Looking back to a time when I was in school, doing projects with other kids was hard work. Discussing different ideas, dealing with the lazy kid, the perfectionist, the fun but distracting kid, etc., was at times exhausting. Some decades later, I finally understand those activities and the educational value they offered. I cannot imagine myself working without a diverse team these days.
How did these early life lessons help me find value in people’s friendliness later in life and work here at LOTTO24? Let’s start with the fact it took me years to learn that being polite to colleagues is even more critical than writing clean code or mastering the art of code refactoring. It was a learning process, an evolution, so to speak.
In the beginning, I only cared about my technical skills. After some time, once I gained confidence with my coding, I started looking beyond its edge: domain knowledge, the big-picture, processes, communication, etc. At that point, I realized how important it is to be friendly and engaging with my peers. Time has shown that what you give is often what you get back. Speaking to someone nicely comes typically back to you at some point in time. It’s much easier to engage with friendly people.
This is not to say this journey is not full of challenges along the way. Fixing bugs and solving problems are some of the things I enjoy the most at work. Whenever I face a tricky bug, I ask someone else for help right away. Like most things in life, software development is better when you do it with others.
I learned to be especially careful with code reviews. After all, you’re dissecting your colleague’s work and providing feedback on it. If you ignore your remarks’ tone, you may unintentionally come off as rude or arrogant. Given how important being polite is for teamwork, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if GitHub would start showing warnings for rude or disrespectful comments. Imagine a friendly little bot popping out of the comments box, suggesting a rephrasing to be kinder and more supportive with your peers.
Choosing the right language style for a particular situation is an act of kindness. For example, when writing technical documentation, we sometimes use patronizing language. Words like “simply,” “easily,” and “obviously” may seem harmless. Still, in the context of a README file, those exact words can be intimidating for beginners. Nowadays, you can use a linter to check for condescending language automatically. Another situation to watch for the appropriate communication style is when talking to non-developer colleagues. We should try explaining software concepts in simple words when speaking with our product owners or designers. It’s also an excellent exercise to test your understanding of a technical subject.
Those examples show how slight changes in our behavior can make a big difference at work. And there are countless other ways to include friendliness in our toolset.
At LOTTO24, we have the same challenges as many other organizations. We have time pressure, scope pressure, and general pressure to be great at what we do. We also pressure ourselves to ensure we have strong communication and a friendly attitude towards each other. All of us have challenges each day with what we do and how we do it. We always somehow find a way to learn from our life experiences and really try and show support and respect for each other, even when providing feedback on such a sensitive topic as code that someone likely spent hours or days writing. Especially with COVID-19 making our private lives a little bit more stressful and challenging, being kind is the way to go.
We have a choice
When deciding how we want to engage with others, we have a choice. We can choose how much effort we want to put into that engagement. We can decide if we want to push ourselves to be better, with the hope and desire that what we put into a peer relationship will be returned. At LOTTO24 I have been lucky to build some fantastic relationships and realize the benefit of speaking truth and honesty while still staying friendly and supportive. Every day brings new challenges. My goal is to continue the journey to be mindful of my words and challenge others around me to focus on a more balanced and friendly engagement.