2022 marks the year I will have been in the tech industry for 10(!) years. There have been a lot of changes in that time, both in my life and the tech world, and now feels like an appropriate time to share my thoughts on the past, present, and future.
I'm a quiet person. Always have been and I think I always will be. I like to think things through before I speak, and I find it easier to communicate in smaller groups. For a long time I thought this was a flaw that needed to be fixed, rather than a strength that should be embraced. Can you blame me? Our industry has shaped itself around extroversion—Open plan offices, board rooms, town hall meetings, "let's go round the room and share our thoughts". We have all these processes in place to get things done, but it's like someone suggested them and only asked the loud people what they thought. The result is an industry that works great for certain types of people.
But I think there's a place for everybody here. Over the past few years I've been what I call "loudly quiet", loudly defending people's right to be quiet. This means when I see a process that doesn't work well for quiet people I call it out. Not in a rude way, just a polite sort of nudge. Here's a made up, but not so unrealistic, example.
"Our criteria for a senior engineer is that they give 3 talks to our engineering department a quarter"
Someone new to the industry could think this career isn't for them if they don't enjoy public speaking, but that's not necessarily true. Public speaking is a great asset that will benefit your career as a software engineer, but I know from experience that you can be successful while playing into other strengths. I've worked with countless engineers that still do amazing work and earn good money while not speaking publicly.
When I hear the above, I ask "what is the job to be done?". What are we actually trying to achieve by making people give 3 talks? Is it knowledge sharing? Is it visibility in the team? Is it something else? When we get to the underlying requirement we often find that there are so many creative and inclusive ways to achieve the same thing. I think that's beautiful. It means we can create an environment where everybody in the team can join in and be happy.
Over the next decade, I'll continue to be loudly quiet. I wish I could go back 10 years and tell myself that there's a place for me here. I can't do that, but I can for new people in the industry.
I still don't know everything
There's a finite set of things I know and an infinite set of things I don't. Over the past 10 years, both of those have grown.
It's very intimidating when you first start out in tech—everybody seems to know so much more than you. Even if you make an effort to learn what someone mentions, you'll have a conversation with someone else who knows even more about a different topic. This doesn't really go away, but over time it becomes less of a concern. The way I see things now is that I don't need to know everything because somebody else already does (or rather a collection of somebodies). Viewing it as collaborative (there are lots of knowledgeable people ready to help) rather than competitve (why do they know more than me?) is a much healthier mindset for me.
There's more to life than tech
When I first started out in tech I was ferociously hungry to learn everything. I was always reading or writing code—all day, evenings, weekends etc. With this in mind, you'll be shocked to hear that after about 6 or 7 years I began to burn out. It's not a sustainable way for a human to live a life. Eventually, I started to do other things in my free time and became much happier and healthier. I became more than just a programmer—I was a runner, musician, furniture maker, husband, and (dog) father. Over the next 10 years I'm excited to be an engineer, but I'm also excited to play a lot of guitar and run some marathons.
I've been fortunate enough to work with some really wonderful people over the years. People that have taken me under their wing and been genuinenly invested in helping me progress my career. I could never begin to repay everyone for this, but I can pay it forward. I've been mentoring engineers for several years now and I intend to make it a priority over the next decade.
I have absolutely no idea what the tech world will look like in 10 years from now, but I hope it's a more inclusive and happy place where it's easy to center a div.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!