Strive to be the (improving) median posted on 29 May 2024

My most common reaction from people praising my work beeside being thankful is that it wasn’t rocket science and that someone else should have done it – I do a lot of tedious/boring work that’s very easy to do (it’s still important though).

To be very clear, this isn’t meant to talk badly about my coworkers or that I should do less work – but rather that we should keep raising the bar. If you are a well performing engineer, you should strive to become the median by uplifting the rest of your team/organization – this is what is expected from good senior/lead engineers. Your impact is not just your personal one but also how your team/organization performs better under your leadership.

Leadership here can take a lot of forms, not just the standard one that consists of leading a project – it includes writing documentation, mentoring others, sharing knowledge, pro-actively fixing broken processes, leading by example (e.g. by fixing paper cuts and empowering others to do the same) etc. One simple way I used to phrase it for my team while I was a TLM at Google was for them to aim to replace me – I wanted my team to be able to smoothly run even without me. Growing your team/eng organization is also a way to grow yourself – as other steps up, you have more free time to look at/tackle other larger and important issues.

Trying to raise the bar is very similar to how you should strive to constantly learn – while growing as an engineer has its perks (e.g. better compensation), I think the best part is keeping yourself entertained, excited and happy.

This advice also works the other way – if you think you are not performing well today, invest in yourself to first reach the median and then push for the median to improve and follow along!

LinkedIn post