I had just walked out of meeting where we were discussing a roadmap for some of our internal systems. I had an idea that could have solved a particularly hard problem, but just sat on it and kept my mouth shut until after the meeting.
I pulled my manager aside and shared the idea with him. “That’s brilliant! Why didn’t you say so earlier?”. I just stared back - I was expecting to get burned for a bad idea. He proceeded to chase down everyone who was in that meeting to talk to them about it and telling them that I had thought of it. I was at a loss, but that didn't stop me from strutting around the rest of the day.
There may be some of you who have had similar experiences. I see it with other engineers all the time - especially now that I am running a team of my own.
I don’t know what makes us not share or speak up more. Maybe it’s impostor syndrome, maybe some of us feel there is a hierarchy and the junior engineer shouldn’t speak up, or maybe we just assume someone else has already considered it. It really doesn't matter - the end result is that we don't share enough.
I’m here to tell you that for whatever your reason you and I don’t speak up, it’s wrong. For those of you in a toxic work environment where offering solutions isn’t valued, find a new job when you can. That kind of environment will hold you back and you don't need that kind of negativity in your life anyway.
You are an engineer and your employer hired you because they thought you had something to contribute. It’s up to you to deliver. That means not only writing code and implementing someone else’s solutions, but to come up with your own solutions, speak up, and share them!
- Your view of the world is different. Ignore that saying “you’re unique just like everyone else” which implies you’re no different from everyone else. Your experiences and perspective have a unique spin that make you see things different from everyone else. You have something to contribute and it’s honestly worse to have the solution and your manager get exasperated when you sit on it (story of my life - trust me).
- You might learn something. Ideas get shot down all the time and that is perfectly okay. I have learned so much from some of the senior engineers I have talked with as they show me better ways of approaching problems. They often have something to teach if you’re willing to listen. Do this enough and you’ll find that you become the person with something to teach.
- You’re idea is a piece of the puzzle. One of the main reasons you brainstorm in groups is because even the most knowledgeable people don’t know everything. How many of you have been exasperated at a senior engineer or manager because they didn’t “get it”? As an engineer you need to learn how to help them understand (again, find a new job or role if you are in a culture in which this is hard to do). You don’t have to be the hero with all the answers. You would be surprised how much folks appreciate it when your idea helps fill in the gaps.
- Your career growth will accelerate. When you share ideas, others learn how you think and will start to understand you and your expertise. They’ll be more willing to work with you and brainstorm with you. Soon you’ll be mentoring others and develop a network of engineers you can reach out to to help get things done. You will even find people coming up to you saying “I hear you’re the expert on [something]”.
I know so many of us don’t enjoy interacting with people as much as we do the tech. You have so much to gain though if you make the effort whether you want to get into management, build stuff, or become that senior engineer that is a mentor to many. Take it from this shy, introvert drowning in impostor syndrome and is happiest behind a monitor than in a group of people. Sharing ideas has a multiplier effect if you want to progress your career and get things done.
If you don't know where to start, try a post here! Share something you've been learning about recently, show off a project you're working on, or throw out an idea worth discussing with others. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering. Even simple ideas or learnings need to be shared. There's a good chance someone else needed what you've been learning about.
Admittedly, this my debut post on dev.to. I have been a silent reader for some time and am finally eating my own dog food, coming out of my shell, and trying to give back to this community. Give it a try yourself and write your own post. You might be surprised how many people resonate with your ideas. You might even find folks who comment “That’s brilliant! Why hasn’t someone said that before?”
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