The Marks of a Great Engineer

Over the last 4 years, 2 of which as a manager, I collected notes about what I and others thought were the marks of a great engineer.  I’ve compiled this list to inspire other engineers and also give solid examples of each trait.   I’m sure there are many more things that can be added to this list, but its a start.

Finds problems, makes good decisions and escalates if unsure of correct path.

“This was broken, so I fixed it”
“This is broken. I see 3 possible solutions…”

Communicates clearly on technical topics to peers and managers. Asks good technical questions.

“Here are the 3 things we are working on and how they fit in the larger picture”
“Why is X the correct solution? What are other options?”

Shares what they learn via blog, tech talks, etc. (Helps you become more articulate and grow by getting challenging feedback)

“Lately I’ve been reading about…”
“Have you ever wondered why…”
“This is amazing and I had to share …”

Writes clean, modular, testable code, paying attention to detail.

“I’ve thought through these different solutions, but chose X because…”

Brings focus and vision to projects, taking into account the bigger picture and knowing what to trade off.

“We can start with X and iterate till Y.”
“Z is interesting, but not neccessary.”
“I think there is a bigger opportunity here if we do X as well”

Successfully delivers task/bug/projects to completion and cleanly hands off. Doesn’t let things drop!

“I wanted to check back in with you on X.”
“Do you have everything you need to move Y forward?”

Able to lead a project, create a roadmap and inspire team members.

“Based on the ask here, we need another experienced person to help with X.”
“Here is the plan for the next few sprints of this project. Thoughts?”
“I think this can be better by …”

Prototypes to get real data and answers when unknowns arise.

“I wasn’t sure about X, so I did an initial prototype and found…”
“I prototyped two possible options with this resulting data. Based on the data, I think option A is the best choice.”

Takes initiative, steps up.

“I’d like to learn more about X”
“I’d like to drive/lead X”
“Y has been bothering me and I’d like to make it better”
“I think there is a huge opportunity here if we spend time doing Z”

Is a standard bearer of the culture (collaborative, helpful, driven, insightful, friendly).

“What can I help you with?”
“Was that clearly explained?”
“Anything else I can do to help?”
“I noticed X and think Y could really save some time.”

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