P2P Learning

Sometimes at work I get the opportunity to do something quite delightful. This happened recently and this time around it was being interviewed about how I’ve learned about software development from other engineers at Narrative Science. The interview is available to read here. The first question was

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from a colleague?

I struggled for a while to find an answer to this question because I could point to any number of times that somebody I admire has taken the time to coach me through a difficult technical problem, or a manager or other mentor has given me career guidance that changed my direction. Ultimately, though, I told a story about my first ever shift of being on-call for our product and the engineer who helped me through it. Here is the relevant piece of the story

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Eric, the engineer who was available to help me through this oncall problem wasn’t consciously coaching me on how to behave as an engineer during this event, but his attitude and behavior rubbed off on me to the point that I think it’s one of the things that shaped who I try to be as an engineer.

It was around this time that I first made the move from being a pure “software developer” to being more involved with keeping things running and questions of infrastructure in general, a decision that shaped the course of my future career, and indirectly led me into a more client and service focused role than I would have originally thought would appeal to me, but upon reflection I realize that fundamentally what motivates me as an employee is to support a team, facilitate growth, and to be challenged by big, scary problems. My current role certainly supports all of that.

If you had told me four years ago – as I was ending my career as an astrophysicist – that I’d be quite delighted by being on the phone with a software company’s clients, talking them through a tricky software install I quite literally would not have believed you, but when I look at my career now I can’t imagine it having gone any other way.

On top of that, Eric taught me how to increase the number of Celery workers on a busy machine.

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