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Am I a “real” Software Engineer yet?

This question has haunted me for years. And it seems I’m not alone. Many people experience this same insecurity. They desire to know if they’ve made it. Are they finally good enough?

While “Software Engineer” is the standard title handed out by employers, many in the software community have different standards. And to new programmers joining the field, especially those without CS degrees, it can feel like the title is safe-guarded. Only bestowed on the select that have proven themselves.

Many people refer to this sense of deficiency as Impostor Syndrome, though it…

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A common trait I see in new developers is the fear of looking dumb. I know because I had the same concern. I thought that seeming stupid would cause others to question my capabilities and affect my career progression.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. To explain why, let me tell a quick story.

One of my first tasks as a software engineer was to investigate a bug for an important customer. They were experiencing timeouts from one of our API endpoints and it was impacting their workload. Since I was still new to the company, I wanted…

One company’s struggles with tech debt

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A new hire recently asked me over lunch, “What does DigitalOcean’s tech debt look like?”

I could not help but smile when I heard the question. Software engineers asking about a company’s tech debt is the equivalent of asking about a credit score. It’s their way of gauging a company’s questionable past and what baggage they’re carrying. And we’re no stranger to technical baggage.

As a cloud provider that manages our own servers and hardware, we have faced complications that many other startups have not encountered in this new era of cloud computing. These tough situations ultimately led to tradeoffs…

A piece of advice for aspiring software developers

A person sitting on a bench reading a newspaper
A person sitting on a bench reading a newspaper
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One thing I wish someone told me when I was learning to code was to stop reading “How I Became a Software Developer in X Months” articles. So let me be the one to say it.

Stop reading those damn articles.

I know there will be some people resistant to this statement — especially those that have written them. So let me preface this by saying this is my opinion. If you love reading them, don’t let me stop you.

But if you’re an aspiring software developer, you’d be better ignoring their existence or at least taking them with the…

Learn engineering lessons from a decade ago to prevent mistakes today

A sculpture of two arrows in woodland
A sculpture of two arrows in woodland
Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

On September 23, 2010, Facebook had one of its most severe outages to date. The site was down for four hours. The situation was so drastic that the engineers had to take Facebook offline in order to recover.

While Facebook wasn’t as gigantic as it is now, it still had over a billion users and its outage didn’t go unnoticed. People took to Twitter to either complain or jest about the situation.

Master this common interview topic

diagram of the structure of an LRU cache
diagram of the structure of an LRU cache
LRU cache (Image Credit:

Note: All the code in this article can be found on GitHub.

When I was interviewing for my first software engineering job, I was asked about least recently used (LRU) caches a number of times. I was asked to both code them and to describe how they’re used in larger systems. And if you’ve done your fair share of coding interviews, it’s likely you have, too.

From an interviewer's perspective, caching makes for a versatile topic. It can be used to gauge someone’s low-level understanding of data structures and algorithms. …

Why Nintendo was obsessed with the number 64

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

The Christmas of 1995 was a memorable one for me. I had just turned 5 years old and was reveling in my transition from a small child to a slightly larger child. However, my birthday wasn’t what made it special. No sir. On that day, I was in for a big surprise.

I remember sitting in the living room, right beside our tree. I was starring down one of the largest presents I’d ever received, still in its pristine wrapping. With bated breath, I waited for my parents to give me the signal. …

And why life wouldn’t be the same without them

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Whether you know it or not, you use prime numbers every day. Do you see that lock symbol in the address bar of your web browser? The one that looks like this:

Did I make a mistake?

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The sounds of the keys clicked and clacked as I rushed my fingers across the laptop keyboard. I only had 30 seconds left.

“Gotta finish this fast,” I thought.

After a couple more finishing touches, I hit “Enter” and watched as a popup window appeared on-screen.


Beneath the popup were two buttons: “Update” and “Cancel”. Just as I had practiced.

A few moments later, I heard a door open and footsteps coming down the hallway. …

You don’t need to be a 10x rockstar programmer

Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

Ever since I started learning to code, I have dreamed of becoming a senior engineer. Some may think this a bit odd. Shouldn’t my main goal be to get a job first and worry about a promotion later?

Generally, yes. But, as someone who has changed careers four times in as many years, I didn’t want to simply change my career. I wanted to thrive in it. And there was no better example of thriving in the tech field than being a senior engineer.

Senior engineers are the masters of their craft. They are rockstar developers who churn their code…

Sun-Li Beatteay

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