Thoughts on Finding an Early Career Niche

Of the six internships that I completed during my undergrad, five were focused on Android development. When I was starting university and thinking about what I would like to work on during my internships, I had planned to try out different tech stacks to get a feel for what I enjoyed working with the most, as that was the advice I had often heard from upper year students and people working in the industry. Once I discovered my strong interest in Android development however, contrary to popular advice, I changed paths to direct my focus there and it’s a decision that I haven’t regretted since. In this blog post I want to share some of the unique benefits I’ve found that finding a niche in software engineering early on gave me in my career.

Depth Can Help Breadth

After getting more deep Android experience I realized that developing depth in one area can offer a good opportunity to expand the breadth of your knowledge to adjacent skills. While there are a large range of technical skills that span over tech stacks (Git, command line, SQL, etc.), the main breadth benefit I experienced was in non-technical skills, so-called soft skills, such as communication.

One of the things that I wanted to especially focus on improving during my internships (and still continuing to improve!) was my technical communication. I wanted to be better able to communicate technical challenges I was facing and offer ideas I had more clearly to my teammates. Focusing on Android development helped me a lot in this area as I was able to build up my knowledge and courage to become more comfortable asking questions and speaking up in meetings. I found that when I was just starting out in an area, I found it much harder to figure out what questions I even have, much less figure out how to clearly communicate them to others. Having more depth of experience in Android development has allowed me to ask deeper questions and learn the reasons behind some technical decisions that I don’t think I would have been able to understand (or even have the courage to ask about) had I been less familiar with the technology I was working with.

Taking on Bigger Projects

Another benefit I found from focusing on Android development was that I was able to take on bigger and less well-defined projects due to having a better understanding of some of the complexities that go into developing for Android. From this I was able to gain experience working on projects with larger impact and learn more about the engineering design process earlier on in my career. One example of this was having the opportunity to work on integrating in-app review prompts into Cash App during my internship. This was a highly impactful and visible feature that exposed me to many things I hadn’t worked with before like external SDK integrations and the testing and reliability complexities that can create.

The larger scope that these projects came with resulted in many benefits from diving deeper into the technical details of internal frameworks to meeting new people outside of my team and expanding my network. Without a strong foundation in Android development, I believe I would have had a much harder time being able to keep up in these larger projects and deliver the same level of impact that I was able to achieve in the length of an internship.

Thoughts For The Future

While everyone follows different paths in their careers, that can all lead to wonderful places, this is the one that worked out for me. I’m really enjoying the current work I’m doing in the Android space and could see myself continuing it for the foreseeable future. Of course, there is a part of me that leans towards trying out something new, when the timing is right. Thankfully, there is ample time try it all, whatever that may be.