Beyond Technical Skills

2022/07/13

I saw an article titled "What makes a great software engineer?" (great click-bait title, perfect blend of content summary and sensationalized hook) and the first thing that came to my head was "a little common sense". I'll be honest, I didn't read the paper, but I skimmed the article and from Swizec's, coverage it seems that the majority of the points are related to the more "human" skills associated with software engineering (his coverage could be biased though since he sells workshops tied to those skills). Which makes sense to me, because although you might want to live in an idealistic world where your worth is only measured by the quality of the software you write, the reality of the situation is, it's not. Your worth from a company's perspective (not to be confused with your self-worth) is measured in the amount of money you make (or lose) it. Can higher quality software end up paying off more for a company? Sure, but I present this example.

Engineer A and B are asked to implement a similar feature (independently--imagine two parallel universes). Engineer A is great at writing code, and is able to implement the feature within three days with a few bugs. Overall, a gold star. Engineer B is ok at writing code (it would take them a week to ship with a number of bugs), but can see that the feature is essentially pointless and can back it up with some solid points; they equate it to giving fish hair. Engineer B spend an hour writing up the reasons why they think the feature is going to be a flop and getting some data, then another hour convincing their team lead. The feature is trashed after about two hours of work. In this case, who was the better engineer?

Of course this assumes the lead would listen to the engineer, which hopefully would be the case, but the point I'm making is that part of our responsibility as an engineer is to always balance the cost vs the specifications. High quality code is great, but you know what's better? No code, because that usually means less engineering hours (probably one of the highest costs a company has) to develop and maintain. From this perspective, a little bit of common sense goes a loooooong way.

Those were just some thoughts I had, spurred by that one title. What do you think?

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