Maintain a sense of fun
Our research uncovered that effective work is associated with having a sense of fun, both individually and as a team. Effective engineers feel motivated when they have fun, feel challenged, and learn a lot.
As an organization, we maintain this sense of fun with routine events and opportunities for team bonding, passion, and play. These activities include Super Smash Bros tournaments, talent shows, Rumba dance lessons, internal conferences, hackathons and more.
Be pragmatic and communicate trade-offs
Another key takeaway of our research was how pragmatism and communication play such a significant role in work effectiveness. Effective engineers can make appropriate decisions regarding speed vs. “quality” (elegant code, scalability, performance optimization) based on whatever is needed at a particular point in time. They are very good at identifying what is “essential” in each product iteration and focus on that.
They also embrace just-in-time refactoring rather than just-in-case refactoring. In many cases, effective engineers develop a functional solution first and then iterate on it as needed based on time, performance, and business constraints. As an example, one engineer told us that when he doesn’t have a clear understanding of how to deliver the issue, he focuses first on making it functional even if the code isn’t pretty. Once it’s functional, he writes the tests. Finally, he refactors and adds more tests.
Related to their understanding of pragmatism, their ability to understand and explain trade-offs to clients (e.g., technical debt incurred while focusing on a speedy deliverable) ensures that the team and the client stay on the same page regarding conscious technical decisions and its impact on the product, presently and in the future.
Effective engineers keep continuous communication between the team and with the client and foster an environment in which questions are asked and clarified as early as they appear.
Value good health
Our research also identified a clear correlation between making a conscious effort to maintain one’s health and an individual’s effectiveness. As such, effective engineers integrate health-conscious habits into their daily routine. They place significant value in exercising or working out to maintain their health. They also ensure they have time to participate in activities to relax. And (it should come as no surprise that) they’ve discovered that sleeping well makes them more effective.
We know the value of employee wellness, which is why we made sure that our newest facilities in Guadalajara, Mexico came equipped with a full gym, a meditation room, and an expansive terrace for fresh air. By offering yoga classes, daily meals, and space or adequate breaks, we are doing our part to keep health top-of-mind.
Our research process
When we set out on our research quest, we asked people to nominate engineers who they believed are effective teammates. Intentionally, we asked people who would see the outcomes and impact of what they develop (rather than their day-to-day output) so we could focus on those deemed effective by others. We asked project managers and delivery managers rather than other engineers, designers, or tech writers on their project team.
We interviewed all the engineers who got at least two nominations. We also ended up interviewing seven of those highly effective engineers in person.
In parallel, we did research to identify common characteristics of effective work, as seen by others. We re-read the following books on effective work:
- “The Effective Engineer” by Edmund Lau
- “Great at Work” by Morten Hansen
- “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work” by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
- “Rest” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Some of the key insights identified in the research are depicted in the graph below.
We also sent out a survey to all nominees and received 24 responses. The survey questions were informed by both the results of the interviews and academic research.
What does this mean for engineers, Wizeline, and our industry?
It highlights how important it is to be aware of our work environment. That the success of an engineering team can be influenced by everything from the physical layout of your office to the clarity of project goals, and the company culture.
- Create awareness of best practices
- Importance of uninterrupted time for FLOW
- Build awareness on the tradeoffs of interruptions
- Make sure meetings have clear agendas and outcomes. Establish rules around how expensive and precious meetings should be.
- Promote the benefits of sleep and workout on effective work
- Promote a culture of learning and the benefits of continuous learning and passion projects.
- Master a toolkit and stick with it, instead of constantly experimenting with different tools
- Foster goal-setting
- Establish OKRs and milestones
- Weekly updates
- Offer training
- Conduct training on how to prioritize and on how to focus on only a few tasks at once
- Encourage multidisciplinary skills and interests
If you’re interested in learning more about Agile product development, effective work, and building a solid engineering culture through DevOps practices and Wizeline Academy programs, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.