As an Engineer, Write

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The software engineering space is exhausting. It moves too fast, contains too much, and it won’t wait around for you to catch up. It’s hard enough to maintain impact in this field and even harder to rise to the next level. One thing that makes these efforts easier, however, is writing about it all. And I mean writing about it all—the problem solving, the tinkering with new technologies, the rubber duck attempts to wrap your head around a concept, and everything else in between. Cultivating this habit is one of the most impactful decisions I’ve made regarding my own personal development in the industry. Here are just some of the reasons why you should do it too:

You’ll better understand the solutions that solve your problems.

It’s easy to stumble through some code that solves your problem and quickly move on to the next thing. But it’s more of a challenge to understand why that implementation works in the first place and what makes it the best choice over something else. If there’s anything that distinguishes a developer from an engineer, it’s gotta be this. So, slow down, break it down, and write it down. You’ll find satisfaction in really understanding why your code works, and soon enough, you’ll be proactively solving problems before they happen, rather than reactively fixing things after they’re a mess. And FYI: The former is much more fun.

You’ll become your own resource.

It’s startling how often I find myself facing a problem, only to remember that I’ve already written about something similar in the past. And sometimes, the old post that helps me out has only a thin layer of overlap. When you write, you become a valuable resource for your future self. It’ll save you time (pulling up your own blog post is often quicker than wading through Google search results) and help to solidify your understanding of the topic as you visit it once again. As you continue the habit of writing, you’ll find yourself building a reservoir of trusted, written experience from a highly relatable source (yourself!). Not to mention, that growing collection of content will inevitably start to connect with and serve others too, and when that happens . . .

You’ll build trust.

The old adage is true: Out of (web)sight, out of mind. When we as engineers don’t consistently show up and contribute in some way (blogging, open-sourcing, teaching, tweeting, anything else), it’s nearly impossible to build any level of trust in the community. When you write, you get some points for showing up, and that’s not a bad thing. Showing up means you care enough to contribute, even if what you contribute is small or potentially useless to everyone else. Over time, all that showing up will grow into credibility, putting you on the fast track to help even more people—and more effectively than before. This gives you a leg up over even the most gifted engineers who choose to keep their insight and their experiences to themselves.

Don’t fret it—ship it.

Quit worrying about your word count, outline or humor. Stop caring about your rhetorical prowess so much that you’re too paralyzed to say anything at all. Jot down those jumbled, incoherent thoughts, ship them, and touch them up later if needed. There’s something I saw Chris Coyier tweet out once:

“Write the article you wish you found when you googled something.”

I like that. The stuff you write will probably most benefit people just like you—those who hit the same problems and searched for solutions the same way. Your challenges aren’t unique, and that small, choppy post might help someone else cut the corners you had to travel to overcome a challenge or to understand a difficult concept. So, as an engineer, write. You’ll be better off for it, and others will be too.

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