It’s been several years since I switched fields and became a software engineer. I’ve made big leaps in my career since then, partly because of luck, partly because of hard work, and partly because of my whisper group.
What’s a whisper group? (I just recently learned the term myself)
It’s a group of people that have a shared professional interest and openly talk about anything related (or not) to that topic. The discussions don’t even have to take place in person! Most are virtual and often take the form of a group text or social media group.
Mine formed accidentally after the coding bootcamp as a way to keep in touch with classmates. Naturally we had a lot to share professionally since we were all going through similar experiences at the same time, but the topics of discussion and the benefits of participating quickly expanded beyond work. Over the years, these are the most valuable things I’ve gotten from the group:
- Salary Information — For software engineers, even with online resources like glassdoor, r/cscareerquestions, levels.fyi, Blind, and StackOverflow’s annual survey, it can be hard to know what the going rate is for someone with your skill set and experience. By sharing our salaries, bonuses, raises, stock options, and stock grants with one another, we’ve been able to understand what the market rate is for the industry and how it differs between small start ups and large companies.
- Negotiations — Traditionally all the knowledge and power has been held by the employer, but when you can tell a recruiter that your friend got an offer of X from the same company last week, the conversation usually goes a little bit differently. We also share past negotiation experiences and tips on how to approach negotiations for a better outcome. Besides compensation, this also applies to working remote, professional development, and paid time off.
- Interview Preparation — There are so many resources, premium subscriptions, and paid courses on how to prepare for interviews, but nothing beats hearing about what other people used and what they thought was most helpful. It’s tough enough finding the time to study while working full time so this type of curated content is so valuable when job hunting.
- Job Openings — Bad jobs and layoffs happen. But when they do, we’ve been able to point out which companies are hiring and suggest ways to get a foot in the door. We share contacts and fight over referral bonuses, but ultimately benefit in the large size of our combined networks.
- Friendly Competition — After graduating school, it can be hard to figure out if you’re continuing to grow at a good pace. By sharing promotions and new jobs, we’ve gotten to see what kind of growth is possible within the industry. It has also encouraged many of us to explore new opportunities even when we’re perfectly comfortable in our current positions. Not that we encourage keeping up with the Joneses, but no one has turned down a higher paying job yet.
- Emotional Support — Not every day is a catered lunch and a game of table tennis. Sometimes you just need to rant about something technical or talk about how you’re not feeling motivated to study problems on Leetcode.
- New Ideas — In addition to new developments in the industry, the group also talks about a random assortment of topics like FIRE, remote work, travel hacking, fitness, etc. It’s been rewarding to see everyone pursue personal goals outside of work.
- Friendship — Even though we don’t see each other on a daily basis anymore, we still meet up and travel together pretty frequently. There’s something special about having friends that understand your professional struggles beyond a surface level.
I can’t imagine where I would be career wise without this whisper group, but I know that it has helped me tremendously in speeding up my FIRE journey while also making me more resilient to any obstacles I may encounter in the future.
What about you? Do you have a whisper group? I’d love to hear about the different ways you benefit from them in the comments below.