Empathy in Engineering

• 1 min read

How can you be the best software engineer in your company? I see many engineers over-index improving the hard skills that are core to their role: trying to master the most advanced concepts in JavaScript, for example.

How can you be the best software engineer in your company?

I see many engineers over-index improving the hard skills that are core to their role: trying to master the most advanced concepts in JavaScript, for example.

Sure, that's probably important. But, here's a tip: spend time learning about the vast array of topics that are outside your core role, but matter a lot to the people around you. Product Managers and Designers for example.

Don't worry about mastering the skills – that's not the point. The point is to understand the adjacent topics well enough such that you can actively improve your sense of empathy toward those people.

The best engineers I've ever worked with were not the ones who could do some code acrobatics with linked lists or something. The best engineers were the ones who knew how to apply their craft in the most productive and constructive way, given the circumstance.

They were the ones who could be scrappy when the business needs to move fast, or move slow when they need.

Knowing how to apply your craft requires a sufficient level of understanding beyond your own role, and your own tasks. You need to know what constraints the others are facing, and what the business is trying to achieve right now.

If you're looking to move up in your technical role, keep this in mind. If you want to be a better engineer, grab a book on product management.

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