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Alumni Spotlight: Sean Oliver (r30) on content creation for engineers

Britt Lee-Still

Oct 19, 2023

In today’s competitive job market, standing out from the crowd has become more important than ever, and job seekers are exploring new avenues to showcase their unique skills and experiences. One such avenue is content creation, which has emerged as a powerful tool for personal branding and job search success. In this interview with Rithm grad Sean Oliver, we delve into the world of content creation and explore how it can aid aspiring engineers in their job search.

Sean Oliver, Rithm grad and Software Engineer

Sophie: Why did you start creating content?

I’ve always had an interest in contributing to online conversations, even before my time at Rithm. I admire many individuals who share their passions online, and they’ve always inspired me to do the same. 

Community is really important in any industry, but I think it’s particularly important in software development where tools and technologies are changing so rapidly nearly everyone has something to teach everyone else. It’s a great way to learn, meet other like-minded people, and even find out about new opportunities. I’ve been fortunate in that my content creation activities have connected me to several contracting opportunities I most certainly wouldn’t have come across otherwise. But fundamentally, I’m driven by the opportunity to connect with others who share my interests and the invaluable experience of solidifying my own understanding by articulating it to others.

Sophie: Can you share more about the content creators you follow?

Some of my favorite content creators are:

  • @swyx – Fellow career switcher and founder of Smol AI, a company for which I’ve been working since graduating from Rithm.
  • @levelsio – An inspiring indie hacker who basically created the “digital nomad” movement/lifestyle.
  • @housecor – Shares great React and TypeScript tips with examples
  • @DavidKPiano – DevRel influencer who leads/shares great discussions about React conventions and patterns
  • @_georgemoller – Really awesome, high-quality react tips with visualizations
  • @thdxr – Creator of SST and is constantly sharing very insightful thoughts about system design, databases, authentication, and security from a practitioner’s POV.
  • @kiwicopple – Founder of Supabase who really understands Postgres and is bringing it into the future with pgVector!
  • @kentcdodds – DevRel influencer and creator of many great trainings on React and web development

Sophie: How did creating content help you get your current contract opportunities?

I’ve been active with a Substack newsletter and sharing its updates on LinkedIn and Twitter/X. This puts me in the direct line of sight for people, without explicitly screaming “Hey, I need a job!” Most of my audience isn’t even from an engineering background, but many of them are connected to people who are hiring or even just have advice they want to share.

Sophie: Where do you write and publish content?

My Substack, “Sean is Coding,” is where I get to share my weekly musings on what I’m learning. It’s pretty relaxed, but the stats show it resonates with people. As for social media, Twitter and LinkedIn are my go-to platforms. LinkedIn’s great for sharing personal experiences, while Twitter is perfect for anything visual or actionable. What I particularly enjoy on Twitter is the engagement—following and responding to thought leaders in the React and TypeScript realms, for instance. These interactions not only keep me in the loop but also attract followers when my content hits the mark.

Sophie: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about starting to create content?

Don’t get stuck in the planning phase; just start. Anything small is better than nothing. LinkedIn and Twitter are low-hanging fruits—no setup required. Once you start publishing, you’ll get a sense of your voice and what clicks with people. For long-form pieces, I’d recommend Substack; it’s hassle-free and captures emails, making it easier to build an engaged audience. And don’t sweat about saying the wrong thing. 

The process itself is enlightening, and chances are, nobody’s going to nitpick your first article. The most likely thing is that no one is going to read your article at all. You may as well write about the thing that’s on your mind, because you’ll almost certainly learn something in the process. You can always find an angle where it makes sense for you to talk about what you’ve worked on. It’s only going to help you understand the material better. Even if you’re not thinking about your audience and the value you are giving to them, the value you are giving to yourself is huge. 

Sophie: What’s your cadence?

I use an app called Typefully to manage my social media schedules. During my Rithm days, I aimed for daily Twitter posts and weekly LinkedIn updates. Although my job has made things busier, I’d like to maintain at least a weekly rhythm for LinkedIn and get back to daily Twitter updates.

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