I took one of my usual weekend power walks and I was listening to motivational speeches. Like I usually do during the first half of these 10km walks. What I heard strongly resonated with me.
“Your right is my responsibility” - said Jordan B. Peterson.
It’s so bloody true.
My right to study at a university for free was the responsibility of the previous generations’ taxpayers. Even my generation’s, as not everyone goes for higher education. Of course, we can say that this is an investment of the society that paid off because I make more money, thus I spend more on services and I pay more taxes than many of those who didn’t pursue higher education.
Whether it’s a good system or not, it doesn’t change the fact that paying for my education was the responsibility of others.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not about education. The right to free healthcare (in certain countries), the right to access the internet (yet in other countries) is the responsibility of others.
Heck, even the (diminishing) right to free speech is also the responsibility of others. After all, the state has to keep an order where I’m not beaten by the mob because I express what I think, or my employer cannot sack me because of my differing views. Right?
Any right is the responsibility of some others.
We often forget this.
We keep forgetting about responsibilities in general. I’m convinced that we cannot claim any rights as long as we don’t fulfil our responsibilities.
I have the right to this, I have the right to that… But what do I give? Do I fulfill my duties?
On the same day when I watched the above video, I accidentally came across this thread on Twitter about the Remote Worker’s Bill of Rights…
Rights, rights, rights again!
While most of the items are valid if you take them out of context, the precontext is something I cannot identify with. “Companies must provide these fundamentals…”
“Every remote worker shall have quiet working conditions”
Yes, we all should have. Meanwhile, why the hell would be my employer responsible for the fact that my flat is noisy?
Even though there are some interesting items on that list, I don’t want to go through that. Instead, let’s focus on what is more important for our growth! The responsibilities of a programmer.
1) Do quality work
This might be obvious, but I saw too many people complaining about missed promotions, people who barely delivered quality work. I saw too many people who complained about the lack of coding, but what they coded was low quality and they wouldn’t be happy to see such code from someone else.
Of course, even for developers, work is more than coding and it’s difficult to measure the quality of code, we all have some ideas about how quality code looks like. We should all strive to deliver solutions approaching that ideal which is also in the sweet sport of the quality-speed-price triangle.
Next time you have to code a new feature, have to deliver a new fix, make sure that you take the necessary time to deliver something that you’d be happy to accept from someone else.
2) Keep learning
You cannot raise the quality of your solutions simply by delivering features and fixes again and again. It will bring you only so far. When I was taking user story after user story, my growth plateaued.
You have to dedicate time to learning. It’s your responsibility, not your employer’s. If they help, good. Personally, I’d not work for a company that doesn’t allocate resources for learning. That’s a matter of choice and negotiation.
At the same time, it’s not just my duty and also my interest to learn. While my company benefits from my improved knowledge, my market rate also raises. Therefore it’s reasonable to dedicate also some of my free time to educate myself.
Do you stay up-to-date with your stack? Do you read professional books from your field? Make sure that you allocate at least half an hour every day. According to many different pieces of research, an average person spends at least 3 hours in front of the TV, Netflix, etc.
We can find some time.
3) Raise an alert
When my manager or product owner comes with yet another idea and an unrealistic timeline, I’m not afraid to say so. I know that it’s my duty. Often, being predictable is more important than being fast.
As an engineer, especially as a senior one, you’re not only paid to deliver solutions but to communicate. A part of this expectation is to raise an alert, to say no, to keep the deadlines and commitments realistic.
At the same time, don’t mix up the roles in your mind. It’s your responsibility to raise an alert, but it’s their responsibility what they do with it.
They might or might not consider your arguments, that is up to them. You might have to cut some corners if you agree to continue working with the stakeholders who never consider your concerns. Whether you stay in such a situation or you step out becomes your choice, your responsibility.
Keep this in mind. The next time you face something unrealistic, say so. But no hard feelings if your comments are not taken into account, even if you decide to move. No hard feelings. It’s not personal. It’s just work anyways.
4) Speak up
Speaking up and defending yourself or your team can feel daunting. I know. In the beginning, I was hesitating a lot, when I had to intervene and call out people for what they did or what they said. I felt the fear of consequences, the cold sweat on my hands. What if…
How many times did you face a similar situation? In most cases, rest assured, you’re not alone. Others also see what goes on, but they either don’t care or don’t dare to speak.
Most people are cowards unless they are using their anonymous social media account.
Be brave. Do yourself and your team a favour and speak up. If someone is yelling with the team, speak up and calmly declare that it’s not acceptable. Clearly show your boundaries. If someone speaks with you in an unacceptable way, tell him or her that you don’t tolerate such manners.
You make yourself and your team a big favour. If inside you want to speak up, but you don’t, two things will happen:
- You’ll keep agonizing on it, and your bad feelings will not go away, you will be resentful.
- As you didn’t deal with the source of the problem, it will keep coming back, probably it will get even worse and worse.
Speak up as soon as possible.
5) Manage your time
There are many micromanagers out there who would love to do this instead of you. Most probably such managers make you angry, they make you simply want to run away, hide in a dark corner and do you work alone in peace.
It doesn’t just feel better to manage your own time, but it’s also your responsibility as a professional. If you want to grow, you have to learn to use your time better than the average person.
We all have 24 hours a day and according to this research an average office worker spends 3 hours on productive work. The rest goes on social media, chatting in the cafe room, browsing on the internet whatever…
You have to observe yourself and understand where your time goes. You won’t be 100% productive, but every moment you gain can serve you well. You can either use the time to
- deliver more
- deliver better
- learn something
Here are a couple of tips that I used in order to manage my time better. Go, check it out and raise your efficiency by improving your time management skills. It will also make you more confident as you won’t be ashamed because of your days!
6) Stay healthy
Have you noticed how your physical and mental state affects your performance at work? Are you effective when you’re a bit cold? What about when you were a bit cranky because your back hurts. Not to mention that hangover when you’re just trying to survive the day after.
While we are not top athletes and life is not only about work, as a professional, you should strive for showing up in the morning in a mentally and physically healthy state. Are you in doubt? If someone comes to give you a service, do you want a wreck to show up or a fit and competent person?
Of course, you’d choose the fit person. Why would you think your boss would choose differently?
As a professional we are responsible to keep ourselves fit:
- we should not overeat
- we should sleep enough
- we should get up and move enough
- we should not (over)consume whatever stimulants
- we should socialize enough to avoid loneliness and depression
Don’t wait for your employer to give you a gym pass to exercise or a cafe subscription to go out and socialize. This is your responsibility! Get up and move a bit once you finished reading this article!
+1 Create the ideal office
This is for you if you’re a remote worker. I know. I know. Our employer should pay, right? I have a friend who switched jobs for a 60% salary increase and he complains that his new employer contributes much less to his home equipment.
I can’t argue that it’s better if someone else pays, but if you choose to be a remote worker, it’s your responsibility to set up your workspace.
There is no rule on how to do it, or how much you should spend on it. It depends on your needs and possibilities. I could carve out a small corner at home for my office which only fits the smallest IKEA desk which already accommodates my two screens, a docking station, a keyboard and a mouse. And way too much clutter, but that’s another story… Your chair also doesn’t have to be an expensive one, I bought mine for less than 100 Euros and I find it comfortable even after a year.
Did it hurt when I bought my home office equipment?
No. My back hurt while I was deferring buying my chair… I kept saying for four months that it’s unnecessary for those couple of weeks…
These items were a great investment, I should have made them earlier, I urge you not to make the same mistake.
Imagine a world where people consider responsibilities at least as important as their rights. What would it be like? People would complain less, but they would deliver higher quality work and would be healthier.
Imagine that you live in a world where people care enough to raise an alert, to speak up, to defend themselves and others. There would be less injustice, fewer hurt feelings, less resentment.
The responsibilities we discussed earlier, the responsibilities of a (remote) programmer are not complex. On the contrary, they are quite simple. Items that we can all act on. We can start doing our best, we can start adding at least 15 minutes of learning time with which we already started managing our time better. We can raise an alert if we see something wrong or if we are treated unfairly. And we can definitely start taking steps towards a healthier life which often includes improving our workspace with the right equipment.
Take responsibility, work on these items one at a time and you’ll elevate professional your life to the next level!
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