Getting Started with Deliberate Practice

22 May 2013


I graduated with a degree in Software Engineering back in 2006. I have spent the majority of my time working as a business analyst and project manager (not developing software myself and using those skills daily). I have worked on minor projects here and there but they have been of the hackers variety instead of being a craftsman of software.

I completed my MBA in December 2011. I planned to use my MBA to transition into a parallel field such as operations or finance. After having lackluster responses to resumes and informal interviews, I took a step back to ask myself what I was doing wrong.

Looking at the problem all wrong

I had been telling myself that I was a skilled engineer who now had a formal business education to pair with that. I was attempting to leverage my skills I had developed as a BA and PM, to get others to hire me as a Financial Analyst or Manager. I could tell that what the interviewers wanted were people with the exact skills they needed at that time, and weren’t willing to gamble on me. It was now time to approach things a different way.

I downloaded the So Good They Can’t Ignore You audiobook onto my iPhone and dove in. It wasn’t long before I heard Cal Newport talk about career capital and to be honest, I didn’t have it in finance or operations. What I did have was a solid education in software engineering and an aptitude for learning.

Where to go from here

I started looking for job postings in my city that had a significant amount of direct overlap with my education and work experience. After a few months of surveying it seems the most likely roles involved software development, specifically using Ruby on Rails. I posted and interviewed for one such postion. I was on the right track but needed to spend some time working on real projects with Ruby and Rails. From the interview I was able to figure out many of the exact skills that the team was looking for: Ruby, Rails, general web development, JavaScript, jQuery, Backbone.js, etc. I was also able to learn about some of the tools that were used: git, vim, etc.

From here I need to put together a plan of deliberate practice to develop specific skills in this area so that the next time I interview, I will have the career capital required to get the job.