Choosing to Act: The Mindset of a Proactive Engineer
Proactivity is more than just a buzzword. It's how you set yourself up for growth.
During any kind of feedback sessions and performance evaluations one could hear - “You could benefit from being more proactive in your team.”
Why is this? Well, here is most simple answer.
Nobody likes to see coworkers and peers that are sitting silently and waiting for work to come to them.
What’s more, if there is no work assigned you won’t hear of them at all.
While one could argue that it is our job to do what we are assigned to, no one forbids us asking for more work when there is none.
And usual responses are in line of “I know, but I just feel I’m not motivated enough” or “This project is the worst I have been working on”, “My previous team was much better than this one” and so on.. “I’m not paid to do that.. “ (really?)
Proactivity is a state of mind
And it can take many forms.
You don’t have a task?
Ask for one! Still no task, make one for yourself. At least in software engineering, there are always things you can adjust on your project. Refactorings to be made. Tests to be written. Tech debt to be reduced.
Your coworker is struggling?
Offer your assistance. Help them and teach them. It’ll feel great!
You are a junior and lack experience?
Do the POC, ask your senior colleagues or managers for an advice. I personally don’t mind staying up very late to assist younger colleague that is hungry for knowledge and most people I know are the same.
You’ve noticed organisational inefficiencies?
Do something about it. Come up with a proposal to your manager, it might become a solution and help hundreds of people.
Thing is, we can always get silent, sit and wait. But:
It’s a state of mind which doesn’t spark curiosity.
For a software engineer, it is very dangerous.
It’s a state of mind where you’re not making an opportunity for yourself and depend on others.
You can produce perfect code, but, it will drive you to half of the journey.
Combine those skills with readiness to contribute to your organisation further and the magic will unfold.
It’s a state of mind that spirals down and makes you miserable because you see that others around you are succeeding, like they have a secret formula or something.
No, they just speak up and get noticed, included and promoted.
I have a simple rule. When working, I am giving 100+%. There is work to be done, and someone has to do it. There is no one available - then it’ll be me. And I don’t have to like it, but still, it has to be done.
Anything less then that, and I am working against myself, because I am not fully contributing to organisation that I belong to.
What’s worse, I am working against my very colleagues, and their families.
Yes, one can lack motivation to push things through, to speak up, to contribute, but then ask yourself: Have you tried making a change? Have you led any initiatives? Are you enjoying in doing what you do, in an organisation you’re at?
Maybe you’re in a golden handcuffs, too comfortable with the salary and benefits, or you’re thinking about your family and the risks involved? These are all valid reasons, no shame in that, but especially then it makes no sense to sit and wait.
There are many ways to find motivation and usually, motivation cannot be served, nor is anyone obliged to make one for you.
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