Sure, you need to have the technical skills to write more complex code and tackle trickier projects over time. But while coding is the foundation for any engineer’s career, it’s not the end all, be all.
Early in your career, when you’re new to writing code and making a lot of mistakes, you’ll improve rapidly. But eventually, your technical learning will plateau. When you’re an accomplished engineer who can code quickly, efficiently, and accurately, what do you do instead of sitting in your software developer job and doing that for years and years?
Here’s where a lot of engineers fall into a common trap. They equate their technical ability and experience with success. That’s not the right equation though.
Success is dependent on your impact. The one thing engineers should do to keep propelling their careers upward is to always seek to increase their impact.
That means going beyond just learning how to code on an expert level and then doing that day in and day out. It means learning other skills that will complement your coding skills and make you a more valuable engineer overall. Those skills include teamwork, communication, critical thinking, and initiative.
An entry level engineer brings energy and potential to a team, but typically lacks some of the coding skills. But they may not demonstrate follow-through, and likely need to be told what projects to work on. At this level, you can add value to the organization by practicing writing code, making less mistakes, and learning the technical skills you’ll need throughout your career.
At mid-level, an engineer should have a solid grasp of the technical skills, so how do you keep adding value at this point?
The skills that help devs progress from coder to leader are not technical–they’re soft skills.
At this level, the game changes. You need to focus on rounding out your abilities as a team member and team leader:
- You develop better initiative.
- You hone your communication and collaboration skills to work with others on the team to solve more complex problems, and to give more detailed status updates.
- You take ownership of your projects and see them through to the end with less direction from your superiors.
And at high-level, engineers should be expert coders, but also high-level critical thinkers and communicators. At this level, you bring value to your team by being able to build and execute long-term strategy, see the bigger picture of how a project fits into company goals and direct it accordingly, create positive team dynamics at your organization, and mentor a team of lower-level engineers, if you choose to go into management.
It’s adding value constantly that will continue to get you higher and higher up that career ladder. As you advance in your career and continue on your own personal growth trajectory, always be asking yourself this: What can I learn to continue to add more value?
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