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How to Feel Empowered as a Developer

October 26, 2021

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(Updated on February 20, 2022)

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The demand for developers is once again starting to skyrocket as the tech industry recuperates from a world post-COVID. With many developers making the transition to new companies who have embraced the work-from-home model as the new normal, it isn't uncommon to see individuals struggle to find the groove where they feel empowered and able to succeed. Emotions such as isolation, meaninglessness, and the lack of merit in a developers' day-to-day routine may

But how do we, as developers and to the best of our ability, labor to feel empowered no matter where we work or what the future holds? My recommendation is this - embrace the responsibility to make your own decisions, delight in autonomy when appropriate, and become a life-long student by committing yourself to constantly learning new things.

Make Your Own Decisions

Making decisions as a developer is one of the best ways to feel empowered in your day-to-day routine, especially when you have expertise in a specific area.

Decisions at an Iteration Level

If you're working on a team in an agile environment, the Iteration/Sprint Planning Meeting provides you and your teammates the ability to choose which User Stories to commit to delivering at the end of the predefined timeline.

Unfortunately, it isn't uncommon for Product Owners and/or Product Managers to decide the workload a team takes on board for each iteration. As a self-organizing team, you are empowered to say yes or no and come to a decision collectively. On the topic of Sprint Planning, the Scrum Guide 2017 states the following: "The number of items selected from the Product Backlog for the Sprint is solely up to the Development Team. Only the Development Team can assess what it can accomplish over the upcoming Sprint."

Decisions at a Story Level

At a more granular level, I encourage you to make implementation decisions on tasks that make up a User Story. If you have an Architect or Team Lead assigned to the project, present your proposed solution for a task and work through the problem at a high level, get their input, and then take the task assigned to you and own it. Make it your own! A little less formal than a Story Kick-off meeting, this process allows you to think through a problem, present your solution, request feedback and find satisfaction when your Story is marked as delivered.

Voice your opinions in the Retrospective

One of the ceremony meetings followed in Agile Teams is the Retrospective, allowing developers to look back over the last iteration and identify what went well, what didn't go so well, and what needs to change in order to make the next iteration more enjoyable, productive or smooth.

As a developer, you are empowered to voice your opinions and express your concerns in the hope that you and your team perform better in the next sprint.

Autonomy when Appropriate

Flexible work hours are a luxury many developers haven’t experienced. As remote work becomes a more long-term solution, I encourage you to strive for a great work-life balance and utilize flex hours wherever possible. But here’s the catch — you need to know how you operate. Flex hours allow you the freedom of autonomy by setting your own schedule and work during the hours you know that you are the most focussed, alert and dedicated.

Many teams that work in a flex schedule require you to be online during “core hours” - a section of the day where the entire team is available for meetings and joint problem-solving.

My preferred schedule is to start the day earlier (~6am) rather than later. As the day continues on, I find myself less focused and more prone to distractions. If I start my day early and prioritize the most important tasks, I find myself to be overall more productive. And because I started work early, I also get to log offline in the afternoon and spend time with my family or work on tasks around the house.

Constant Learning

Another way to feel empowered is to delight in the fact that, as a developer, you’ve dedicated yourself to being a life-timer learner. No doubt you’ve already noticed that things are constantly evolving in the tech world and there's always something new to learn.

I don’t know about you, but I often found it difficult to take interest in my studies at University. Sometimes the subject was boring, or perhaps the lecture was monotone and promoted drowsiness. Sometimes I was just lazy.

But here’s the thing — when I forced myself to take an interest in what I was learning, I understood the material faster and at a deeper level, and found myself feeling confident that I could perform well in the class.

This is true in your day-to-day routine as a developer. Take an interest in learning new things; this helps your knowledge grow both horizontally and vertically.

Nearly effortless tips on promoting a life-long learner lifestyle

How can you promote a lifestyle of constant learning?

Here’s a few tips that require little effort and provide long-term benefits:

  • Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each day reading technical articles relevant to your professional field. I recommend installing the Daily.Dev Chrome extension which populates your new tabs with insightful technical articles.
  • Begin to curate a knowledge bank filled with YouTube videos, helpful tutorials and articles that you can refer to at any point during your developer journey. I recommend Notion for this as it’s easy to install the web-clipper and send helpful content straight to a database for later consumption. Pro tip: tag content for easy filtering later!
  • End each day with another 15 minutes of online reading - but this time, read technical articles outside of or related to your professional field. If you’re a front-end developer, read articles about back-end development or perhaps DevOps; expanding your knowledge outside of your area of expertise will make you more valuable and feel more confident!
  • Conclusion

    Adjusting to remote work takes time. If you discover yourself struggling to feel empowered or find that groove where you succeed, consider making your own decisions, delighting in autonomy, and promoting a lifestyle of constant learning. My hope is that by making these shifts in practical ways helps you find success and fulfillment in your development career.

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