The majority of the work is boring posted on 21 February 2024

As a software engineer, you may have the opportunity to lead exciting technical projects but the truth is that likely 90% of the work needed is boring and tedious.

My experience is that there are roughly two buckets of engineers in regards to this unglamorous work:

  • Those who are not interested in doing it and will take significant amount of time to execute it (or will postpone it multiple times)
  • Those who will quickly execute these uninteresting tasks.

As an engineer, impact is all that matters, so you should be able to efficiently complete these boring tasks. There are two things that can help

  • Become more efficient: Polish your tools, improve your devloop etc. such that these tasks will take less time. Breaking them down in smaller pieces might make it more manageable to start too.
  • Understand why they are important: Practically speaking, this boils down to understanding how they fit in the bigger picture (e.g. they help increase revenue, help future infra effort be significantly faster etc.)

If you look closely at my work at Google or Databricks, you’ll see a lot of boring changes but if you step back, you can see how they connect to deliver significant improvements to the reliability of the infrastructure, the correctness of the system or the safety of the products in regards to privacy/compliance.

TL;DR is don’t shy away from boring and tedious tasks, they are the foundation of impactful, interesting and large projects.

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