The Basics

This is my version of Thorsten Ball’s “The Basics”.

I consider these to be the behaviors that make you a catalyst in engineering teams and product-centric organizations.

These behaviors have caused me to stand-out, become the “go to” person for overcoming the status quo, and be sought out for input across team boundaries.

  • Always ask why these changes matter. This needs to define directionally where the project is going and why this change will make it (or its users) successful.

  • Code is ephemeral and, in retrospect, wrong to some degree. Once you recognize this, you can be objective & pragmatic on whether the effort is worth it. (Or your emotional investment.)

  • Self-comment your PRs. Leave a guided tour of the why behind your changes and the trade-offs you made, especially if you recognize you’re deferring a change.

  • Rarely block PRs. Default to Approving. If there’s risk, your culture or process is where things should be fixed.

  • You’re trading time for money. Remember what you’re paid to do. It’s “work” for a reason.

    Give me the courage to change what can be changed, the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other. – The Serenity Prayer

  • Unblock yourself for 15-30m before asking for help. That will give a teammate context to get you unblocked almost immediately. Otherwise, they won’t even accept your meeting invite.

  • Set an Agenda and Goal for every meeting. Literally say “This meeting is over when we get an answer to X, Y, & Z.” Enjoy you’re time back!

  • Favor immediate end-to-end validation first. Then, pour concrete around it with tests.

  • Scratch others’ itches. Making 1 small improvement each week that helps others is how you earn influence, trust, & support.

  • Don’t answer immediately. Your first thought is going to be wrong. Sit with it, type up your point. Then offer it if it’s still relevant.

  • Be silent. When waiting for your turn in a meeting, count to 7 in your head. Make space for others to speak & think.

  • Work backwards. Answer “what does this solution look like?” before turning it into action. If it’s still ambiguous, your effort should be malleable to match.

  • Lead demos. Visibility = Impact.

  • Praise & thank the contributions of others. Often.

  • Make visualizations. Put in the extra time to turn words into a diagram or a graphic. Humans buy in to shiny things more than well-researched words.

  • Don’t schedule same-day meetings.

  • Set & meet expectations, every week. You usually won’t even need a full 40 hours.

  • Stress what you’re not doing. What a solution solves & how is important, but it’s more important to stress the trade-offs and things off the table.

  • Let promotions & raises happen as a result of your actions. Chasing something that’s subjective & outside of your control is frought with peril.

  • Learn to be content. Every day.

  • Afford others the freedom to (safely) fail.

  • Jobs are temporary. Relationships are what matters. Would you go to bat for them? Would they for you?