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Is Blogging Useful?

mr_mig_by profile image Alexey Migutsky ・6 min read

This post is the answer to the question "Does blogging really help your career?" posted by Kevin Lamping here on Dev.to.

I personally would say that blogging is not directly useful for your career. But it has a lot of other benefits which make blogging a very good exercise.

The Benefits of Writing

The main benefit of blogging for me is expanding your horizon of opportunities. You can find my story below in the article. But first, let me show some benefits I've got from writing content.

  1. It's a good way to demonstrate your expertise.

    People always try to find someone they can trust. You can go through a series of interviews and hope that they will figure out you are a great colleague, or you can write about your approaches and let a wider audience know that.
    If you have a deep expertise in some technology, you can demonstrate it by writing deep and thoughtful blog posts.
    If this technology is in demand, you will definitely get some opportunities coming your way!

  2. It teaches you how to structure your thoughts.

    Getting into a habit of noting down your thoughts and creating an outline for an article will do you a lot of good. You will learn how to capture what you know in a concise way, so that you can recreate the whole train of thoughts just by looking at the outline you've created.

  3. It makes your explanation skills better.

    An ability to make things clear is crucial if you want to be heard and want to influence others. Additionally, you can build your own source of explanations, which you can point people to. This will come handy as soon as you start mentoring or managing other people.

  4. It sharpen your written communication skills.

    You will be communicating in a written form a lot during your career. This skills is especially important for a remote work environment, where you need to overcommunicate.

  5. Your views expressed publicly can be a good conversation starter.

    This may come handy in any professional social context: interviews, meetups, conferences. It's a different level on conversation when you get approached because someone likes your views.

My views are formed by my experience. Let me share some of my stories of how blogging has helped me. Let it be a good example for you.

How It All Have Started.

I was always bad at writing. The worst thing in school for me was writing essays. I always had a vivid imagination, but I just could not put the images into written words. I was never thinking that I would be writing texts publicly to explain myself.

It all changed when I started writing code for money. More specifically, it all started with first official half-time employment.

As many of you, I was young and in desperate need to prove that I am a good programmer. You see, I do not have a CS degree. I graduated theoretical physics, but switched to professional programming. Writing code was my passion and hobby, and I just decided to seize an opportunity to make it my job.

My first job was rather a competitive environment. I've heard a lot of talks around about "not real programmers". And I was labeled like that, because "those theoretics can never be good at something as practical as enterprise programming". So, I've decided I need to prove myself and grow my status.

One of the endorsed and acceptable ways to do that was getting access to an invite-only blogging platform for programmers (habr.ru). You could get an invitation only from someone who can endorse you, or to write a good article so that the reviewers grant you an access.

I did not have anyone around me who can share an invitation, so I've decided to go the hardest (for me) way.

I've spent around three months analysing the content on the platform, and then more than six months on writing and polishing my blog post. I've picked the topic I knew the best: writing cross-browser user scripts. It was around 10 years ago. At that time, Chrome had introduced extensions, Firefox had it's own plugin system, and other browsers can just run some stripped-down version of javascript uploaded by the user.

The article was good enough for me to get the invitation from reviewers. I've also got an additional badge proving that my content was high-quality! For me, it was a huge achievement.

Opportunities Start Coming

I've published a couple more posts just to follow up on the topic. I were not thinking at that time that this small series of content could bring me some additional benefits.

But then...

I was contacted by someone on the platform asking me to write a userscript, for money. That was a very pleasant surprise!

And little did I know that this was just a beginning. This series of content had branched off my career into freelance extension developer, which enhanced my resume with interesting cases:

  1. I've built an automated betting bot for a small business owner. He was participating in an online-ad auction to promote his business. My solution saved him an estimated $20000 a year. Also, it was a lot of fun gaming the system 😊

  2. I've got involved in a startup as a technical co-founder. My partner had found me only because a friend of mine has shown them my article!
    We've built a price-comparison service based on a cross-browser extension. We've raised $120k of angel investments. And it was on my second year of employment. Can you imagine how hyped I was?

    Unfortunately, this is not a sexy success story. Our investor was involved in some shady business, and we've got our funding halted by Russian financial police... *We could not sustain the business without that money and shut it down. In 5 years, a technical advisor who had consulted us has built and sold a similar solution for *$5M.
    That was a very good and expensive lesson for me.

  3. I am still get contacted by people asking for exntension work at least once a year. It's being 10 years since I published the articles, and they still bring me some value!

Even Rants Can Be Useful

One night, I set down to write a rant about Angular. I was working in a startup, which was heavy with UI work using Angular. Before that, I have consulted several startups on how to fix their mess with that technology. I was utterly upset about the state of industry at that time. And I just poured my thoughts into an article. (It was called "2 years with Angular". I've moved it from my personal blog to Medium, which was a bad decision in a hindsight).

I wrote the article at 2 a.m. and went to sleep. When I woke up, it was already published to HackerNews. The first day brought me 20k unique readers. The day after it has reached 65k unique readers. In three days, the article was viewed more than 120k times.

Stats from my Angular rant article showing the numbers

In 2 months, I started looking for a new job. The startup was going down, and I need to find my next gig.

This is when I had a series of unbelievable interviews.
They all started similar - with small talks about the code, my experience and my previous employment. But the they all went into a similar direction:

  • Let's talk about Angular. What do you think about the framework?
  • Have you read my article called "2 years with Angular" by any chance?
  • Wow! That was you! That's why your face is familiar to me. Yes, I've read it. I think we don't need to dive deeper in the technical interview, let's go to the next step.
  • 😳

That was more than surprising the first time. It still felt amazing by the third interview like that!

I did not join any of those companies, though. I got a better opportunity, and it was not related to Angular article. But it was related to other articles I've published.

I was contacted by a CTO of a startup. They've told me they liked my views on software engineering and professionalism, which they've found in my blog. That was a great conversation started, and I've went to the interview loop with the company.

Foreword

This is the experience I've got first-hand. I've heard a lot of stories from other people as well.
You should keep in mind that neither my personal blog, nor my articles on other platforms were massive success. I had barely 200 subscribers in my newsletter and rss feed. But even these small numbers were influential for my career.

I am also not even close to be a good writer or communicator. I am still struggling with writing content, but I get better with every article I write. I am also not very consistent.

These days, I am writing content for Metadevelopment, and it seems a huge task for me. But I can totally see how beneficial it is, and this is what keeps me motivated.

I am also totally sure that you can get similar benefits, maybe just not in a short run. But stay consistent, and you will get your portion of success!

Posted on by:

mr_mig_by profile

Alexey Migutsky

@mr_mig_by

Founder at Metadevelopment.io. Senior Software Development Engineer at Microsoft.

Discussion

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I'm doing my first steps in blogging and your article is really motivational, thanks for the post!
Wow, 9 months to write a blog post. Your self-descipline and ability to set and follow goals is outstanding.

 

Thanks for the good words!

In a hindsight, I should have posted that article way earlier. I was obsessing over details and spent too much time worrying about the result. The truth is that if you are a beginner - you can't predict the outcome. It's quantity over quality, until you start getting a feel of the skill.

So, it's better to post often and on any topic you feel like writing about, than to follow a strict plan and obsess over details.

 

Thanks for your thoughts. I've been a developer for 20 years, and I've always struggled to get my thoughts out there in some form. I am usually busy doing actual work, and it is hard to know the value of blogging when no one reads it, or to put effort into it. I'm a self-taught coder which is I think a blessing and a curse. You have a different perspective on things, but are seen as a hack too, because you don't follow the same path as everyone who went to school for it. It is hard to find legitimacy, and I wonder if my not being able to share my knowledge has hurt my progress somewhat. I'll have to ponder a bit.

 

I was thinking the same.

Now, I am really thinking it was a bad idea not to post my thoughts on frameworks, patterns and things I've seen around.

As soon as you start mentoring or just sharing your experience, it's very good to see your previous steps and your ideas evolution.

On the other hand, you never know what will bring you some opportunities.

In general, I think it's useful to create any kind of assets and capitalizable things, even if they are not used and not of value immediately.

 

Just the fact that it helps me shape my own thoughts and teaches me how to communicate better makes blogging all worth it to me. All the other great things you've mentioned are bonuses to me! Great article, I enjoyed reading it.

 

Hi Alexey

I have just recently started thinking about writing and joined twitter and DEV. It was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. Although my story is different than yours, they do overlap in some areas like for example the startup debacle.

I started programming 20 years ago when I was 16 and have always been reading technical articles and API documentation. I only regret for not leaving more time for classic literature unrelated to software development.

It's crucial for a software developer to be able to write coherent emails or documentation; most of them are introverts with poor social skills with keyboard being their only communication tool.

I am also one of those introvert, however my severity levels are on the low side. All that has got me thinking and have recently decided to start writing.

Now comes the plot twist. I said to myself, or promised if you will, that I will write anything but technical articles and devote my free time to poetry and prose. This might come as a shocker, but the desired effect of becoming more eloquent is the same.

I'm not saying that I'll never write anything technical ever again but will at least refrain from doing so for some time. Anyway, I loved your article and will surely read the others as they come.

If you have the time, check out my non technical ramblings. 😁