I asked a question about joining a startup as a grad, specifically about the scenario where there wouldn't be any more senior programmers working above the grads: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/214306/as-a-soon-to-be-grad-will-my-skills-and-or-career-suffer-if-i-join-a-startup-wh

It was closed as off-topic (career advice), but I think the question of whether grads should join startups where there might not be technical leadership is one that could apply to lots of people, and the information in the accepted answer are definitely general enough to be helpful to future readers. Thus the closure of the question seems to go against the 'rule of thumb' from this officially cited answer: Are Career Advice questions useful to anyone except the poster?

Would it help if I edited the question remove most of the information that is specific to my situation, making it even more generally applicable?

Two final things: I flagged the question for mod attention and was told to come here. Also I'm not new to Stack Exchange, I'm an established user on Stack Overflow, but I wanted to ask this programmers question with a throwaway, seeing as I'm expressing concern about a potential future employer.


4 Answers 4


I think the closure of this question is correct. Not that the question itself is bad, but I think it does not pass the test: "Would the answer to the question be materially different if a non-programmer answered it?"

Rephrasing your question to a non-programmer one:

"As a soon-to-be-grad, will my skills and/or career suffer if I join a startup where I'll be the (equal) senior-most developer/administrator/engineer/accountant/lawyer?"

I work with HR and I guess the answer to this (generic) question should be the same as the answer to your question.

  • Fair enough. I'm still not sure I agree, because I think the answer to the question varies greatly depending on the field. For example, it might be OK as a programmer, but not as an administrator, etc. But clearly the majority disagrees with me, so I'm happy to admit defeat! :)
    – user104787
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 10:25

To improve your question's chance of survival, I'd remove the word "career" everywhere it occurs and focus on skills. I'd also remove the career-development tag.

When reviewing answers, keep in mind that no one really knows. I'm sure there are plenty of examples of heavy-duty programmers who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps without more senior coworkers. (The Google founders, early Facebook devs, etc...?) After all, our industry is obsessed with youth and it's companies like these that serve as the archetypes. On the other hand, a more skilled and enthusiast coworker isn't going to make you dumber. (Both Google and Facebook didn't waste any time hiring the big-brain PhDs and hackers once they gained some traction.)

To improve this meta question's chance of survival, I'd make it specifically about the validity of your question, not all career questions and answers. If you keep it general, I imagine it might be closed as a duplicate.


No, career questions are off topic precisely because they do not generalize well.

Giving a good career recommendation requires lots of personal information (career goals, skills, education, work eligibility, location, income requirements, experience, etc.). Even if we gave the perfect recommendation for you, that may not be helpful to others.

If we tried to give a general answer, the recommendation may not be useful to you because it doesn't consider your unique situation. Also, more general career questions tend to attract answers based almost entirely on opinions rather than facts, references, and specific expertise.

  • Did you even read my question? I wasn't looking for a career recommendation. In fact, I even explicitly said in my question that I wanted an answer to one specific concern (skill growth without a senior dev), and to ignore all other issues.
    – user104787
    Commented Oct 24, 2013 at 2:51
  • @user104787 Yes I read your question on the main site. I interpreted your meta question "Are career questions OK if both the question and answers contain generally applicable information?" to be about career questions in general, not just your specific question. Commented Oct 24, 2013 at 14:11

I think the closure of this question is correct. Not that the question itself is bad, but I think it would have a better home over at The Workplace.

  • Without wanting to be a dick about it, could you explain why? To me it passes the 'will this be useful for others' test, and it also passes the 'is it specific to programming' test. I get that The Workplace is designed to cater to a lot of the questions asked here that apply to lots of professions, rather than being programming-specific, but I think that mine is programming-specific. I'm asking specifically about small startups for grad programmers, which I think is a different answer to the general question of grads in any field working at small or startup companies.
    – user104787
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 10:48
  • 2
    @user104787: My reasoning was the same as Hbas outlined in his answer, but he wrote it down much better. Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 6:48
  • @user104787 - that's a fair question to ask of an answer within meta, and you phrased the question politely.
    – user53019
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 16:49

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