At the very core of being a software engineer is the concept of tools. In the realm of software development, these tools may be abstract or concrete, ranging from coding languages and software to conceptual frameworks and patterns. However, the defining factor of a proficient software engineer isn't merely the usage of these tools, but the mastery of them. This mastery goes hand in hand with the cultivation of abstract thinking, which allows us to effectively utilize and even contribute to the ever-evolving toolset of our industry.
Learning from Peers
Among the most valuable traits of a software engineer is the ability to learn from peers and to absorb the nuances of the tools they have effectively mastered. This process of learning, adapting, and integrating new tools into your repertoire is the essence of software engineering. It's akin to absorbing the wisdom and experience of those around you, ultimately allowing you to optimize and elevate your own approach to problem-solving.
Indeed, problem-solving is the bread and butter of a software engineer's role. You must be able to create new solutions or tools, akin to mechanisms or algorithms, in response to the problems you encounter. This process involves the identification of a problem, the selection and application of an appropriate algorithm, and finally, the evaluation of the results. At the end of this sequence, you have not only resolved a problem but also deepened your understanding of your tools.
While it's true that managers too can create tools, often these are organizational rather than technical. For example, they may establish more meetings or assign tasks to specific individuals. Although these strategies can encroach on the time you'd prefer to spend solving problems, a well-equipped software engineer should have a versatile enough toolset to work efficiently, perhaps completing tasks in a third of the time they initially took.
Last but certainly not least, an effective software engineer understands the importance of documentation and knowledge sharing. Tools should be well-documented and understood, and knowledge should be circulated within the organization. This not only improves effectiveness but also increases the organization's value. And while you might not take the tangible code to your next role, the experience, insights, and understanding of tools you've gained become an integral part of your professional toolkit. This phenomenon explains why successful startups often comprise individuals from other successful startups: they bring their tools, experiences, and understanding with them, and that's priceless. In the end, understanding the construction, usage, and sharing of tools—both concrete and abstract—is key to progressing in the world of software engineering.