What is your unethical CS career’s advice?

25 February 2024

Hey Vadim,

Iโ€™m starting to question a lot of the conventional wisdom handed down to us about climbing the tech ladder. You know, the whole "work hard, play fair, and success will come" spiel. Iโ€™m not so sure anymore. It feels slow, I'm looking for shortcuts maybe? e.g. unethical software engineer advice.

To summarize: Iโ€™m, 25, fresh out of college, a young software developer, eager to make my mark. Iโ€™ve seen colleagues zip past me career-wise, some even have senior titles, not necessarily because theyโ€™re better at coding or more innovative, but because they seem to know how to navigate the corporate world and it's rules. It's like they've read a rulebook that I didn't get on my first day.

I want the unfiltered version of how to really make it in tech. Not the LinkedIn fluff or the inspirational keynote speeches. Iโ€™m talking about maybe-not-so-ethical advice that nobody talks about openly. How do you navigate office politics, deal with difficult colleagues, or get your ideas heard when youโ€™re the youngest person in the room? How do you ensure youโ€™re not just another disposable cog in the machine but a key player who canโ€™t easily be replaced?

Iโ€™m not saying I want to become the bad guy, or abuse the system. But Iโ€™m curious about the line between playing it smart and playing it dirty. Is it possible to advance your career aggressively without crossing ethical boundaries? Or is the tech industry just another jungle where only the ruthless survive?

Iโ€™d love to hear your thoughts.



Hey there,

First off, kudos to you for having the courage to ask the tough questions that many think but seldom voice. Before we start talking about all the unethical stuff, I’d like to tell you โ€” any unethical behavior takes you only so far. 10 years, 20 years down the road your integrity is crucial, so all of these things will come back to haunt you eventually. Building your career the old way is the only sustainable way I would say, but I can share with you some cheats for your software engineer career that I highly recommend you NOT to use or apply in any way.

The tech industry, with all its innovation and brilliance, isn’t immune to the darker shades of human nature. The climb up the ladder isn’t always a straight line, and sometimes it’s not just about how good you are with code but how well you navigate the office politics and personal agendas.

Let’s first talk about an important topic: visibility and especially the visibiliy of your work that leads to promotions. There are two kinds of people in the company:

  1. Those who hold the whole company on their backs without anyone knowing about it.
  2. Those who tell everyone that the company hangs on their shoulders without actually doing anything.

Both of those are two extremes, you need to find a way to a) make sure you do meaningful work and b) the right people see the work that you do. I don’t think this is unethical, but keep this balance in mind when selecting which project you want to do. You can do 30% of the work and get 70% of the credit.

If you’re not a good programmer โ€” try to make a good first impression and try to be someone that people enjoy working with. Make them laugh, talk with them, help them outside work. You can either be an A+ coder with a B- personality or a B- coder with an A+ personality and it would be equal value.

Pad your estimates. If a ticket needs 1 day to develop, tell it needs 3 days. This way your tickets will always be delivered on time and you’ll have chill life, playing games for two days.

Job hopping does indeed work, if you want to double your salary in 3 years, switch 3 jobs. (Though your future might be limited if people see that you switched 6 jobs in 6 years or similar)

Embellish your performance and take credit for other peoples work during performance reviews. Use the words I instead of We.

Companies will pay you as little as they can get away with. So always start with higher offer negotiating down, not up.

Ok these are all unethical advice that I could remember from the top of my head. I’d like to emphasize yes, the industry does have its share of individuals who’ve advanced not solely on their technical merits but through a mix of strategic networking, taking credit for others’ work, and playing the political game to their advantage. But here’s where I want to draw a lineโ€”a big, bold one.

Playing it smart doesn’t mean playing it dirty. The truth is, the tech world is small, and reputations stick. Shortcuts and unethical behaviors might give you a quick boost, but they’re like building your foundation on quicksand. Sooner or later, it’s going to catch up with you.

Now, about navigating office politicsโ€”yes, you’ll need to learn how to play the game, but play it with integrity. Understand the dynamics, recognize the power structures, and figure out how to make your voice heard without stepping on others to get there. You can be ambitious and assertive without being deceptive or unethical.

Focus on building your personal brand as someone who is not only technically skilled but also trustworthy and ethical. This is the kind of reputation that opens doorsโ€”often ones you didn’t even know existed. Your career will be a reflection of not just what you know but who you are as a person. Be someone who others want to work with, someone who values ethics and integrity above all else and not someone who jumps 3 companies in 3 years or takes credit for someone else’s work.

At the end of the day, it’s your name, your reputation, and your conscience. Play the long game. Build a career you can be proud of, not just for the successes but for how you achieved them.


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  • Clara Santos

    Building a tech career? Sure, coding’s important but don’t sleep on networking and being a decent team player. Make your work seen but don’t brag too much, and respect the grind of others. Chasing higher pay with job hops works, but solid mates and a good rep get you further. Focus on mixing tech skills with being someone people wanna work with. Keep it real, build connections, and you’ll go places.

  • Pax

    Here’s what I think: building a solid reputation in the industry can offer more benefits in the long run. Sure, quick jumps can boost your pay, but they might also leave your resume looking unfocused.