A lot of the awesome work developers do is not self-evident to project stakeholders. Customers, project managers, business analysts, and others may never see or hear about all of the big and little things you do behind the scenes that ultimately make their project a success.
Here are five tips to improve the visibility of the care and attention you and the rest of your team put into your development efforts.
Tell a Good Story
A well-told story can bring people into your journey, and many implementations are a complex journey with struggles and plot twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan jealous.
Set the stage by describing where the journey began, the goal, and the characters involved, and walk through the challenges you faced along the way. Take time to highlight what might have happened (e.g., we nearly ripped out the date picker widget to write our own from scratch, which would have taken a a day or two, but Joe found a way to make it work).
Some things you might want to highlight in your story include:
- The teamwork that led to success
- Time saved by using existing libraries or tools
- The source of a challenge and what you’re doing to mitigate the risk of future challenges from that source
- The team’s dedication to completing the journey and excitement about achieving the goal
- The things that didn’t work before you found the one that did
Compare and Contrast
Comparing current work with similar jobs in the past can help illustrate similarities or differences that should be appreciated. For example, a new library or tool may have helped you build a feature similar to one you built a year ago but in half the time—that’s a great win!
Or perhaps a search feature designed very differently than a previous example may have taken a lot longer to build—that’s great information to help guide design and implementation decisions! These insights provide value to the broader team and demonstrate the value of your experience.
Slow Down Your Presentations
I see a lot of developers rip speedily through presentations during sprint review, not leaving much time for feedback or discussion as they hurry from one feature to the next.
Slow down! Create space for people to think critically and ask questions. This is a great time to practice some brief storytelling or compare and contrast the features you’re sharing with the group.
Don’t Minimize the “Easy” Things
Don’t think of development tasks as inherently easy. Some tasks do fall into that category for most people–tying your shoes, brushing your teeth, making your bed–but your customer probably can’t do most of the development that you consider “easy.”
Instead, consider what it is that makes you see the task as easy–likely, that it will get done quickly because of your knowledge and experience. Now, use that perspective to respond to questions differently.
Instead of saying, “That’s easy,” try:
- I’ve done that before. We’ll get it done quickly.
- The way we built the app makes that type of change easy.
- The tools we’re using will let us make that change quickly.
Understanding what people expect can help avoid misses, give you something to aim for when you want to exceed expectations, and help anticipate conversations. It takes effort and attention to build empathy and understanding, but it’s extremely valuable.
For example, as a developer, you may know that it’s easy to change the navigation wiring in an application and temporarily wire up new features to unused navigation elements so they’re easier to test. That’s not a bad idea, but your customer probably isn’t expecting it. That means you have some work to do: Proactively set expectations that this state is temporary, share why it’s valuable in the short term, and identify when that temporary wiring will be removed.
I hope these practices will help you demonstrate the value of what you and others on your team do on a day-to-day basis.