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How Candost polyworks: The value of long-term thinking

How Candost polyworks: The value of long-term thinking

Based in Germany, Candost Dagdeviren is a Software Engineering Manager at Jimdo.

When not plugged into his 9-to-5, he’s mentoring and advising; writing articles and blog posts; hosting “Software World,” a biweekly podcast; and working on “Mektup,” his biweekly newsletter. For the first installment of this two-part series, we sat down with Candost to dive into:

  • Why he never stops calling his side hustles “hobbies”
  • Saying “no” to good opportunities to make way for great ones
  • His criteria for forming the most fruitful collaborations and mentorships

What Are You Polyworking On?

In my full-time role, I’m a software engineering manager. My focus is on creating high-performance systems while also helping team members become the best versions of themselves.

I also write articles for my blog, host a podcast, and run a newsletter. Each one has its own purpose or niche. More specifically:

  • My podcast is focused on technical software engineering. It makes up for the fact that I don’t do as much hands-on coding these days.
  • My newsletter more so addresses the human element — helping the engineers themselves grow into industry leaders. It’s less geared toward newcomers.
  • My articles then kind of capture everything in between, from my own life.

When Do You Polywork?

I’ve tried many different daily schedules and time management tactics, but one in particular has worked well for me recently.

I wake up at 6 or 6:30 A.M. and basically block out two-to-three hours of my mornings to focus on everything unrelated to my full-time role: writing, podcasting, etc.

Certain things are flexible, like if I have a guest on my podcast that week. Some of my featured guests are living in the USA, so we’ll record when they’re in the A.M. and I’m in the P.M. here.

If I’m recording alone, I’ll write content in the mornings as usual and record on the weekends, so spending one Saturday or Sunday to record, edit, and perfect the episode.

How Do You Decide Who To Work With?

If I’m selecting potential guests for “Software World,” I obviously look for experienced individuals on a topic, but I’ve also been emphasizing diversity in my lineups.

Beyond labels of gender and race, I try to be mindful of people who may be out of the spotlight while doing amazing but less visible work in the corners of the industry.

Looking back, there have been times when those who were externally successful with well-curated personal brands were actually pretty misleading. So it can be difficult to cut through the noise and find and highlight the players doing truly underappreciated industry work. But that's what I aim to do with this podcast.

I follow a similar logic when choosing individuals to mentor or coach. I don't look directly for these people, so I try to be as clear-headed as possible when they approach me first.

The big question is, "Am I actually capable of helping them on their journey?" If not, I can tell pretty soon and will be upfront: "Hey, thanks for the interest. I'm likely not your best match."

What Mistakes Have You Learned From?

One of my first big mistakes when I began polyworking was starting a ton of projects because I hate sitting idly, but then never considering the long-term sustainability of those efforts.

The same would happen at my job. I'd jumpstart all these initiatives in the workplace because I had the time at that point, but then didn't plan how it'd continue afterward.

Now, when I start things, the long-term vision is crucial. For instance, I started my newsletter and podcast as weekly endeavors, then realized I wouldn’t be able to sustain that cadence.

So I found the biweekly upload to work well — one week for podcasting, one week for newsletter writing. You have to find your own correct pace to establish something sustainable.

What New Opportunities Do You Prioritize?

I'm unsure who said this, but it's stuck with me forever: "To be able to say 'yes' with your whole body to great things, you have to say 'no' to the good things."

Of course, it's so difficult to say no to a good thing. I'm definitely still learning how to do so. But I'm trying hard to keep my focus because I know that a rare moment will come along.

I’ve felt it before — when I found out I was becoming an engineering manager. Every single cell in my body was reacting positively. You feel it in your gut, hands, everywhere.

That’s a full-body “yes” moment. You pass on the good-but-not-perfect stuff to get there. Even if I’m just planning a podcast, if I’m only partly satisfied with the topic, I move to the next one.

Why Do You Polywork?

At the end of the day, writing is a hobby. I love the craft. I love reading, researching, and forming notes into complete pieces. I don't write to churn out content; I do it to shape my thoughts.

I’m also always looking to improve at this thing I enjoy, so the best way to do so is obviously practicing as much as possible. It’s impactful because English isn’t my native language.

I am basically learning the language as I write and choose my words carefully, which makes things more difficult. There’s a steep learning curve but, again, I value this as a hobby.

The same goes for podcasting. It's a project of love. The pandemic finally pushed me to try livestreaming after wanting to for so long, since we were all stuck inside.

The livestreams turned into podcasts, and the podcast became a way for me to keep my technical perspective sharp. It gets time-consuming, but it’s worth the fun of hobbying around.