finding a new job

  1. When picking a job, yes, your manager matters. But if you have an amazing manager at a shit company you’ll still have a shit time. In some ways, it’ll actually be worse. If they’re good at their job (including retaining you), they’ll keep you at a bad company for too long. And then they’ll leave, because they’re smart and competent. Maybe they’ll take you with them.