воскресенье, 13 декабря 2015 г.

Focus

There was obviously little activity in this blog during the recent months and I feel great returning here. The blog always gave me an opportunity to step back and think over my actions and choices. However, this year I was so focused on a single thing - my day job - that only one post had made it here. Now I want to check with myself what this attitude gave me and what it stole from me.

Last February my priorities changed dramatically. In about two months after becoming a team-lead I discovered that whatever I was doing was not enough to do good with new duties. I was both overwhelmed with the tasks and problems that fell on our team and saw clearly that we don't perform as good as we could do. Part of my natural response to this discovery was to ramp up the amount of time that I dedicated to the job.

There are lots of reasons why I'm happy with this choice. Firstly, putting more effort into work made me learn a lot and build up new skills in the areas of my responsibility. Because it was my duty to process all the requests that arrived at our queue, I learnt to do this efficiently and obtained a lot of domain knowledge. In other words, it turned out that it's enough to push me into a partially familiar field and show no way out to make me learn it deeply. My expertise grew enormously over the last year and being really focused on the job helped here a lot (yes, there are lots of things in my field that I still don't know or understand not good enough - I'm speaking only of the delta). Moreover, spending a lot of time studying and resolving various issues - some being totally unclear at first - I not only learnt new areas of the domain, but also developed a skill of learning faster.

At the same time, through spending extra hours on duty I came to see clear that sometimes one cannot address problems by simply working harder. When you do a lot and it doesn't help, you start to see deficiencies and acknowledge the need for changes in one aspect of the job or another. A different edge of this same idea is that one cannot do everything on his own. No matter how hard you try, there is always less done than left to do. These discoveries, combined with high exposure to the issues that we face, constant analysis of our work and search for means to improve it - all of these being enabled by having extra time - certainly brought positive results and helped me develop myself both as a developer and as a manager.

On the other side, the same willingness to work more than 5x9 had a negative impact on the manager role of me, because having more time I could in many cases take the responsibility for any new urgent issue or task. While this attitude helped me tackle problems in time and develop my own skills, it hampered the team's collective progress. Any problem brings new knowledge and shows ways for development, so I simply stole a lot of opportunities from my fellow team-members and hampered knowledge distribution.

Generally speaking, while my attitude helped me grow in terms of knowledge, skills and career, it also shadowed both opportunities and problems. It is a very important lesson for me: whenever one decides to tackle a surge in the amount of tasks by throwing in more (his own) manforce, he misses an opportunity to find more intelligent ways to solve problems and to use them as the points of growth .

These are the effects of the extra work on my job, but there are also those that go beyond my office life. First of all, I left the attempts to do programming and software development in the outside - this means all side jobs and projects. While these used to bring new opportunities and ability to study unfamiliar areas, that's not something that I regret much. Being focused on one area allowed me to grow more than attempts to handle both the main job and one or two similarly looking activities would permit.

What I do regret is that leaving less time for myself I started to pay less attention to continued study and learning new things - both around software development and outside this field. I totally stopped exploration of new programming languages and tools and did much less learning in other areas than I used to - namely, I didn't complete a single online course over the recent months. That's certainly something that I shouldn't have forsaken:  these activities could both help me do my job better and make me expand my knowledge and interests.

Another thing that I dislike is that I quit writing for the blog. Here the reason is not only that the blog has become a silent and lonely place - it was never crowded here. The real problem is that writing less I lost the habit to deeply think over whatever I do and to search for interesting problems and irregularities in my activities. Of course, I do reflect on my decisions and actions, but without regular writing I hardly do it in a systematic and efficient way. Moreover, without posting to the blog I avoid sharing my ideas, which is not a big loss for society, but a shameful cowardice of me.

As with any choice, there do exist both positive and negative sides to putting most of your effort into one area of your life. I see these and despite the cons I am going to continue along the road that I started almost a year ago. However, even though I will continue to pursue that sweet feeling of exhaustion, I do need to make certain adjustments to address some of the problems. In particular I will certainly pay more attention to the supporting activities like learning and blogging - these allow to widen perspective and spot issues that stay invisible when you are constantly inside the problem-solving loop. At the same time, staying focused on my job I will have to pay more attention to the things that I am busy with. After all, being totally occupied with the day-to-day activities is a direct way to keep doing wrong things. So I only need more thinking, more analysis, more writing and the same amount of job. Good to know the solution to one's problems, huh?