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How to Grow as an Engineer (Working Remotely)

By John Lafleur 3 minutes read

TL;DR: There are many articles that cover the basics of being an effective remote worker. This article furthers the conversation by exploring the ways that more senior engineers can continue to grow professionally.

Solve the right problems

  • As an engineer, you’re not paid to write code; you’re paid to solve problems. It’s also not enough to just solve any problems. You need to be solving the right ones.
  • How exactly do you figure out what the right problems are to solve? It depends on the situation, but you can look for patterns: Considering your roadmap and your goals, what is keeping you from doing things more efficiently, with more quality, or more reliably?
  • Remote pro-tip: As a remote worker, by necessity, you can become proficient at noticing what is going on across the organization and learn about some of the problems affecting multiple groups. You can convince my manager that you can work with others on solution for the problem. Chances are, a problem that affects your team has the potential to be adopted more widely or to be done in partnership with others.

Find a theme and define a vision

  • Consistency is one of the main traits of a senior engineer.
  • Even if you are solving the right problems, there are different classes of right problems to solve: standardization, performance, resiliency, quality, innovation, developer productivity and so on. Explicitly choosing a class of problems you want to tackle and defining what your world will look like when you have some solutions in place bodes well for your career

Find a theme and define a vision

  • Consistency is one of the main traits of a senior engineer.
  • Even if you are solving the right problems, there are different classes of right problems to solve: standardization, performance, resiliency, quality, innovation, developer productivity and so on. Explicitly choosing a class of problems you want to tackle and defining what your world will look like when you have some solutions in place bodes well for your career

Strive for simplicity

  • As you progress in your career, you will learn that you have to prioritize both pragmatism in how you work and maintainability for the code you write.
  • One of the most direct paths to achieve those objectives is by focusing on simple solutions.
  • Spend some time planning what you need to do. Focus on the value that your solution is bringing to your organization and your users.
  • It’s easier to get something more focused when you do it a second time. So, when faced with an unfamiliar challenge, do a proof of concept.
  • Write a document that describes how you plan to solve your particular problem. Show it to others. Gather feedback early and often.

Work with and transfer to other teams

  • One of the best ways to learn is to challenge yourself, and one of the best ways to challenge yourself is to switch teams
  • Switching to a new team can be refreshing: new people, new problems, new processes, new goals.
  • Switching teams can lead to learning more about yourself and your organization. You might learn about what you don’t like or what is not a good fit for you, or that maybe it was a good fit and no longer is.

Automate yourself out of your job

  • This is sometimes counterintuitive: grow professionally by making yourself dispensable. By making yourself dispensable, you show that you can take on larger or more complex challenges
  • Instead of hoarding knowledge, processes and insight, write them down. Instead of doing the same task over and over again, teach others how to perform it or write a script to do it. Don’t do it all yourself.
  • You’ll improve your strategic thinking, in additional to improving the tactics you use to perform your job.

Other great advices such as:

  • Embrace being on call when it’s your turn
  • Organize, lead and participate in different groups
  • Diversify your 1:1 portfolio
  • Mentor and be mentored
  • Be passionate, in moderation
  • Have empathy


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