Don't just complain, fix the problem posted on 25 April 2024

You can complain all day long about broken infrastructure whether this is about dev tools or core serving infrastructure but it’s better to just fix it.

If you work in a well functioning engineering organization, you should have the freedom to fix any issue you want as long as it’s impactful and worth your time (and your coworkers time in case they are also impacted). Ownership or who you report to shouldn’t matter.

When I was more junior, one way levels were (jokingly?) described by a mentor was:

  • L(n)s don’t know about the problems
  • L(n+1)s complain about problems
  • L(n+2)s fix the problems

With whatever value of (n) you want. Even if you don’t want to/cannot fix the problem, you should surface it and make sure the appropriate owner will fix it.

I’m currently part of Trust and Safety at Databricks and I’m explicitly given the freedom to fix build/merge issues because they are related to privacy/compliance but mostly because they are important for the whole company. My experience at Google or at Databricks has always been that other teams welcome help from others as long as you properly do the work.

This freedom is explicitly desired at Databricks as it falls under a few of our core values: hashtag#ownit, hashtag#biastoaction and hashtag#companyfirst. Every engineering organization should follow similar principles in my opinion to stay efficient as they grow – otherwise they end up wasting all their time in cross team prioritization processes.

Fixing things is also where all the fun in engineering is – what’s the last random thing you fixed?

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