Nikita Kazakov
Nikita Kazakov
2 min read


The longer you’re in your career the more you realize how nauseating the following advice is:

  • Give it your 110%
  • Give it your best

This advice might feel good but it’ll stall your career at best — at worst, it’ll lead to burn out.

Your current job is a snapshot in your overall career. Your employer can try to help you thrive in their environment.

They can’t help you plan stepping stones to advance your career years from now. It’s YOUR job to manage your career and to look out for #1 — you.

If 100% of your working hours are spent working on writing code, shuffling meetings, and answer emails — you have zero time for creative exploration.

When I worked on Oil and Gas software — I worked with old technology. The application was written over 30 years ago and it was one of the first applications made for Windows OS.

We were slowly shifting towards web technologies. That was 7 years ago. Today — it still hasn’t shifted.

A business doesn’t see your career trajectory — at best, they can only optimize their requirements around your abilities.

I couldn’t learn newer technologies through on-the-job projects. That’s why I carved out 20% of my work time towards learning new skills outside of work tasks.

I worked with a guy in that industry who told me — Don’t become a dinosaur. That’s how you become irrelevant.

When the Oil and Gas economic downturn hit and companies were laying people off left and right — I was able to get off the Titanic and jump into the software industry.

Had I not taken 20% of the work time to learn — I’d still be working with decades-old tech. Newer trends would be scary. I’d be a dinosaur.

I’m not the first to use this strategy. Google, 3M, Atlassian have / had this policy at their companies. It resulted in happier workers and serious products came out of this work.

The employer benefits because you bring fresh ideas to existing projects as you keep up with technology.

Does carving 20% of your work time mean padding non-critical time estimates a little bit? Yeah. That feels dirty to write but it’s what people who manage their careers do but don’t publicly talk about.

Let me give you another example — I worked with a Rails project that had minimal Javascript. I felt confident in my Rails skills but my Javascript skills atrophied. I took 20% of the time to re-learn Javascript fundamentals. A few months later — the company decided to add a single page application front-end framework that was written in Javascript. What a nice coincidence!

Here’s what I imagine the worst case scenario to be — you give 100% of your time to your job and you’re stuck working with dying technology. The company goes belly-up and you get laid off. You realize that you didn’t keep up with the times and your current skills aren’t valuable to the marketplace.

Interviewing becomes a nightmare. You have to re-learn skills rather than learning while progressing in your career.

Don’t become a dinosaur and realize that YOU are in charge of managing your career. Carve out 20% of your work time for learning and for sharpening your saw.