Visibility and your career

Here is a nice piece from a friend of mine Dmitry who tells the world how to do a small thing and enjoy it the best. Please read it on, it is worth 5 minutes of your life and it’s helpful for any industry, but exceptionally helpful if you’re software engineer.

What I would like to do here is to debunk an idea of enjoying small thing at your work. You know, it is good to find a joy in what you do even if it is a small thing. You fix some little problem that very little number of people could possibly appreciate, no journalist writes about you, nobody speculates about “what this guy will come up with the NEXT TIME?”… But you enjoy it. Good, right?

The problem is that this could help you emotionally, but this is a trap. Instead, I urge you to become deeply uncomfortable about small things and aspire for something big. I’ll show you a path towards a big thing, don’t think I just want you to feel uncomfortable!

Let’s revisit some dogma first. As we all know, 90% of the time.. well, to maintain the cliché, let’s put 80%… So, 80% of the time is spent on routine things (a ‘small’ thing), let’s say on fixing little troubles and other 20% is spent on really exciting new things that will bring us all as a company to a big time success (a ‘big’ thing).

This could be true in total, but when it comes to you personally, it doesn’t mean your work is necessarily made of the same 80% of small things and only 20% of big things. As a matter of fact, it depends on you whether you will be given to deal with small things or big things.

There is nothing wrong about enjoying your perfect handling of a tiny problem. That’s cool, but let it start your day. Fix a small thing and move on to tackle a big thing. You have already warmed up with a small thing, you’re ready for more! Small thing also gives you a bit of a flexibility, because you can always say that you have spent two hours on it, not 15 minutes. You know how it works… You have to check everything, make sure of something, do all the preparations, find out something and here you are: 2 hours spent, no one wonders why so much. And you have a virtual extra 1 hour and 45 minutes to think about something big without being interrupted. And if anyone shows up and asks ‘what are you doing right now?’ you have always something to show from a list of small things you’ve already done today.

Why you would be better not to enjoy a small thing? Because small thing is handy in practice, but you cannot build your career on a basis of small things only. They just don’t add up in your projects portfolio.

Imagine yourself on a job interview, and you’re being asked: “what have you achieved?”. What would you say? Well, I have participated in a number of big projects! Great! What exactly did you do in these projects? Well, I was doing small fixes here and there, made it all work better. Fantastic! How much better? Hmm… this is a tricky one. And you have a weak position to defend. There was a system before, it was in use. You ‘made it better’ and it is still there. Did it become really better? I don’t know. And I don’t have anything easy to understand to support my claims.

Imagine the opposite. What have you achieved? Answer: At some point we decided that we need to build something new to change our business model a little. And I designed a solution, built it from scratch till the release, trained a support team, then maintained it for a couple of months and it works fantastic since then so I moved to a next project. This is a powerful stuff! Do you think your contribution will remain unnoticed should it be truly your contribution? Hell no… Everyone would be willing you to do the next big thing! And that’s how you move from one big thing to another. You do your work in full, you are proud of the result and you pass it to someone else who follows Dmitry’s advice and ‘enjoys a small thing’ 🙂

Don’t think it is unfair to your colleagues. Some of them are willing or need to learn and do something small first. Some are deeply in their own world and would like to introduce something new to it. You give them such an opportunity! The next time they will do something big based on what you handle them.

A word of a caution though. You don’t build a complicated stinking pile of crap that doesn’t even work and pass it to somebody else because you’re too terrified that it will be yours forever… Don’t do that. All your crap will silently accumulate and strike you back when you want it the least ;). You do a good job, build a harmony and pass it to others to admire and develop further.

When you do a good job, there is always an opportunity to pass it to someone else and start something new and bigger. In your current company or in another one. It’s easy to start, just do a great finite piece of work, make sure your manager knows about it and the next time you do a great thing you would be surprised. They will invite you to a meeting where the next big thing will be offered to you. And you never get back to boring trap of endless stream of small tickets to deal with.

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3 Responses to Visibility and your career

  1. Added a link to this post (may not be visible for some time due to CDN caches). Thank you 🙂

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