My first ever Medium story got 22.5k views in its first 3 weeks.

What I did right ✅ and wrong ❌.

THREAD. 🧵 👇🏽 Image
✅ I had a story to tell.

I did something cool in real life. This is important.

I had a unique journey at Amazon. I overcame my technical incompetency to achieve success.

I wanted to help people overcome similar challenges.
✅ I told the whole story.

People read stories to apply experience to their life.

I was vulnerable. I used quantitative metrics (“80+ comments”). I showed my feelings (“face turned red”).

I provided the mindset I used to overcome struggles. Specific and actionable.
✅ I wrote the story well.

I established credibility within the first paragraph. I sprinkled credibility throughout.

I didn’t hire an editor. This damages authenticity. I used hemingwayapp [dot] com to ensure a 6th grade reading level.

Spent ~20 hours writing/editing/revising
❌ The story is too long.

Only 7k out of 22.5k people viewing the story actually read it. A 32% read ratio.

Too low. Could be better if the story was shorter. 7 minutes, not 10.
❌ The call to action is weak.

“Follow me on Twitter” isn’t until the end.

Gaining Twitter followers was not the primary goal, but I only gained 200. A horrible < 1% follower conversion rate.

I got 1k LinkedIn connection requests I didn’t want. 😅
✅ I used a strong headline.

“Amazon shouldn’t have hired me. Here’s how I became an SDE2.”

First sentence is controversial. It grabs your attention. It starts with “Amazon” - a well known brand.

Second sentence tells people they’ll be able to learn from my experience.
✅ I used captivating images.

The headline image is making the “Shh” symbol. As if I’m revealing a deep, dark secret. Goes well with the headline. Sparks curiosity.

Halfway, I used an image of myself. Shows humanity, after demonstrating humility and vulnerability in words.
✅ I leveraged existing networks for distribution.

I had < 500 connections/followers on every social. Views breakdown:

LinkedIn - 11k views
FB/IG - 850 views
Other - 6k views

Surprisingly there were 4.6k views from email/IM. I hadn’t emailed it to anybody.
❌ My distribution was not niche enough.

I am a n00b to niche platforms like HackerNews, Reddit and Hashnode. Posting there would increase exposure and read ratio.

Side note: I need to learn how to effectively deal with trolls on these sites. 😅
✅ I didn’t use the Medium paywall.

I wasn’t sure about this decision. It turned out to be a good one (I’m not monetizing).

I didn’t get curated. But this allowed more people access to the story.
✅ I had an incredible learning experience.

I’m incredibly happy I shared my story.

Hundreds of people messaged me across different platforms about how much I had inspired them.

Can’t wait to write again!
From Amazon impostor to leader, my story: medium.com/@curtiseinsman…

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More from @curtiseinsmann

12 Nov
From an Amazon tech lead: soft skills I’d tell my younger, jr software engineer self. 🧵 👇
1️⃣ Exude kindness.

The tech world is full of strong opinions. You may perceive people as mean. They’re not. They just want the best outcome.

Resist the temptation to become an unpleasant person. Radiate kindness while holding a high standard. You’ll go far.

👇
2️⃣ Ask stupid questions.

There are a million technologies. You’re not expected to know them all.

Example question: “I don’t understand what those words mean. Can you explain them, or point me to a resource which does?”

👇
Read 12 tweets
16 Oct
I’ve reviewed over 750 PR’s at AWS. As my team’s tech lead I provide insightful feedback and enforce a high code quality bar.

But as a jr engineer I couldn’t review code. I didn’t know where to start, what to look for or how to comment.

Here’s how I review PR’s. 🧵 👇
1️⃣ I understand why code reviews matter.

They're an excellent coaching opportunity. Insightful feedback accelerates learning and growth.

Quality code strengthens readability and system understanding. This is a force multiplier for the team’s long term feature velocity.

👇
2️⃣ I’ve taken the time to learn programming best practices.

I understand principles like SOLID, DRY and KISS.

I’ve read the Clean Code book. I understand the importance of naming, small functions and logical control flow.

👇
Read 11 tweets
21 Sep
When I was a jr engineer at AWS my PR’s went through 100+ comments and 7+ revisions due to poor code quality. The friendly, helpful feedback helped me improve.

Now as a mid-level I tend to ship code in <= 2 revisions with minimal comments.

Here’s how I’m doing it. 🧵👇
1️⃣ I understand why code quality matters.

We read code 10x more than we write it. Our code must be understandable so our team can maintain and add features.

Poorly written code causes PR churn, which results in delayed delivery and can block other team members.

👇
2️⃣ I take on small tasks.

A good PR starts before any code is written. The task should be small, resulting in an easily reviewable PR.

Bad task: UpdateWidget API

Better: split into 4 separate tasks - UpdateWidget model; AuthN/AuthZ; input validation; implementation

👇
Read 12 tweets

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