Jake Worth

Jake Worth

How Luck Played a Role in my Career

Published: August 15, 2022 • Updated: March 30, 2023 2 min read

  • career

I believe that luck is part of every professional journey. Here’s a sampling of the luck I’ve had.

A passage I recently read caught my attention:

“One of the first things [Stewart] Butterfield [(founder of Slack)] wants to know about when interviewing candidates for a position isn’t which programming language they know or where their computer science degree is from. It’s whether they believe luck played a role in getting them where they are— whether they think their success is a product not just of merit and talent, but also good circumstances. His goal is simple: to build a team where people don’t assume they’re special.” —Sara Wachter-Boettcher, ‘Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech’, 190.

I’ve been lucky. I want to work with people who believe that about themselves. If nothing else, I find people with that kind of humility are just easier to work with.

As an example, my timing entering the industry in 2012 now feels very lucky to me. Two facts about that year: there were almost no bootcamps so I felt I had to teach myself to code, and you had to be a full-stack engineer to get things done.

Before Bootcamps

Something that distinguished 2012 from today: there were almost no programming bootcamps. 2012 was the year Dev Bootcamp launched, leading a wave of programming education options. Because bootcamps didn’t exist, I taught myself to program using any resource I could find— Codecademy, MOOCs, books, video courses, code katas.

It was challenging! And it had some downsides. One upside was that I learned how to teach myself hard things from the very beginning. I didn’t have a curriculum or classmates to lean on. Teaching myself gave me some dumb confidence and street cred that carried me a long way.

Before JavaScript Dominance

In 2012, the web was mostly server-side-rendered applications with sprinkles of JavaScript. When you stayed in the guardrails of convention, these apps were pretty easy to work with. To survive in that era, you could be and had to be at least somewhat full-stack.

Most of the web developers I knew in that time wouldn’t have called themselves frontend or backend engineers. There just weren’t enough distinct pieces of a stack to justify such distinctions. If you wanted to be productive, you had to be scrappy everywhere.

Today it’s common to meet frontend engineers who have very light backend skills, and vice versa. The rise of JavaScript client-side-rendered applications made it much easier to specialize. Today I feel like devs like me, who are competent at the frontend and the backend, are rare.

My timing also let me ride the wave of client-side-rendered applications, learning them slowly along with the industry. New engineers today are dropped right into this maelstrom. I feel lucky to have had that time.


I’ve been lucky in these two ways, and others. I want to work with people who believe that about themselves. How has luck helped you along the way?

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know!

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