Hi there,
This week, we'll take a look at signs that show you're improving. Oh, and don't miss the TSR community hangout tomorrow!

Mentor Monologue

I can wholeheartedly recommend The Bike Shed podcast to any software developer. It's such a treasure trove of engineering experience. Case in point: In the same episode 294 from 2021 that I referenced in a past newsletter, you can find another discussion that is highly relevant, especially for junior engineers.

The question that triggered this discussion was "How do you know that you're improving?"
Pondering this question myself, I came up with 10 aspects that will help you answer it.
  1. With improving skills, you will deliver results of better quality. This quality might manifest in a simple metric such as a lesser amount of bugs in your code. On a more general but also more important level, your code will have a higher degree of maintainability.
  2. Another sign that you're improving is higher accuracy. For example, you'll become better at estimating necessary effort. This will enable you to meet deadlines (as long as they're realistic to begin with) more easily and precisely.
  3. Increasing velocity is another improvement that will allow you to achieve more in less time. In the podcast, Chris Toomey quotes cycling wisdom: "It never gets easier. You just get faster."
  4. At this point, I find it important to note that improvement shouldn't be limited to your technical abilities only. Communication is one of the so-called "soft skills" that will also indicate if you're making progress. For example, the more senior you become, the more you will find yourself running meetings, and explaining complex systems to less technical people.
  5. A few years into your career, you'll smile when you look back at what made you anxious as a beginner. Alongside your skills, your confidence will improve as well. You'll feel more comfortable handling unfamiliar code or getting into new technologies.
  6. Improving analytical skills will help you dissect and understand technologies quicker and more deeply. Coupled with your growing experience, they will also allow you to apply critical thinking to existing or proposed solutions.
  7. Synthesis, counterpart and complement to analysis at the same time, means to assemble existing pieces to something new. Your growth will show when you propose, design and build new creative solutions.
  8. Yet another trait of more senior engineers is that they take on more responsibility. They hold themselves and their team accountable for the results they agreed to deliver. Even individual contributors without formal power in a team can practice leadership this way.
  9. A more subtle ability that will emerge over time is intuition. You will develop a gut feeling that, combined with your objective know-how, will help you make better decisions.
  10. There is not a single engineer in the world who doesn't deal with other humans. That's why I picked empathy as the final entry in this list. Being able to pick up on signals from your coworkers, to gently integrate newcomers in your team, and to relate to people across and beyond your organization are just as important skills as the previous ones.
In summary, there are many criteria that reflect your personal development. Mind you, not all of them will grow at the same rate or the same time. But checking in on them on a regular basis can be a great motivator.

I have a practical tip for how you can keep track of your progress. Keeping a work journal allows you to look back and compare your current skills and struggles with those of Past You. It's an easy way to answer the question "Am I improving?" any time it comes up.

In The Server Room

There are still spots left for my 50% mentorship discount. It will apply for the whole duration of your mentorship subscription, which means that you can save €450 every year by signing up now with the discount code "FOUNDER0622". The discount offer ends in June, so don't tarry!
I'm going to schedule our first member Hot Seat this week, so stay tuned!

However, the date for our next member Hangout is already fixed (it's on the 2nd Tuesday of every month). We'll get together for a casual chat tomorrow at 18:00 UTC. Sign up on the forum and BYOB!

Recommended reading

As an online teacher, I always recommend additional material to my students with which they can expand their horizon. Here's a list of reading tips I've curated for you.

How Ahrefs Gets a Billion Dollar-Worth Infrastructure With a 90% Discount

Ahrefs moved out of the cloud onto on-premise infrastructure. It's another story of achieving huge cost reductions by going back to bare metal. I predict we'll need more sysadmins in coming years.

Thoughts on Proxmox and Home Lab Use

Setting up a Proxmox cluster with shared Ceph storage can be a good learning experience. But often, it's mere overkill. This article describes a more modest approach.

Estimates are Fine. They Build Trust When You Provide Them And Deliver On Them

I mentioned the skill of estimating effort above. David Bryant Copeland states: "Writing software is expensive, and the people paying for it have every right to ask the developers when it might be done."

Apple's terrible iPad ad and what it says about understanding your customers

Just as people don't want to be "the product", they also increasingly don't want to be just "the sales target". Once you lose the respect for your audience, you'll lose your audience, too. "Holy fucking shit, guys" indeed.

How To Create A Welcoming Space For New Open Source Contributors

Speaking of the human touch, here's a thoughtful article on how to lower the barrier to contribution to your open source project.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you found my News from The Server Room enjoyable and helpful. If you have any feedback or questions, simply reply to this email!
Take care!
Jochen, the Monospace Mentor