Value Outside Code

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“There is life outside your apartment

But you’ve got to open the door!”

~ Avenue Q, The Musical ~

There is something terribly interesting in solving a single particular problem. That single piece upon one ponders day and night, bringing so much pain and sorrow, yet relief and hope once the eureka moment happens. Preferably without the bathtub. Running through the streets of Syracuse is also optional.

Analysis and solving problems – the primary value that one brings to the business as an individual contributor in software engineering. This article is not about that. This is about value a software engineer may bring outside the usual scope. The sort of value that goes beyond the job description and into the realms of human resources, team communication, and marketing.

 

Hiring

The hiring process is a delicate one. A lot has been written about it, so let’s not dwell about the process too much. As an engineer’s career progresses, she or he may find themselves being called by the recruitment team to start participating in interviews. This is the most common way of bringing additional value to the hiring process. However, there are several others which, though less common, also provide value.

Technical recruiters are usually left to their own devices when sourcing candidates and learning about the specificities of a given role. By working with an engineer who is willing to tutor them in the type of technology expertise required for a given position, the amount of noise in the sourcing stage of recruitment is diminished and fellow colleagues will get better matching candidates early on in the interview process.

Marketing the open roles known at events is another way to indirectly enlarge the candidate pool. Speaking at conferences, writing articles, and even writing out job descriptions is something that is appreciated both by marketing and recruitment teams. In addition, going to conferences and pushing oneself to engage with the community is incredibly rewarding on its own!

 

Standardisation

Each writer has a personal style of writing. Each coder has a personal style of coding. However, this forces other people in the team to adapt themselves to reading a specific style in order to fully understand the intentions of the writer. Reducing the time spent on this increases productivity and decreases review time.

So gather round the team, compromise on a single team style, and enforce it. Part of this may even be automatically enforced in the continuous integration process with automatic linters and codified in rules that everyone agrees upon, so code that does not pass a set of rules may be automatically rejected even before it is sent for review. A bit draconian, but highly effective as after a couple of rejections the style gets burnt into muscle memory.

 

Negotiation

Third party providers are valuable partners in any technological company. They allow it to outsource services that support core features, yet are not usually part of the proprietary code base. At a given point in time, these services may be moved in house, usually once deemed that hiring a couple of engineers and maintaining such a service is cheaper. A way to delay this as long as possible is to negotiate with the third party provider on pricing, since onboarding and scaling up engineering teams has other hidden costs.

Although the procurement department is usually the one handling pricing negotiation, an engineer may add incredible value by thinking about possible technological solutions to provide an upper hand in bringing down the price. Building the service connectors in ways which are provider agnostic is interesting, but so is looking into migrating another service to the third party provider and getting a discount on the whole bundle of products. Or simply calling up another provider, explaining the technological requirements, and getting a quote. You might be surprised by the savings you may get simply by asking around.

 

This article is not a definite list of adding value outside pure coding, but rather some of the things we have tried out here at BidMotion and found out they work in an environment where every value added impacts the bottom line tremendously. It may also be used as guidance to those individual contributors out there who would like to work on something a bit different that might not necessarily be what they were originally hired for. Not to mention it is also a nice way to get to know how other departments work, visualise the bigger picture, and see how each piece of the puzzle falls into place.

As usual, if this speaks to you and you would like to work in an environment which allows you to branch out, check out our job openings here!

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