Career Advice for a 20-Year-Old


A friend asked me to talk to his son about how to choose a university and his career. These notes, always under construction, is the key advice.

General Advice

  • Always do the most difficult thing you can do.
  • Be extremely organized. Keep a journal of what you do, what happened. I found MS Office 365 to be the best communication and office solution. I keep notes in OneNote, Confluence, and Dropbox Paper. For complex tasks, I use JIRA.
  • Travelling has always been the best education.
  • Elite universities do open the doors for the entry-level job, but
    • A substantial proportion of people get there via family connections.
    • All universities use virtually identical textbooks
    • A hiring manager most often weighs the projects you have completed far more than the name of the university you graduated from.
  • Build continuously your personal brand, Create your personal blog – maybe the easiest way is to create a blog and once it gets successful, migrate to other hosting, if needed.
  • Associate yourself with the top companies in the world, like Amazon Web Services. Become an AWS Community Builder and all doors are open to you.
  • Always fight for the things you stand for. Even if you lose, the fight itself is best self-advertisement and you attract the people sharing the same values.

Career Goals

  • Be a generalist with you being able to go deeper whenever necessary.
  • Be loyal, direct, honest, valued for your views. Ask more questions than answers.
  • Spend at least 20% of your time on upgrading your knowledge.
  • All companies are software companies.
  • You should aim at becoming a world-class – see the trimodal distribution of software engineering salaries. The #3 roles are virtually never listed on job boards.

You are ….

  • You are who you know → build a network of friends you can trust.
  • You are the company you keep → we’re defined by those whom we keep close – they are reflection of who we’re, what we believe in and what we stand for.
  • You are what you publish → your written skills are principal.
  • You are what you read → my Amazon Kindle has always been one of the best investments I have ever made. For reading list suggestions, check this article. For news, I read Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and monitor hundreds of RSS feeds via Feedly.

The Most Valuable Things In Life are …

  • Time is your most valuable asset. Money can always be replenished, but time can never be returned.
  • Love of your life once you find it. I never trusted dating apps and always depended on instinct.

Your Health

  • Do not drink regularly soft drinks, like Coke, which cause skin pores clogging and have other side effects → Chinese imperial teas are much more powerful
  • Watch movies in front of stationary bike or rower or treadmill and spend every day at least an hour on them
  • I love downhill skiing since it’s 50% mastery of fear and 50% body coordination.
  • Hiking is perfect for clearing your mind.

Your Finances

  • Get the best gear for anything you spend most time with. It’s an investment.
  • Invest in broad ETFs, rather than individual stocks.
  • Buy all with credit cards linked to an airplanes’ frequent-miles programs.

Your Home Location

  • Your location determines your lifestyle, the kind of life problems you face.
  • The most expensive city in the world, Zürich, does not necessarily provide the best lifestyle. In fact, after 10 years living here, I concluded that life is elsewhere.

Key Quotations

Our words reveal our thoughts;

our manners mirror our self-esteem;

our actions reflect our character;

our habits predict the future.

~ William Arthur Ward

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?

~ Hunter S. Thompson

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

~ Helen Keller

Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.

If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.

-Juan Ramón Jiménez

To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the beauty in others;
to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.
This is to have succeeded.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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