Uncertainty kills creativity and productivity. You sit down at your computer, think "Okay, what's next?", and nothing happens.
Everyone agrees knowing your next step is the importantest to get shit done. But when's the last time you sat down and wrote out your next steps before getting to work?
Lemme guess: almost never? You're not alone 😅
That's what we talked about at Senior Mindset Mastermind this week 👉 how to make progress without someone telling you what's next. As a senior engineer you want autonomy don't you?
First, why do companies hire engineers?
To solve a problem, build an asset, optimize a process, maintain a system. You're a means to an end. A tool that gets a job done.
Now imagine you're the one hiring. Or you were assigned a mentee to help you. Who would you rather get?
John: pings you right after standup and says "Wanna sync? What should I work on?"
Jane: pings you right after standup and says "I'm gonna look into X and report back in 2 hours, then I'll try Y"
Jane is easier to work with because she takes work off your plate. You give her a goal and she'll figure it out. And you trust she'll circle back and verify, if anything starts to go off the rails.
That last part is crucial. The only thing worse than someone who needs a bunch of hand-holding is someone who takes initiative and disappears for 5 days working on the wrong thing. 💩
The typical answer to "Hey this is going to be 5x harder than I thought" is "Oh shit, not worth it then. Stop."
It's important to verify.
Okay then how do you create direction for yourself?
Use the "what to work on next" algorithm – unblock, help, subtask, story, engineering backlog.
If that fails, or you're breaking down a bigger task, work back from the end goal. Keep asking "What do we need to achieve this?" until you have the answer to "What can I do next?".
Write those down and voila you just did a bunch of hard thinking work that makes life easier for others 💡
And if even that fails, ask "What is preventing us from moving faster?". Everyone likes it when you fix the annoying stuff.
If you're interested in these kinds of conversations, consider joining the Senior Mindset Mastermind. We meet every 2 weeks
I write articles with real insight into the career and skills of a modern software engineer. "Raw and honest from the heart!" as one reader described them. Fueled by lessons learned over 20 years of building production code for side-projects, small businesses, and hyper growth startups. Both successful and not.
Subscribe below 👇
Join Swizec's Newsletter and get insightful emails 💌 on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career. Real lessons from building production software. No bullshit.
"Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only newsletter I open and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. 👌"
Senior Mindset Book
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companiesLearn more
Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.
Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.
Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, for frontend engineers 👉 ServerlessHandbook.dev
Want to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? Learn how to build scalable dataviz React components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization
Did someone amazing share this letter with you? Wonderful! You can sign up for my weekly letters for software engineers on their path to greatness, here: swizec.com/blog
By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️