Creating a Recession Proof Career

If you spend all your free time at getting better or learning one thing, you become obsessed. And obsession creates passion.

Creating a Recession Proof Career

In 2018, I had gotten fed up working in person and getting the flu over and over again because the culture in San Francisco meant people went into the office sick. 

And I was sick of sitting in lengthy meetings where I would get chastised for not speaking up enough (in male dominated meetings where speaking up meant an argument and raising my voice) or getting in trouble for not doing enough learning workshops for engineering.

It felt awful. I was learning new processes, languages and frameworks but I never felt good enough at that company. Things weren’t clicking for me. 

I didn’t want to play the corporate dance anymore. I wanted to get my work done at a normal time and be able to focus on having a life outside of work too. I think the last straw was when I fell asleep at the office on my desk.

When I was able to walk in and give notice to my manager, it felt incredible. I landed a seemingly great remote job that allowed me to quit. More on that in a minute…

In 2019, I was laid off from that new great remote job. And I quickly had to find another one. 

I had just moved in with my then boyfriend (now my husband) and we had just gotten a puppy together because I was working remotely so I could be home to take care of her. 

Not to mention, we were living in San Francisco paying an arm and a leg in rent. But I loved being able to get my work done and walk to the beach and the flexibility of being able to work remotely. 

I had to get another remote job. And fast.

Both times, I decided I had to change my life. 

Here are a few things I did to land two jobs in six months.

Taught myself new skills

On my nights and weekends, I taught myself new skills relentlessly. I woke up early. I stopped going out as much with friends. I found ways to practice skills at work by giving workshops about new languages and spent my time teaching others.

I learned Node, Blockchain development, and started writing. Blockchain development was getting popular back then and not a lot of engineers had the skills at the time.

To land the Blockchain job, I took Blockchain courses, attended a Blockchain workshop, read Blockchain books, wrote a few simple projects with Truffle.js and React, and started writing blog posts on Blockchain to build a name for myself. I spoke at meetups even though it utterly terrified me and I made a ton of mistakes.

I even spoke at the first ever TruffleCon conference. (Such an early stage conference that the notes and presentation wasn’t set up correctly so I had to wing it with no notes!)

Quickly, my face was everywhere when it came to Blockchain development. I was networking at every meetup I could go to and tweeting about it constantly.

I landed a job in Blockchain. I felt amazing. 

And then, the market dipped. Layoffs were happening everywhere and the new shiny skill that I had just taught myself felt useless with the current market.

I got laid off. 

And that leads me to my next job..

Kept my skills sharp

After working Blockchain for a bit and seeing how tumultuous the market was, I decided to pivot to working as a full stack developer. I didn’t want the instability of working in Blockchain development and frankly, I realized I didn’t enjoy it that much. It was really interesting but I missed web development more.

I just had a few problems. There weren’t many remote jobs still. This was before 2020! I didn’t have a ton of experience at the time either and I needed a remote job that still paid enough for me to afford to live in San Francisco.

It was quite a pickle. I also had decided I wanted to work in React and Node.js next. And I had very little working experience in React and no Node working experience.

But thankfully, I hadn’t stopped learning in my own time during my job. I was building projects in React in my spare time to stay sharp and still networking at meetups.

I didn’t assume I was safe because I had a job. I kept working as much as I could in my spare time.

Scheduling Regular Interviews

I’ve talked about this before but I forced myself to start interviewing before I felt ready.

If you wait until you feel ready to interview, you’ll never interview. I promise that if you interview before you’re ready, you’ll be more successful and land a job faster.

One of the best job offers I received was a company I was extremely excited about and I didn’t even think I could pass the interview.

I also stopped assuming I had an offer until I had an offer 

One of the biggest mistakes I made while job hunting was to assume I had an offer before I had the actual offer.

I interviewed for a popular company (you know them!) and they strung me along for weeks doing actual work for the company with no support. I wasn’t even told how to run the repository and I had no work experience.

But they kept assuring me about the offer. 

So I kept working. For weeks. I would wait for days to hear back about a simple question. I was still unable to even run the tests for the repository they provided. 

Eventually, I gave them an ultimatum after I was getting nervous about being able to pay my rent. They declined to make an offer and said they hadn’t seen enough of my work yet.

At this point, I couldn’t take the gamble that they would eventually hire me so I decided to move on.

But I had lost weeks of savings/income/opportunities at that point. 

It taught me a valuable lesson to keep interviewing until I had a signed offer and a start date and I’ve remembered that lesson to this day. 

Find skills to learn at your current job

My skills had always leaned heavily frontend. But I wanted to pivot my career into a fullstack position. 

But I had no work experience in backend development. 

I started volunteering for backend tickets at work and reviewing pull requests. I spent nights and weekends again teaching myself. I took my work home at night so I wouldn’t delay the sprint with my lack of backend knowledge.

But you don’t always have to take work home! The good thing about finding ways to learn new skills at work is that you can learn at work!

This frees up a lot of time if you have kids, let me tell you! 

So let’s chat about that!

Cut out the fun stuff aka treat your technical interview prep like your job

Now that I have my son, I need to be even more deliberate about how I spend my time.

Gone are the days when I could spend the entire weekend binging the latest Netflix show before Monday so I wouldn’t see any spoilers.

I see a lot of spoilers now. Well, in the brief time I have to check social media in between diaper changes and dinner!

To have a life like nobody else does, you need to work like nobody else does. 

Here are some things I’ve cut out when working towards a goal:

  • I only watch television with my husband and we watch 1-2 a week if that. We haven’t been to the movies in years. Or a concert. 
  • I listen to podcasts while my son is in his stroller and I narrate an episode to him
  • I don’t scroll mindlessly on Instagram anymore. And let me tell you, that one is a hard one to cut out for me! Until I had a baby and it became very easy.
  • I have laser focus at my job and work relentlessly to get as much done as possible during the day so I don’t feel I have to work at night. Sometimes I do anyway.

And one of the biggest ways that I’ve stayed recession proof is that I don’t read/watch anything that won’t propel my life forward. I’ve found if I really focus on one thing, I become obsessed with it.

And then I become better at it.

If you spend all your free time at getting better or learning one thing, you become obsessed. And obsession creates passion.

And if you are obsessed with something, you get better at it. 

Randall Kanna


Senior Software Engineer at Trim with almost a decade of experience. Published O'Reilly Author. Ex Eventbrite, Pandora, Gumroad, Ticketfly.