Aggressive Accessibility

I’ve been working in tech a long time (it’ll be 28 years in May), and I think some of things I think everyone already knows, or are obvious, maybe not everyone knows and aren’t all that obvious.

Updated to add a disclaimer: This is what’s worked for me. Coralie posted a really observant comment – and I think it’s worth mentioning that this might have worked for me because of my privilege. It’s very difficult for me to tell because I’m in it, but I’m not going to discount what’s a pretty high likelihood that privilege has had a lot to do with this.

So, since I’m at risk of missing my back to blogging goal of 3 posts this month, I figured I’d write up something real quick on my favorite topic.

I think developers focus too much on technical excellence and think that’s the only way to get ahead in their career. It’s definitely important – but it’s the bare minimum. To excel, I think you’ve got to be able to grow other people, and part of that is something I like to call being “aggressively accessible.”

It means:

  • Offering to help when you see an opportunity to offer it.
  • Looking for opportunities to provide help, even if it’s outside your normal duties.
  • Making things better because they need to be made better.
  • Volunteering for special projects.
  • Showing up places you think you might be useful.

By offering help instead of being asked, you put yourself in a place to be of more use than just waiting to be activated. You’ll meet more people, learn more stuff, and become more effective, and you’ll never be bored!

None of this needs to be super overt. Just showing up and being open to helping is enough. Just quietly offering help when it looks like someone is struggling is enough.

It has made such a big difference in my career and built so much social capital that I don’t know that I could actually quantify it.

It’s also part of moving from “senior” engineer to roles like staff, principal or into leadership roles like CTO. You have to go from being an executor to an enabler / multiplier.

That’s it.

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.

2 comments

  1. Good advice 👍

    I wonder how well it can be transposed to any position (not just tech, not just devs). I also wonder if women grow the same way you describe, if they take the advice.

    Of course the reason I’m chiming in is that I’m in tech but not a dev, I step up to help and I volunteer (not very overtly) and it’s helpful to the work and the people I help.

    BUT, they (men because it’s who I get to work with the most) get visibility as a result and I don’t. And everyone takes me for granted.

    1. Kevin Lawver says:

      (I posted this on Mastodon too)

      That’s a great question that I’m not sure I (as a man who’s benefited quietly from my privilege my entire career – so it’s hard to separate) have an answer to. I’ve got another post about being your own cheerleader / work accomplishment marketing brewing that I think could help?

      My personal observation is that a lot of the women I’ve worked with hesitate to promote their own work – which is an important step in getting recognition, ESPECIALLY for things considered “glue work”.

Comments are closed.