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James Hickey
James Hickey

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Principle Of Compounding Interest In Your Career

Will It Ever Grow?

Whenever you start investing in growing your career you might decide to do things like:

  • Blogging
  • Building side-projects
  • Networking
  • Getting involved at user groups and meetups
  • etc.

Should you expect to have instantly visible results of how your reputation and career are growing in big ways?


I love to use the analogy of a garden when thinking about growing your career.

One aspect of this analogy I think is so true is the idea that, for many types of seeds, you have to wait for weeks or even months before seeing any results.

There are plants that really only begin to grow in a tangible way near the end of its entire growth cycle!

The same is true about our careers.

The start is seemingly slow.

But things begin to happen quickly after you've built momentum!

Compound Interest

The analogy often used to make this point is compound interest. With compound interest, your investment into the bank starts as a small amount of cash growing really slow. But as more time passes, the faster and more accelerated your cash will start to grow.

There's a certain momentum that begins to pick-up after time has passed.

Just like growing plants involves allowing the seed to soak up as much water and nutrients as needed at the beginning, growing your career takes some up-front investment and patience.

Yes, it does take hard work. But expecting that working hard will produce huge gains in a short amount of time is not how things work.

Building your career is a long-term game. It's like investing and waiting for that compound interest to work its magic.

The first steps in growing your career are more about building momentum than building tangible results.

My Experience

My experience has been exactly this.

About 2 or so years into my career I realized that just "doing my job" wasn't going to open opportunities for me. It wasn't going to differentiate me from everyone else who wanted to land awesome jobs and opportunities.

So, I started to make a plan and began learning very targeted topics.

In 2017, I started blogging. But I didn't blog that much.

With a family to take care of and a full-time job, I don't have as much free-time as most people.

Slowly though, I tried to promote my content on other publications.

I spoke at a user group.

One thing at a time.

About a year into it, I was given over $2000 worth of software for stuff that I blogged about.

Then, I started an open source project that ended-up gaining some traction.

Through this, I ended up being asked to write guest posts on

A few months ago, I started using Twitter as a platform to help developers with tips, test ideas I had, etc.

Some of these ideas seemed to resonate with lots of people, so I started an email newsletter based on one topic I had tested.

This snowballed into more recent opportunities like:

In my case, I feel like that momentum is starting to catch up.

But there was a long period of waiting and "just showing up".

My Advice For You

My advice:

Just show up.

If you are committed to making content for your blog, then just keep doing it.

You don't need to blog every single day or even every single week. I didn't.

Just keep pushing forward as you are able.

Have patience.

Take any opportunities that come your way.

Network and reach out to those you respect.

Try testing ideas on Twitter (or anywhere else) to see what people think.

Write content that you are passionate about!

But do understand the principle of compounding. It usually takes years to see the fruits of your labour in tangible ways.

Remember above all else that you are planting seeds.

Eventually, you'll see the plants beginning to sprout!


Have you experienced this feeling, like nothing is happening in your career?

Then at some point, things seemed to take-off?

Was it because of a specific event that seemed to launch things? Or was it more like just a stream of opportunities that started coming in?

Let us know in the comments so everyone can learn!

Keep In Touch

Don't forget to connect with me on:

You can also find me at my web site

Navigating Your Software Development Career Newsletter

An e-mail newsletter that will help you level-up in your career as a software developer! Ever wonder:

✔ What are the general stages of a software developer?
✔ How do I know which stage I'm at? How do I get to the next stage?
✔ What is a tech leader and how do I become one?
✔ Is there someone willing to walk with me and answer my questions?

Sound interesting? Join the community!

Top comments (12)

amejiarosario profile image
Adrian Mejia

I can totally relate to this story. Some years ago I was doing some work on very old Java frameworks and hated them. I stared learning ruby on rails at nights and weekends while doing side projects. Also, I started blogging. Recruiters find me because of the posts. I was able to land a much better job thanks to that and show my side projects as experience in that new programming language. Later I rode the all JavaScript train and started blogging about that. I received an offer to write a book with a publishing house and it was a great experience. So, things really compound and one take you to the next one. The key is to be consistent and always keep learning and sharing what you learn with others

jamesmh profile image
James Hickey

Nice! It's pretty cool that you were able to pivot quite a number of times 💪

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Yeah i like the part in planting seeds and giving back is the way to go that is how I feel as well.

Besides writing, I help out alot in developer communities and teaching for personal development & networking reasons.

someguydev profile image
Guy • Edited

This is ridiculous, why does one have to live for programming to be successful in this industry? What other industry is like this? There are so many well careers jobs such as Mechanical Engineering or Aerospace Engineering where you clock out at 5 and have a life outside work. You don't see them writing blogs and doing more work-related stuff outside work.

You say that "doing your job" alone was not sufficient to progress in your career, so you did a bunch of work-related stuff outside work. I personally think it's silly that in order to be successful in this industry you have to do all these extra things you mentioned. What happens to people who have hobbies outside of programming?

jamesmh profile image
James Hickey

I never said this was a "good" or "bad" thing. It's just the way it is.

I also never said you have to do these things to be "successful", which is a very subjective term.

Some people are ambitious with their career, some aren't. That's fine.

Let's reverse your question: is it fair that those who bust their butts to learn new skills, improve the ones they have, build a reputation and gain a diverse range of experience ought to move ahead in their careers relatively quicker than those who don't?

Would a company rather hire someone who's aquired those extra valuable skills and experience or not?

So again, I've never made any ethical arguments. It's the just the way the world works. Companies need to hire people who can produce certain results. If you can't prove yourself, then how do you expect companies to hire you?

Wouldn't you rather hire a well-known construction company who has a great track record and can show you many examples of sucessful houses they've built, rather than a company that no one has ever heard of and can't show you any previous results?

For a company, hiring a software engineer can be more costly than building a house (relatively speaking)! So then, they better be careful who they hire...

Or, if you owned large a company that needed to drastically change the way it does marketing, would you rather hire Seth Godin or someone who's been working for a relatively unknown market firm for the last 10 years?

These examples also lead me to disagree that it's only applicable in our industry.

I would say that the effects of doing the extra work is more impactful in our industry, especially given the saturation of developers in the market, but it's a matter of degree vs. having an effect at all/not.

I felt the same as you - I have 8 young children dude! You have no idea how busy I am... If anyone should be upset about this, it's me!

But instead of getting upset over what other people are doing/not doing, what my limitations are, and thinking about why I am not progressing like others, I'm taking action in ways that I am able - it's all I can do, right?

No one should be upset if I plant my own garden, as it were, and am able to harvest my own crops?

If you don't want to learn on the side, that's fine. There's no obligation.

But don't get upset if you see other developers putting the work in and landing better jobs and building their careers. For those who would rather not, that's fine.

Again, it's not about "successful" vs "not successful", it's about "if you value progression in your career beyond where you are, then here are some ways to go about doing it."

Thanks for the comment! I suspect many feel the same way, so it's great feedback 👌

anshulnegitc profile image
Anshul Negi

I new to and thought it as a platform for sharing only technical aspects but this article is beyond the insight that other content presents.
Little step day by day makes a way.

marek profile image
Marek Zaluski

Great post James. I featured it in my latest video:

jamesmh profile image
James Hickey

Thanks Marek!

jjtowle profile image
Jason Towle

Great post as always James.

jamesmh profile image
James Hickey

Thanks for the kind words Jason!

flrnd profile image
Florian Rand

Imagine waking up one morning and realize that, for some reason, you can't or don't want to follow that path anymore. And start this process all over again!

jamesmh profile image
James Hickey

I don't think you would "start over", since the idea here is that you are proving to the community at large that you competant and can product results. Building a reputation is more about showing people what you are capable of doing, but you just happen to be focusing on some specific area for now.

Adrian's comment highlights that you can pivot if that's something you want to do!