How should I spend a year off of work to catapult my career?

Hi! I am a 23 year old dev with 3 years of experience. I have worked 1 part time and 2 full time jobs. I’ve worked mainly as a web fullstack dev with PHP and python as backend. I have a CS degree but it was only when I started working that I became really interested in programming.

I decided to leave my job for a year because I realized that I am in a very good position to catapult my career as a dev. My family is healthy and don’t have any problems with finances. I also get to spend time with them the entire year. I don’t have wife and kids and I can spend my time wherever I desire. I have savings that allow me to be free from work for a year and still cover basic expenses. I live in a peaceful town. It’s simply an opportunity I cannot waste.

I have listed my goals and how I plan to go about achieving it. Please let me know if there’s a better way to learn a certain topic or a more efficient way to achieve said goals. Are my goals too absurd? Am I aiming at the wrong thing? I’m looking for validation on my approach. The ultimate goal is to catapult my career. Let me know how you would go about it if you were in my position.

List of goals I want to achieve after 1 year:

  • I want to get paid $25k/year. I was making $8k/year previously. It was good money and I was genuinely grateful for it, but I realized I can make more.
  • Better understand low level concepts (compilers, operating systems, etc.)
  • Become a regular contributor to the open source community
  • Have a web portfolio and have at least one app for every programming language I love working on.
  • (OPTIONAL) Get a job on a different programming discipline. I still love web dev but I think I can learn and enjoy more and trying new things.

List of things I am doing to achieve the listed goals:

  • Get a mentor
  • Get more involved with the community
  • Read books / take courses similar to nand2tetris enough to have good understanding on low level stuff.
  • Strengthen/reinforce fundamentals by courses like ones from Open Source Society University.
  • Allocate at least 3 hours a day working on personal projects
  • Learn 2-3 new languages (C# → Rust/Go → Kotlin/Dart)
  • Read more books about how to think better and do something well, rather than books that explains how something works. (Clean Code, The Pragmatic Programmer, etc.)

It’s awesome that you have the opportunity to do this. I’m not a career advisor or in any way qualified to give advice to you, but I am an experienced developer and I often interview candidates. Here are my recommendations regarding your plan. Feel free to ignore any or all of them.

The big thing that jumps out about your plan to me is that it is broad, rather than deep. Instead of trying to learn multiple new languages and having at least one project in each, I would suggest really focusing on gaining a depth of knowledge in the area you want to transition to. Maybe you want to spend a little bit of time up front learning the basics of a couple of languages or technologies, but then I suggest picking one and building a project of significant size and complexity in that technology. Becoming a regular contributor to an open source project is also great. If you come out of your year with just those two things, a project you can really be proud of and regular contributions, then I think you’ll be in really good shape. Since you’re not a brand new developer, I think that flitting from course to course or project to project is not a particularly good use of your time. Spending a year working in a focused way on something also comes across more as a continuation of work rather than “taking a year off”.

“Get a mentor” can be the sort of thing that sounds great in your head, but is hard to enact in practice. Since you’ve worked in software development for several years, maybe you already have some people in your life who you think of as a mentor who are willing to give you support and advice. If not, I suspect that you’ll be most likely to find a more informal “mentor” through participation in a community (like this one, or the open source project you want to contribute to, or regular meetups, etc). By regular participation and building relationships, you might be able to find someone whom you look up to as a mentor.

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I agree with everything you pointed out. Thank you. This really means a lot to me.