Try Not to Become a Man of Success. Become a Man of Value — Einstein.
As a software engineer, understanding the value you bring to your team’s proverbial table is really important. Start by asking yourself in clear terms, what exactly is that you do, how important it is to the team’s success and the impact your absence would cause. Because, you may only increase your value once you clearly identify it.
Remember that as a programmer, you are expected to write well designed, bug free, efficient code and then improve this skill over time.
Imagine yourself as a carpenter making chairs; the difference between the ones he made at the start of his career and ones he makes after years of practice should be night and day. Some of them would stand the test of time as a monument to its creator’s mettle. That’s the code you want to write.
Here are some ideas on how to improve your value as a programmer.
Evaluate the value of your projects
Look at the projects you are working on and how they contribute to you becoming a valuable asset of your team. If you’ve been working on an experimental side project there is nothing wrong with asking your manager to become mainstream. If you’re actually mainstream for too long an experimental side project might be what you need.
Improve product value for your customers
Spend time in understanding the business proposition of your team to your end customers and how it effects the revenue. Yes, money brings a lot of value and you should not ignore that. You might be able to identify things you can do to increase the value of your product for your customers.
Focus on learning and improving
Spend time in learning and improving. Look for new technology solutions that can help your team. Spend late hours figuring them out before presenting them as viable options. Build tools to improve efficiency.
Expand your code base knowledge
Understand everything about your product’s code base, whether you worked on it or not. Never say that I’ve never worked on this part of the code, instead volunteer to fix bugs in it. Be humble and inquisitive and you can gain lot from people around you.
Remember, we can only tell the distance traveled if we start measuring it. Use tools like I Done This or Microsoft TODO to keep track of your goals and tasks. A lot is possible once you clearly identify your value over time. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments.