So another year has almost gone by, and I haven’t shared my thoughts as frequently as I had hoped to at the start of the year. At the start of the year, I was on 🔥🔥🔥. I felt like every single weekend I had a great idea to write about💡💡💡, and I was just fired up about the idea of sharing my ideas with others. But as time went on, and as I started getting pulled into more meetings, projects, and other commitments, I prioritized busy work over reflection. 😩😩😩
It’s extremely important to give yourself time to reflect and realize what you have done. 📓Think about where to go next, what to improve on, and what is working well. By writing, you are effectively organizing your thoughts, and connecting the dots between powerful ideas📓. I like to view life through different lenses🔎. One of the main lenses that I view life through is the lens of a tennis player. It’s natural for me. I am a tennis player. Always have been, and always will be. Another lens I try to view life through is the lens of an investor🔎. I haven’t always been an investor, but since starting my career, I view it as another opportunity to increase my professional output outside of work.
What I really want to explore today is how lessons learned through tennis and investing have helped me increase productivity in my job as a software developer/developer advocate.
- Patience. ⏳The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word ‘invest’ is time⏳. It takes a really long time to make money. You have to have a lot of money, to make money from that money. So at the end of the day, you have to be patient. Working in a large corporation such as IBM — there really is no substitute for time. Everything in the company has a specific process that one must follow to get the right result. That can be frustrating sometimes, but being patient is absolutely key.
- 👨🏻🏫Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you will be good at teaching 👨🏻🏫. This holds true for any skill. There is no substitute for being good at something, before teaching it. That is the prerequisite. To be a good teacher, you must be patient, empathetic, and innovative. If the student feels that you don’t have the patience to teach them, they will feel discouraged, and less eager to learn. If you can’t put yourself in your student’s shoes, you will have a hard time understanding their struggles, and coming up with a solution to their problem. And lastly, you will need to adapt your teaching style to your student. Is your student a visual learner? Create a video. Do they learn well with reading/writing? Show them a blog post. You get the point.
- Consistency is key. 🏃🏽A job is a marathon — not a sprint🏃🏽. Just because you did great on your last project, this doesn’t mean you can slack off on the next one and just take it easy. You have to pace yourself. This means taking vacations. 🌴🌴🌴Yes, vacations are important🌴🌴🌴. This means anticipating burn out and taking the steps necessary to reduce the probability of burn out. In tennis, I got extremely burnt out several times. I had to take long breaks (4 months to Hong Kong did the trick) to get my motivation back to where I was okay with dedicating 25+ hours a week to the team. With a job, you don’t have the luxury of taking 4 months off. You can take a week off, or 2, but that’s about it. So be strategic in your vacations, and be strategic about working over-time. Sometimes you need to do it, but just realize that it might lead to burning out in the future if you don’t give your body and mind time to relax after a stressful project.
- 🗣Over-communicate, rather than under-communicate, with your boss🗣. Being a 5-year team-member on the UC San Diego NCAA Men’s tennis team taught me to always, always, always, ESPECIALLY during the negative times, to communicate with my coach. If there is something that is hindering me from performing at my peak, I tell my coach (in software development, that would be my boss). More often than not, they will work with you to get you back to performing at 100%. If there is some dispute, miscommunication, or just something plain old bad happened, tell your boss right away. Look, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, and maybe it doesn’t paint the best picture of you to your boss, but your boss is the only one that is really on your side (or at least they are supposed to be). They will help you fix it. And one way or another, that dispute or problem will get back to your boss, whether you like it or not. I bet they would rather hear it from you, rather than from someone else. So again, time is important — be transparent with your boss as soon as something (good or bad) happens.
- ️🛑✋🏼🛑Learn when to push back️🛑✋🏼🛑. ⚠️This one is the toughest and the most sensitive⚠️. When you disagree with the direction of the project, the team, or the company, it’s important to voice your opinion. How you do that, is an extremely sensitive, and debatable subject. On one hand, if you come off too strong, you run the risk of being disrespectful or even insulting. Similarly, if you come off too soft, you run the risk of others ignoring your opinion because they think you are not fully behind it. But pushing back, saying no, or voicing your opinion is a key part of being a successful software engineer. Asking why, and understanding why you are implementing something rather than just blindly doing it will help you and your team clearly articulate project requirements. While there is no guarantee that by pushing back your idea will be accepted, the benefit comes from putting your idea out in the open and letting others understand where you are coming from. Who knows, maybe your idea will be the one that is actually implemented in the end!
While tennis and investing might be completely unrelated to software development, there are many lessons to be learned and applied to not only software development, but any job in the modern-day workplace 👨🏻💻. So again, to recap, be patient. Things will happen. I’ve learned that enjoying the day-to-day grind of your job is the only way to be happy🤪. This means making things fun at your job. For me, that’s playing ping pong at the office. Throwing jokes out to my coworkers. Just overall having a good attitude. Trust me, the results will come, you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort.
Remember that just because you are skilled at something, doesn’t mean you will be a good teacher. Practice teaching, breaking things down, and be willing to take feedback from your students👨🏻🎓. After all, they are your main stakeholder as a teacher. Again, understand that work is constant. It’s a long-term game. Just like investing. When you invest, you are thinking 10–20–30 years down the road. That’s how you should be thinking career-wise too. Ensure you keep yourself healthy and happy so that you can last 30–40 years in your career.
And of course, communication is everything in the workplace. Just like being a successful doubles player in tennis requires good chemistry with your partner, the same is true in the workplace. That chemistry is built through communication🗣. Spending time with your team. Sharing experiences, thoughts, and feedback is critical. And last but not least, you have to stand up for what you believe — whether that is in or out of the workplace. If you feel that there is something REALLY wrong with your design for your client, bring it up. There likely is something wrong if you feel so strongly about it. Just because someone is more experienced (a senior, a manager, a CEO, you name it), doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t share your thoughts with them. Again, be respectful, delivery is everything. But stand up and be a leader. That is the only way change happens. 🙌🏼
Again, thanks for reading, and hope you learned something from this article. As always, feel free to comment, share, like or dislike, follow or unfollow, burn it, do what you want with it. 👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼
P.S. This might or might not be the start of me blogging a lot. Stay tuned.