TL;DR; Feedback is crucial for your career. Be proactive, get out of your closet and ask for it!

Last week, I have read Michal Sliwon post “A recipe for a happy software development team”. It’s a great read with some eye opening thoughts. I encourage you to read it.

One of the things that stood out for me, is how Michal and his team use feedback. As chance would have it, 2 weeks ago I asked for a feedback in my Company. It has been a year, since I joined the team. Surely, that’s enough time to tell me if I am a good team player and problem solver. In a year, you can make just enough mistakes, and good stuff too, to show who you are.

Before I started in IT, all the feedback I got were ‘grades’ at University / School. Grades are fine if you need a system for fast evaluation of multiple people but it always felt naive and ‘not enough’. How can you evaluate someone based on simple predefined grade system ? How can you help someone ‘find the way’ using this system ? I always imagined that on Uni, I would have some 1-on-1 meetings with teachers or at-least someone will try to mentor me. Nope, education system is like a factory. You get in, you get out and in the end you enter the dangerous world of grown ups, not knowing the importance of giving and receiving ‘Feedback’. Some people are even expecting similar grade systems in workplace. You know do this and that and you will be there ? There are some companies that are very transparent in their ‘promotion’ system ( Buffer, Fog Creek Software ). That’s just compensation systems, even with it there is still place for proper feedback process. Btw, I am all into transparent workplaces, this is the way to go. Lack of feedback greatly lowers your chances and negatively affects your growth. By growth, I don’t only mean career related things but also your growth as a human being.

In my first company, I was quite keen to receive my first feedback. Being a Junior Dev felt like a little kid in a maze, not knowing really what is happening around you. Feedback was important to me, I was waiting for it. Now, imagine my surprise when I got no feedback at all. And so you work without any guidance, trying to figure out on your own what kind of ‘team-player’ you are. There was one message, company did not fire me so, “hey they have to be happy right” ? Wrong! Approach like that is similar to grading system, it’s not enough. What kind of lesson you can get from just knowing that you are good enough to stay at your company ? Probably none. Back then I was just a ‘kid’, having proactive attitude was something completely alien to me. I was hoping that my first manager, would be my guide in this dangerous world of all these grown-ups and their politics. Sadly it did not happen. I felt betrayed and started managing career on my own. Yeah you can do that to a certain degree, but it’s not the same. You can’t evaluate yourself. Your point of view is flawed. You know ego, ego, ego. There is also impostor syndrome which causes different anomalies and can affect the way you are thinking about the world. So in short you need feedback from someone else. Now, I was lucky, I found mentors in the community, in form of books, blogs, I have talked to people on twitter, facebook, meetups etc. but it would be a lot simpler if I would ask for feedback on my own. What’s the lesson here ? Being pro active is really crucial, no one will manage your career for you. Get out of your closet and ask for Feedback!

Why

So much talking about feedback and there was no why. Here it is.

  1. IT is changing really fast, you can’t keep up with all these technologies. Ideally me and you, we would have a lot of time to research and explore various technologies, but yep time is a limited resource and we can’t do everything at once. But hey two heads are better than one. Having someone who could give you some feedback about various techs is really beneficial.

  2. Technical expertise. You can’t be an expert in all of the technologies. Having someone, somewhere with experience in certain technology can save your time and money ( and hundreds of ‘F’ words for sure ).

  3. To consider yourself as a mature person, you need to ‘nurture’ your personality. Yes, It is a hard, long process, you might not even see the changes. That’s where you need external feedback. Ideally someone close to you. Friend ? Team-mate ? Friend can influence you personal life while team-mate can pinpoint career related stuff. For instance if you are dreaming about becoming senior / tech lead or architect, ideally you would find someone in this position. Hist tips and suggestion will speed up your growth into that position.

  4. Life is full of dangers and those dark caves that you don’t want to go in. Having a mentor and guide that could give you some feedback is really beneficial. Imagine how much time and effort you would save if someone would told you that some route in career is a waste of time.

  5. Getting feedback is a great way to learn how to give feedback. This can lead to awesome opportunities to meet intelligent people. If you are a person who is pro active in giving feedback, there are people that will greatly appreciate that. In the end you can gain contacts, friends, new opportunities. We are a social creatures and building your personal network is one of the most important things in your career.

In next post, how and where to get feedback ? Little fix. In next post, I will write about how to get feedback and where to look for it.

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