My Winning Recipe for Being a Successful Engineer: The Synergy of Friendship and Competence.
As I pause at the end of the year to reflect on the many curveballs life threw at me in 2023, I’ve decided to revive this blog to share an epiphany about what has driven my success as a software engineer. It’s easy to convince myself that I was at the right places at the right times, but I should dig a little deeper. So, here is my humble attempt at breaking that down into its essential components.
As a motorcycle rider, I have had the privilege of meeting some really fast people. At first they are very intimidating, but after a few group rides, they proved to be nothing but extremely caring and knowledgeable individuals. One of them once taught me, that while there is no replacement for a powerful engine, a skilled rider will always be faster.
The concept of leveraging strength – be it in horsepower or brainpower – has been instrumental in my professional growth. That brings me to the two secret wisdoms of the trade.
I’d argue that no successful engineer will ever make it without collaborating with capable engineers they are lucky enough to have as friends. In my career, these individuals have been my secret sauce, offering advice, spectacular code reviews, and always teaching me something new. Because of them, no bug or feature is too daunting.
Also, these friends are the people who magically manage to throw me a floating device during the deadliest thunderstorms at sea. They span companies, continents, and genders. Their diversity is important because each one of them offers a valuable perspective. Like my family, I cannot imagine life without them.
The second and last ingredient that makes a good engineer is delivering quality work. While trusting upper management to shield us from disruptions, we can be laser-focused on understanding the intricacies of the code and making it work. For that moment, there is nothing else but you and the machine. The longer we manage to be in there, the better the results. Getting in the zone is a delicate endeavor. One of my favorite articles discussing this is the Maker’s Schedule; Manager’s Schedule, by Paul Graham.
While some define competence as a mix of intelligence and discipline, I view it as a blend of curiosity and stubbornness. Keeping notes along the way is also very helpful! There’s a saying about persistence from President Coolidge that I find very relevant:
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than
unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated
Persistence and determination, alone are omnipotent.
The slogan “Press On” has solved, and will always
solve, the problems of the human race."
Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the USA
As engineers, we’re often focused on the technicalities, the code, and the systems. But remember, it’s also the human connections and our approach to challenges that define our journey. To all budding engineers – embrace these elements, and let them guide you through your own complex algorithms of career and life.
Some links related to this article:
- Maker’s Schedule; Manager’s schedule: Insights into optimizing your work schedule for maximum productivity
- Redefining the Networking Industry Through Collaboration: A note on the pixie-dust of working as a team
- Calvin Coolidge Was Almost Right: An interesting twist to the persistence point of view
- My third week at Red Hat: Coding skills is half of the story
- Taking a break: Getting a sabbatical
- R6 pictures and burning some rubber video: A glimpse of how fun it is to ride in the racing track