Category Archives: career

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Should you go for self-employment?

Category : career

I am now 9 months into my career as a freelance consultant and would like to share my experiences with it. The question if you should make that switch too depends on many factors and can not be answered in general. Much of it is about yourself rather than the outside world.

Did it work out?

This is the important question to ask when someone created a company. During the last 9 months I had a constant stream of work which was paid much better than all my time before. And this is despite me stepping back from managing teams of 20 developers to writing software myself.

Because a developer has less responsibilities and less meetings than a team lead, it is much easier to take a day off. This is very valuable to me as a paraglider, as it strongly depends on weather conditions. Last year I had several incredible (for myself) flights and great experiences. Before, I was trying to achieve this year after year as an employee, but there was always some important meeting or another reason preventing it from happening.

On the other hand I sometimes miss being important. I enjoyed creating teams of developers and optimizing the way we work on many layers. I also enjoyed being responsible for products with millions of active users. However, this is not typical for most employees but rather a special case of my previous role. And the fun was declining more and more at the end in favor of company politics, pushing Excel-Boxes and taking part in software-design-committees.

So overall, yes, it worked out very well. I am much more relaxed, more happy and being self-employed gave me the biggest income-boost I had by far.

Is it hard?

This depends a lot on what you already know and what type of person you are. Obviously there are some hard parts to creating your own company. The hardest is that you will be responsible for everything. You have to find customers yourself, sell yourself as valuable to their project, handle all the paperwork and taxes and never break any law.

Many of us hate responsibility. I am not talking about being responsible for finding a restaurant for dinner tonight. I am talking about make a big mistake and you go to jail-responsibility. If you are that type of person, you will probably find it difficult.

I was lucky to be responsible for several teams of developers in my last job. So my mind was already prepared for having lots of responsibility. Additionally, I have been self-employed part-time during university. So when I tell you it is not hard at all, take this into consideration. For many developers this might be a bigger change.

Keep your eyes open

In Germany, there is a subsidy for founders coming out of unemployment called Gründungszuschuss. I urge anyone interested to further look into this, as it basically is free money for nothing in return. The Gründungszuschuss is an incentive for unemployed people to start their own business. I will not go into more detail here, but it is pretty easy to become temporarily unemployed.

I knew this subsidy existed but I never believed I would be eligible for it. I needed my tax advisor telling me that in fact I was. You probably need the same in other cases. Talk to people in a similar situation and read about it. But most importantly, once you choose to become self-employed, take action.

Next steps

So currently I am really happy with my situation. I have a lot of personal freedom, 3 days of home office per week and a good pay.

The next optimization I wish to make is breaking the money-for-time relation. But this is another topic for another post at another time 🙂

Should you do the same? That depends on your own situation, but in many cases it is a big win. Drop me a note if you are considering it.


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Write a great LinkedIn recommendation in less than a minute

Category : career

Can you give me a LinkedIn recommendation please?

If you ever had to write a recommendation for a colleague or friend, you also know how hard it is to write a positive, well formed description of that person. If you are like me, you will scratch your head for a long time before something useful manifests in form of a few sentences. Unlike a job reference, LinkedIn recommendations are still more personal and less standardized.

For writing a great recommendation though, it helps a lot to have a pre-defined structure. This way you only need to edit the specifics of your relationship. A great structure with several examples is described in this article.

Start with a knockout line to grab the reader’s attention. Then shortly describe the relationship you have. Next step is to describe a standout trait, something exceptional that the person stands for. Then you should give the recommendation a touch of personality and end with a solid recommendation.

This structure already helps, because you can be sure to cover every important aspect in your LinkedIn recommendation. However, it is still a lot of work to write it all down. I take the concept one step further, so you only need to fill in a few data fields and can quickly put together your favorite recommendation.

If you have a good sentence in mind, that you would like to see in a recommendation for yourself, just leave a comment below. I will add it to the tool so it improves over time.

Recommendation Tool

Simply fill in the values below and select sentences that best fit your relationship. The resulting text for copy & pasting will appear at the end.

Don’t forget making at least a sanity check before submitting such a recommendation. Does the text make sense? Did someone else already use the exact same words for his recommendation? Can you add a real personal sentence somewhere? Something that wouldn’t fit into a generic structure like this one.

I hope this tool will encourage you to post and receive more LinkedIn recommendations, whenever you would truly recommend someone. A recommendation should be something rare and valuable, though. So always re-read them before posting and make sure they are on spot and for the right person.

Name:

Gender:

Company:

Role:

Working together for:

Knockout Line

Relationship

Standout Trait

Personality Touch

Solid Recommendation

Your recommendation:

Few people have the opportunity to report to a manager who is also a coach and mentor – but I did when I worked for Ulrich. I had the pleasure to work with Ulrich for three years when he worked for me as Head of Mobile Development Android. He is always a very good communicator, also when the pressure is rising, calling for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback for every member involved in the project he’s managing. No matter how tense a meeting, Ulrich made sure everyone left with a smile. It was a pleasure working with Ulrich and I would enjoy working with him again.



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Career changes ahead

Category : career

It is an exciting time, as I have been quitting my high-rank day job for pursuing a different way of working. I am currently preparing self-employment, which should start around july.

Not everyone, certainly not my boss, understood why I am choosing this path. During the last months at 1&1 I was responsible for two teams with 20 developers in Munich and Bukarest. Since starting there, we have created some of the most successful mobile applications for the german market. I had a lot of great colleagues and also friends at work. Why did I look for something new? There were some good reasons for me:

  • The salary did not reflect this and there was no way around it because of company policy.
  • While being responsible for all these people and projects, I was not empowered to decide anything. Even small technical decisions had to be signed off by multiple committees, gatekeepers or just molesters in the company.
  • My career had peaked at the company. There was realistically no other role to move into or further climb the corporate ladder.
  • Losing my personal time, especially for Paragliding, because of important projects, meetings, etc…

Overall, the career was a pretty good one, but also very limited. This might be adorable again, when I have kids and other priorities in my life. At this moment, I feel the need to take on more risk in exchange for better opportunities.

Working self-employed is something I always wanted to do, but have set back because my career as an employee went too well and was a good time so far. While there are obviously more risks and not everyone likes this style of working, I hope it is the right thing for me. What I specifically hope for is:

  • More freedom to organize work and play time, as well as choosing tools and projects.
  • Getting paid better.
  • Getting to know many more companies and people. A 3 Month inhouse project is worth much more than a great interview, because people will perfectly know how you work.
  • Becoming more diversified skills and not depend only on a single company/boss.
  • Be closer to the business side of software development. When you are self employed, it is much simpler to start a project and try to monetize it, because you already have the legal setup.

Let’s see how it works out 🙂