a reflection on my time being employed as a software engineer

A Reflection On My Time Working As A Software Engineer

Author: Xing Voong, posted on March 01, 2024

Up until now, I have worked as a software engineer at three different companies. I left one out of my resume, the others are Creatory and Amazon. While I use some personal experience to write this article, I have talked to many engineers for collective perspectives to confirm that some experiences are universal. Through this article, I hope to provide you with what I and other engineers wish we would have known before starting any of our software engineering jobs.

Table of content:
Your first job is going to be hard.
Your job is not secure
Change of priority
Learn Financial Literacy
Keep On Learning

Your first job is going to be hard

In my third year of college, while my friends were enjoying high-paying tech internships, I was taking summer classes. In my senior year, I had an internship. But I was living in San Francisco, commuting to Berkeley for school, and going to South Bay for an internship. I could not balance them all so I decided to drop the internship.

Even with a Data Science degree from UC Berkeley, I did not know how to make myself marketable. I did not have a job lined up after graduation. My first full-time job offer after college was in Vietnam. I was travelling there but covid-19 happened. I decided to take the job and worked in Vietnam for a bit.

Getting your first job is hard. It is even harder if you are a part of a marginalized group. I went to an interview where the interviewer bluntly told me that I was not born to be an engineer. I have people telling me that I’m too cute to be an engineer or I don’t dress like one.

I know many people had an easier start. I also know people struggle to find their ways. With perseverance and hard work, they figure out their paths. When encounter setbacks, you need to remember that everyone has their journey, so focus on yours. When face stereotypes and discrimination, tell yourself that it is not your job to prove they are wrong. Your job is to do what you have set yourself on doing and to do only that.

I have met many people who have paved the way so I can walk the journey easier. I hope I can pave the way for you too. In case I cannot, I hope you take what I know to pave your way.

Your job is not secure

This is a hard lesson to learn. The industry is appealing to people because of its salary and job security. Want a 6 fig job after college? major in computer science. Don’t want to do college again? Join a coding boot camp. But the layoff started in late 2022 in the US tech scene has changed it all. Many people got laid off, from juniors to seniors. Some have enough experience to find jobs right after, some are still looking for jobs.

If there is one lesson to take away from all the chaos is that your job is not secure. Job security comes and goes just like tech hiring. It can hire a lot, yet it can also let go a lot.

After learning the hard truth that your job is not secure. This leads to the next “I wish I have known”: Change of priority.

Change of priority

Change is a big part of the tech industry. You can join a company for one project you are interested in, with familiar technology but then the priority shifts. You soon find yourself learning and working on something completely different.

Working conditions also changed. Remote could become hybrid and return to office in a few leadership meetings. If you work at a startup, your startup could either gain more money through funding and revenue or run out of money. In either case, your day-to-day and priority at work would change.

I joined Amazon thinking I would work on a Machine Learning domain and projects I was interested in for a while. My offer also stated fully remote without any notice of going back to the office. Three months into my job, I needed to move to another project that was not machine learning related. I also had to go to the office 1-2 days a week. After leaving Creatory, a startup I was working for in Vietnam. I have heard that my co-workers in the tech department were laid off due to a lack of revenue and profit.

Because of the changing nature of the tech industry, I suggest maintaining healthy relationships at work and making the most out of any situation. A healthy relationship has a high level of reciprocal. There is no attachment. It is a relationship that all parties can benefit from. Since it’s hard to predict what will be next for you and your coworkers, learn to appreciate what your work has to present. If a change is too much for you to adapt, and you think it’s no longer serving you, you can also leave.

Learn Financial Literacy

When I received my first paid check from Amazon as a software engineer. I freaked out. It was so much money. I went on the internet to search for “financial literacy books that everyone needs to read”. After jotting down some notes, I rushed into the San Francisco public library to load up a pipe of books.

A friend of mine told me that he happened to do well during the dot.com era because his wife told him to sell his stocks. He then put the money into a house which he still owns. Many people that I talked to were able to pick and choose their jobs because of the savings they have. They are able take advantage of being laid off to travel and work on projects that they did not have time to work on.

When it comes to money, people have different ways of managing it. But there are 3 essential principles:

1: Save

  • You don’t need to have f*ck your money (just yet) but save enough to have 6 months of saving for emergencies, for example being laid off.

2: Invest

  • you can invest in material goods, one example is housing. You can also invest in yourself such as mental health, working out, and learning different skills.

3: Being frugal

  • Being frugal does not mean being cheap but cutting the budget on not-needed activities so you can spend more money on activities you enjoy spending.

There are many resources out there for financial literacy. If I could recommend you one, I would pick this book Think and Grow Rich.

Keep On Learning

One thing I dislike about the tech industry is you need to keep yourself updated with new framework and technology. Another thing is that I enjoy learning and trying new things.

You can learn new technology that directly relate to your work. Or you can learn something which is completely unrelated. I love it when people learn something that is not tech related but be able to draw the connections between them. My friend is a drag queen, a mechanical engineer and a coder. He made a proof-of-concept pumpkin costume for Halloween controlled by code. I used code to make a pet that I was longing for.

That being said, I am looking forward to hear your learning journeys and the great connections you make between them.


In this blog, I go over five lessons I and other engineers wish we would have known before starting our tech careers. I hope you can use this blog to learn some knowledge and skills and draw connections between them. When you do, don’t forget to share it with me.