This article assumes the following:
1) You are a developer on a software product
2) You work closely with the “product team” (product manager, UX designers, technical product manager) for said software product
If you’re in this environment, then I have 3 not-so-obvious ways that you can stand out.
You might be thinking: “What does this have to do with software development?”
Well, the thing is the product team, even a technical product manager, is not going to someone who knows who to write code, and if they do, they clearly aren’t super fascinated by it (otherwise they’d switch positions).
The point is that developers deserve a different purpose, and therefore, their interests and routines are different.
Product team members are usually more consumed with meetings. Developers are left alone.
Meetings includes small talk, which includes opening up somewhat to your personal life (what’s everyone doing this weekend, my son won his baseball tournament, etc. etc.)
Developers simply don’t have as much opportunity to talk about these things. And let’s face it, we’re thought of as more introverted and bearers of a technical skill that is foreign to others. We’re different.
So, how do you stand out? Be different the normal different.
What’s one way to do that?
Open up about your personal life.
Chime in on the small talk in your meetings. And/or, post photos about your life (house projects, vacations, food, etc.) in the Slack/Teams channel.
The more you open up, the less foreign you’ll seem as a developer. The less foregoing you seem, the more you’ll be approached and trusted with product team members.
The more trusted you are, the more valuable you are.
Let’s be honest. Learning new frameworks, technologies, libraries, coding patterns, etc. is great. I do it all the time.
But, the product team doesn’t really care. I mean, they are in so far as they should let you work on tech debt and improvements. They should care that the technology is stable and scalable. They just don’t care whether it’s React or Vue, etc. That’s for the developers to decide.
Quite frankly, the blogosphere moves faster into new frameworks and tools than a product team does, even when they prioritize tech debt.
Given that a product team is not interested in the technical weeds per se, and that technological updates take time, it’s important to see how providing input on the direction of a product is arguably more important, certainly just as important as staying up with the latest technology trends.
So, you should see providing input, from the perspective of a developer, as a vital skill.
This means 1) attend all optional product meetings, 2) pay careful attention (don’t code with your camera off), 3) devour articles about UX/UI patterns, and 4) speak up (even if you just affirm what someone else said).
If you treat this skill seriously, the product team will seriously see you as valuable.
Piggy-backing off the previous point, it’s important that you realize the uniqueness (and hence the value) of your perspective as someone who can provide product input with technical foreknowledge.
Meaning, developers know what is technically possible when providing input on the design and direction of a product. They can suggest what the product team and users won’t think of.
Spend some time thinking about ways to improve the experience of a product with technical solutions that may not have been thought of.
This is in addition to the usual input of saying what is or isn’t feasible in a newly design project/feature.