Letter to a Young Hacker

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I wrote my first app 15 years ago. It was basic and crude, but it worked. “If I knew then what I know now…” is fairly cliche, but I often wonder what advice I would give my younger self if I could. I wrote my “Letter to a Young Hacker” to explore that idea.

What up Hacksta (that’s how kids these days talk, right?),

Humans long to create, and hacking gives you the ability to create almost anything you can think of. Many years ago I was in your position. Since then, I’ve learned a lot (mostly through making mistakes). I’ll be brief because I know you’re eager to go build awesome things.

Be Part of the Community

Hacking can be an insular task – just you, your computer and a screen full of code. Enjoy these times, but also seek out a community that shares your passion. Not only is it more fun to share what you do with others, but it’ll make you better at what you do, too. Remember these times when you’re a n00b. Someday you’ll be more experienced and will need that reminder to be patient and help people who are just starting off.

It Takes a Team

It’s easy to get a big head being a hacker. It’s an extremely challenging activity, and the outcomes can be mind-blowing. But don’t fool yourself into believing that people who aren’t hackers are somehow less important than you. People have different skills. People who are good at things other than hacking can be equally as important to developing a successful project. Very rarely does success come from a team where everyone has the same skill. Appreciate those who do things you don’t and learn from them.

Never Forget How Amazing This Is

Sites will go down. You will have bugs in your code. Your app may even go viral and cause you to max out your credit cards to keep it up. Don’t let these stresses cause you to forget how amazing being a hacker is. You are building things that didn’t seem possible¬†5 or 10 years ago. You have more power in your hand than what put man on the moon. Find ways to remind yourself of this. Going to hackathons, meetups and conferences is a nice way to do this. People who take the time to attend these types of events typically have found a way to stay amazed with technology.

I could probably write a really boring book about everything I’ve learning in the past decade of hacking, but these have been the most important.

Cheers,
-Ricky