Over the past few years I’ve been asked a few times what’s the best way to ‘level up’ a development career.
As developers we primarily think in terms of the languages and frameworks we need to learn, how to go about utilizing best practice and being good, compassionate team players.
I think one of the best ways to level up is to spend time thinking about how what you and your team works on benefits the company or client you’re working for.
Sounds obvious right? Your product manager, architect or team lead outlines what needs to be done and as a team or freelance developer you build and deploy that thing.
But where you can differentiate is reverse engineering the company’s vision and applying your technical skills to directly affect that vision.
A non-technical CEO or manager will far more appreciate your value if you’re empathetic to the bigger picture than just operating in siloed sprints, features or bug-fixes that we’re used to in the day to day.
Demonstrating that you’re capable of thinking at those two distinct levels is a huge advantage. One of the most effective ways to do this is to think in terms of the cost of a specific decision. Sure, your manager or tech lead may have already decided on the best solution for a given problem but if you can display empathy for the same decision making process, they’ll see you as someone invested in helping them solve the same problems, someone operating on the same level, and someone who helps them do their job as well as your own.
Having co-founded a startup, I love it when our team suggests different ways of solving a problem taking cost into account. It may be the use of a different AWS service that benefits us over the long term, an admin function that gives extra visibility into a sensitive area, or use of a new framework that will save the team a ton of time.
In essence, they’re thinking holistically about how they can benefit the wider business before diving into technical details.
In small companies and startups it’s a lot easier to do this because you’re so much closer to founding or ‘senior’ people, but if you’re in a larger company, demonstrating empathy to your manager is a great quality that will travel well in positive word of mouth.
Crucially it creates a lot of trust that you have the business’s best interests at heart. This often gets rewarded when businesses need to pivot or create new functions that need new leaders.
Be the first name that springs to your manager’s mind when this happens!