Impactful Engineering (Part 1)
Ever so often, I get asked a question around making an impact. Whether someone wants to make an impact in their own lives, their communities, or organizations. In the tech industry specifically, software engineers’ efforts are measured by the value they can create through software.
But software is just the last bit of the puzzle. Designing and developing proper systems can yield no impact whatsoever if the other pieces of impact are not properly aligned and planned.
I run into engineers who have great ideas in theory, but their ideas create no impact in reality. Ideas that are detached from reality. Some of these ideas die before they materialize into code. And some others just die due to the lack of support, vision, and direction.
I wondered for years; why these ideas die? They die too soon, too young and before they turn into products. What’s the secret formula for envisioning, driving, and delivering an impactful piece of software posed to inherit the earth and change the world as we know it?
Few years ago, I started to realize that impact starts with the potentially impacted not with the impacting nor what’s impactful. In other words, when trying to create an impact in any realm, you have to start communicating with those who will inevitably benefit from that impact, now, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future.
I realized that without connecting with the people, the potential users of any system, there can never be any impact whatsoever. Regardless of how flawless a system may be.
Guided by the Tri-Nature of Everything Theory — I started to develop a new theory around impact. A pattern that already exists everywhere, and just needed to be unveiled and articulated for the world to examine and potentially follow.
Impact starts with the people. You and me and everyone else we know that we wish for them to benefit from something we create as engineers. Impact can extend beyond these boundaries to benefit every living being. Animals, plants, and everything else out there.
But working with the people is the only way we can detect what’s needed to be done, and what the level of impact is based on the popularity or commonality of the problem needed to be resolved.
Connecting with the people is just as important as learning a new programming language, new library, or a new design pattern. Without being able to connect effectively and authentically with people any software to be written and any problem to solved can yield absolutely no results whatsoever.
I’ve witnessed some engineers brag about how they “hate talking to people” and that they just “need to be left alone to code” and so many others of these immature statements that makes their sayers a target for greedy businesses to take advantage of their genius. Toss them on the side with a fraction of the profits due to their inability to have the proper emotional and social intelligence to understand their rights, their value and what the market needs.
The question that many ask me is: How do I connect with people? In the new age of remote communications, being able to carry out an authentic conversation face to face with another human being is becoming more and more difficult as technology is separating us and pushing us apart from each other.
People born after 2000s are more likely to experience issues with interpersonal communication than those born in the 90s or the 80s. I see this everyday working with several groups of engineers from all age groups and all different backgrounds.
Guided by the Tri-Nature theory, and realizing that individuals are nothing but bodies, minds, and souls I started to realize that one should work with all three layers of communication between a person to a person to establish a good relationship of any kind.
The very method of communication in a verbal manner requires shifting between intellectual heavy topics, to more inspiring and motivating topics then back to more actionable and physical topics.
Let’s dive into those in a bit more detail:
Spiritual communications are the fuel for every other form of communication. If a person is not likeable or approachable, they will be less likely to establish a successful communication pattern with the people they work with.
Spiritual communications are mostly training that relies heavily on trial and error. Adjustment and emotional intelligence to handle certain critical situations.
Humor (The Past)
In my day-to-day work, I try my hardest to leave the individuals I’ve started the engagement or communication with in a better spiritual state or morale than when I left them. This requires a lot of work on being able to read the room, have a breakthrough to the individual(s) you’re communicating with and more importantly being able to come up with statements that can truly inspire and motivate and cheer the group regardless of their backgrounds or any other form of diversity.
But spiritual communications aren’t just about making jokes and finding an odd funny observation about every situation. As hard as that may seem, a situational comedic or humorous communication is much easier than the other forms we will be talking about shortly.
A communication that is always humorous can turn its owner into “the comedian” in their community or group. People will find it hard to take anything else that “the comedian” may as seriously as they should. A good balance between humorous and motivating communications is required to establish a good connection with people.
Humor plays its best role when it’s used to outline mistakes from the past. Being able to laugh at our own mistakes and learn from them is the best way to retrospect and evolve without creating negativity or toxic blame culture.
Inspiration (The Present)
Inspiration is the fuel that powers up the current efforts. Inspiration can be an everyday quote about working hard, patience and persistence. It can also be very situational based on where we are and what we are doing at a time. Telling tales and stories about individuals who’ve overcome certain difficulties plays a huge role in inspiring the people.
Inspiration is just like showers. You need it every day. Such as the case with every other spiritual form of communication. Inspiration can also come from being a role model, practicing what you preach and being the hardest working in the group. Body languages sometimes speak louder than the best inspirational quotes.
Inspiration depends heavily on empathy and kindness. You can’t inspire anyone if you can’t make them feel that you are on their side, having their backs and working towards their benefits. Kindness can be the simplest gestures with the highest impact, like buying someone their coffee, letting them in a room first or asking them whether they needed a napkin while eating their lunch.
But kindness has to also be authentic, as much as it can materialize as simple actions, it is also an authentic feeling and sincere words. All these three combined represent true kindness, sincerity, and authenticity.
Hope (The Future)
Nothing in the world speaks spirituality more than hope. Hope lifts up the spirits of the individuals and have them looking forward towards a goal they all aspire to. Hope drives individuals to push harder and faster to achieve it when it becomes a conviction and represents a meaning and an identity as a personal achievement.
But hope has to represent a common desire. A common goal that the people agree on. A hope for a better tomorrow. A hope for success. A hope for a state that is better than the current.
Hope has to represent a higher potential of happiness and prosperity. People don’t listen to those who promise a “bleak future” — but rather those who challenge the statistics and forecasts and promise to change the prophesied tomorrow into a new, happier, hopeful one.
In all the above three aspects of communication with others, listening is a fundamental aspect of it all. How else can one know what would make others laugh if they don’t listen closely to what makes them laugh? How can you inspire someone if you don’t allow them to share what’s inspiring to them? And how can you paint a beautiful hopeful futuristic picture for someone if you don’t know what they want for their tomorrow?
With humor and kindness, inspiration, and sincerity, hope and authenticity people will find it much easier to communicate with you. They will find that spending time with you, listening to what you have to say and saying what you need to know is their true way to living a hopeful, happy and prosperous tomorrow.
Intellectual communications rely heavily on three important aspects. Data, critical analysis, and careful predications. These three pillars play hand in hand with the spiritual pillars of communication. Data powers humor and retrospection. Critical analysis affirms inspiration. And proposals to create a hopeful future that is also believable and possible.
An engineer driving any discussion for retrospection and learning about the past without any data cannot be taken seriously. Collecting historical data, analyzing it, and extracting patterns from it is the only way an engineer can support any present decisions or future aspirations.
Data is the lifeline of any engineering process. Engineers who communicate based on properly and accurately collected and vetted data have a higher chance of establishing successful communications with the people than those who don’t allow themselves to study and understand the history of any problem.
People tend to appreciate those who take the time to listen to their stories and understand where they come from so, they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. It brings a lot of good feelings like confidence, assurance, and trust to those who you’re trying to impact and help as an engineer.
Communicating with people requires iterations of discussions with these very people. Shorter, focused, and direct communications that generates a collective hive mind of continuous analysis of people’s current state and generates the right energy to produce the best possible solution.
Analysis and critical thinking enable engineers to initiate the proper intellectual level of communication with their customers regardless of the customers’ backgrounds and engage everyone involved in the discussion about the current issues and their solutions.
Intellectual communications also involve proposals. Proposals is a result of good data-driven research and deeper analysis about understanding the patterns in that data and extracting solutions or proposals out of it.
Proposals are usually a tough point of discussion. It talks about the direction and the path moving forward. What the team is going to be working on in the upcoming major period of time. Proposals in intellectual communications must be accompanied by pictures from the future. What these proposals are aiming for.
It’s important to draw what that future looks like. In terms of mockups, results, and manifestations of ideas. Proposals without buy-ins from the team are dead on arrival. Even if the team “verbally” agreed to a proposal that doesn’t mean the desired result will actually be achieved without the team’s passion, commitment, and dedication.
Actionable communications represent all the conversations that are targeting the here and the now for acting. Whether it’s a response to an emergency, handling a routine of operations or development for the future. Let’s discuss those here:
Livesite communications concerning communicating a sudden outage in the system and rallying the team to mitigate that issue. Communications for Livesite has to be powered by its counterparts from the other forms of communications which is the humor, kindness, and empathy in addition to analysis. Emergency situations are usually serious as it is.
Light humorous engagements accompanied by data analysis could help support a better response to emergencies and Livesite situations in any system.
Usually, emergency communications are very focused on mitigating the current issue first. Then solutioning for a long-term plan.
Operational communications are concerned with the day-to-day work. It includes regular standup meetings, notifying partners and stakeholders and in general keeping the business running. Operational communications could become very vague and time-consuming if it wasn’t purposeful.
Operational communications have to always be accompanied by the fuel of inspiration, and the guidance of critical thinking and analysis to optimize the process.
Operational communications could very rapidly become dull and redundant if it didn’t incorporate all the other aspects of the aforementioned communication styles and levels.
Progressive communications are all those actionable communications related to building the future of any system. It goes from design sessions, architecture, stakeholder meetings and requirements gathering all the way to pair programming and experimenting with POCs.
Progressive communications are targeting the lifeline of any business. It’s the precursor for business evolution into the future. Progressive communications must be triggered by hope and engulfed by data-driven proposals that makes it more informed and impactful.
In summary, in order to be able to create an impact, the first point of contact should be with the people. The very users of your system and the very customers of your business. Communicating with individuals on the aforementioned levels, spiritually, intellectually, and physically perfectly sets engineers up for success. It opens up the doors for engineers to understand the problems needed to be solved and the impact that can be made out of solving these very problems.
In the next part of this series, I will talk about problem-tackling. How to read between the lines and find the true root cause for The Problem. How to ask the right questions and establish the proper trust to invite others to share their issues with any system they’re using.