Having strong opinions posted on 15 May 2024

As you become more and more senior, you will develop opinions on different topics. It’s however important to know which of these opinions should be/are strong and why.

Everyone can have opinions on everything but not all of them matter. You should focus on developing opinions on topics that impact what you are responsible for – e.g. you should definitely have an opinion on your system, your dependencies and your upstream clients.

More importantly, you should have strong opinions on these topics. By strong, I do not mean that you won’t listen to any person thinking differently but that these are educated opinions anchored in principles shared across your company. If your engineering org doesn’t have such principles, you should make sure there’s alignment on these (e.g. reducing operational costs, having reliable systems, having consistent code etc.). External factors may change over time, and you may have to revisit these stances (and be open to change), but this shouldn’t happen every month.

On the other side, you should soften your opinions on topics where others might be bigger stakeholders and ignore other opinions from non stakeholders. The saying is to avoid “too many cooks in the kitchen” – this goes both for: You – don’t strongly voice an opinion if you know you are not impacted by it. It’s better to guide the discussion than lead it. Others – don’t invite the whole company to discuss problems they don’t care about. You won’t waste their time and you’ll reach a consensus among genuine stakeholders faster.

Once in a while, things may not go your way even if you feel strongly about it – this is where it’s important to keep in mind that you may not have visibility into everything being balanced by your leadership (e.g. maybe they are considering people aspects, strategic customers, legal concerns that you are not aware of). This is where you should also focus on being able to communicate well about these opinions such that they are properly considered (even if they sometimes get overruled).

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