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How do you get more independent?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [SE1] at Booking.com2 years ago

Crux is when you’re learning and digging deeper technically. How do you approach taking ownership and growing your impact on not just the project but across the team and larger axis?



  • 90
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 years ago

    I feel like there's 2 separate goals here:

    1. Being more independent
    2. Owning more things and having larger scope

    Becoming More Independent

    This is actually something I haven't thought too much about, but I would frame my thoughts here across 2 core tactics:

    1. Be Very Dependent For A Short Period Of Time - In other words, ask a ton of high-quality questions quickly when learning something. The alternative is a trap I've seen a lot of engineers fall into: Only asking questions when they absolutely have to after being stuck for a long while. This means that it will take a while to get really good at something (and become independent at doing it) - You would much rather ask 100 questions in 1 month as opposed to 10 questions a month for 10 months.
    2. Think Backwards - When you work backwards from the end goal and think about how to fill in the gaps, you are now in a proactive state of mind instead of a reactive one (i.e. just getting tasks and leaping straight into coding what's familiar). When you're reactive, you will often times get blindsided by a big issue and need to be saved by an engineer more senior than yourself.

    Building Larger Scope

    To set expectations, this is a process that usually takes a long time, even if you're very hard-working and talented. It can take longer if a company is more traditional and focused on levels (this holds back talented junior engineers) and shorter if the company is rapidly growing and everyone gets more scope than they can chew by default (i.e. rocket startups).

    1. Build A Reputation For Solid Execution - You earn trust by building a great track record; there's really no way around it. If you want more scope, take the existing scope that's being given to you and absolutely crush it in both speed and quality.
    2. Cultivate Deep Relationships - In particular, do this with more senior engineers who already own a bunch of stuff. If you're the formal mentee of a good tech lead, they might just hand you scope they have.
    3. Just Do It - This sounds random, but I actually have a concrete story behind this. There was a prodigy junior engineer back on my team at Instagram Ads. What this engineer did is they came in with very high coding velocity on iOS, so they were able to complete roadmap work very quickly. They would then build very cool prototypes and share the demo videos with our working group, proposing them as experiments to try. People would get hyped by the flashy videos and were less inclined to shoot it down as they were thinking, "Well, it's already built, might as well finish it up and try it." This engineer would then run the experiments, and they would often times do well as the engineer had great product intuition. This led to them creating scope via these new projects.

    Related resources:

  • 51
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 years ago

    I like Alex's answer, the other thing to add is "act with urgency". A great way to increase impact is to just jump in.

    Usually there'll be some buffer built in for project planning, and that gives engineers the permission to properly plan things out and perhaps slow down. Instead, the best engineers hit the ground running on day 1, and make meaningful progress a lot faster.

  • 14
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    Senior Software Engineer at IBM
    a year ago

    I think that both of these answers are great so far. I've been working with mentees a lot as there is such a plethora of information out there and they're getting hit with it at 70 hrs a week rather than taking it slower and using the 20-30 hrs they would have spent working bootstrapping themselves instead. To aid this, I've cultivated a lot of material I've looked at in my own right and share at a pace they find appropriate. All titles are available and I've also curated a YouTube playlist with a lot of helpful content from 1 hr webinars I've watched along the way. But engaging mentors, building learning roadmaps, picking up bit by bit is a good way to rock this.

Booking.com is a Dutch online travel agency for lodging reservations & other travel products, and a subsidiary of Booking Holdings. It is headquartered in Amsterdam and one of the largest online travel agencies in the world. Founded in 1996, the website has over 28 million listings.
Booking.com10 questions