For software engineers at all levels, from beginners to seasoned veterans, taking ownership of your work is key to multiplying your success. It's about being proactive, visionary, and communicative in your approach. Here's how you can embody these principles in your daily work to achieve greater success in your engineering career.
Whether you're working in the frontend, backend, or full-stack, staying updated with every change in your codebase is essential. This means not just being aware of the changes you make but also understanding those made by your teammates. Regularly engage in code reviews and discussions about new features or fixes. This deep understanding of your domain helps you anticipate issues, innovate solutions, and collaborate more effectively with your team.
Never take code reviews for granted, it's easy to get consumed with your own work and feel as if you're too busy but code reviews are an opportunity for everyone involved to get better.
Ownership means guiding your projects from conception to completion. This involves setting clear goals, planning effectively, and being accountable for the outcome. Whether you're working on a small module or a large system, treat each task as your personal responsibility. Ensure that every phase of the project aligns with the overall objectives, and make adjustments as needed to stay on course. Think of whatever you're working on as a business deal, and strive to be there every step of the way until the deal closes.
If someone has questions or issues around your feature, be the first person to step up and get things resolved.
Developing a long-term perspective is crucial. Think about how your work fits into the larger picture and contributes to the company's goals. Focus on creating sustainable, scalable solutions rather than quick fixes. This long-term mindset will not only enhance the quality of your work but also aid in your professional growth and development. When thinking about solution implementation, I like to ask myself if the pattern in question would be acceptable at scale. If you wouldn't want the pattern repeated throughout the codebase, I would consider taking a step back and coming up with a different approach.
Chances are if you aren't making the codebase better for your future self and those who come after you, you are making it worse.
Don’t wait for instructions or opportunities to come to you. Be proactive in identifying areas for improvement or innovation in your projects. Propose new ideas, volunteer for challenging tasks, and be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Taking initiative demonstrates your commitment and can lead to more significant contributions and recognition in your role.
A good example of this is codebase tech debt and maintenance. I'd wager that all codebases will accumulate tech debt at some point, this is totally normal. What shouldn't be accepted is letting that debt go unaddressed until the point of no return. If you notice that a codebase has tech debt and there are no plans to address it, strive to be the one who speaks up and starts to put a plan in place to ensure a better codebase.
Effective communication is vital in software engineering. Make it a point to clearly communicate your progress, challenges, and successes with your team and stakeholders. Ensure that there's no ambiguity in your work and that everyone involved has the necessary information to make informed decisions. Overcommunicating doesn’t mean overwhelming others with details, but providing clarity and maintaining transparency.
This is especially important when working with another team that is crucial to a successful implementation. For example, If you're a backend dev working on an endpoint, keep the potential consumers of the endpoint updated along the way from ideation to completion.
By staying informed, guiding your work, adopting a long-term view, taking initiative, and communicating effectively, you're not just completing tasks – you're building a foundation for lasting success in your engineering career. These five principles of ownership are essential for any software engineer looking to make a meaningful impact in their field.