Dhinesh Dharman is a software engineer at Quora and he has shared his views on the mistakes that he has made regarding his career and what he believes engineers all around the world make.
The first is being a long-term domain expert. There is nothing wrong with being a domain expert and are a number of people who have worked on a piece of technology for years and are the go-to person for that area of work in the company. Many engineers want to be known for one thing but according to Dhinesh, this is the most common and the biggest mistake made by most engineers.
Specializing in just one thing and diverting all your attention to that will make you an expert and you will receive accolades for your work in that particular field but you will be missing out on everything else. You will be closing yourself off to those other fields and there may come a point when your career reaches a stagnation point and will lead you to frustration.
Another mistake made by the engineers is not optimizing their growth. Dhinesh puts forward a simple exercise. As yourself the question, “What have I learned at work in the last six months?” You’ll be able to list down the things that you feel that you have learned but that does not necessarily mean that you have achieved growth.
He gives an example. “Today I learned a keyboard shortcut for my IDE which will definitely make me more productive in writing code. But does that mean I should spend the next six months learning new keyboard shortcuts? Or is my time better spent reading a book about software design patterns to be able to build good software? Clearly, they are both very useful activities but I need to decide how much time I am willing to invest in them. The main takeaway here is that not all learning is equal and we need to think about which of them lead to growth.”
So what is growth? Growth occurs when you have a high rate of learning. So, focus on activities where you believe you can get a high rate of learning. Growth is important for engineers as it builds confidence to continue taking on even bigger challenges. You can get an idea of your growth by asking yourself the question, “What have I done in the last six months that seemed hard/impossible to achieve six months ago?”
One thing that engineers need to keep in mind is to focus on the goals they want to achieve. Often, we see engineers working for a company where they feel that their skills are not being utilized to the full potential or they are being forced to do something that they are not very happy doing and all of this is just so they can align themselves with the company’s vision to get a promotion.
You need to set your goals and they should be clear in your mind. Revisit those goals every six months and see how close you have come to achieving them or if you have achieved any. Then take a look at the vision of the company and see if it aligns with what you want to do with your life and if you feel the need, you can start looking for a change of company that is better equipped to provide you with the environment that you are looking for.
To summarize the above discussion, it is important to focus on the career and your choice of career. You should be the one driving it and not the other way around. Otherwise, you would be stuck doing something you don’t like for the rest of your life.