Here are three things you should try to be aware of as an engineer who has deadlines.
If you’re able to manage the expectations of those around you then you’ll experience less stress.
1. The person asking the questions has the initiative
Remember all those movie scenes where the detective shouts “I’m asking the questions here!”. There’s a reason that they do that. They’re trying to control the conversation.
What does this mean for you as an engineer? If you’re continually waiting for your manager(s) or colleagues to come and ask you about the progress of something then you have relinquished control of the narrative.
If someone asks you a question then you are already on the back foot but how any question is asked (which you’ve got no control over) also plays a huge part in the subsequent direction of any discussion.
Practice giving short concise updates to managers and team-mates before they ask.
You’ll be more relaxed, you’ll get to understand more about what information various parties need about what you’re doing and you can engage in a dialogue about the work.
You’ll be seen as someone who is in charge of their piece of the endeavour.
2. Don’t disappoint a toddler
If you think of people you’re delivering to as toddlers, you can’t go far wrong. Obviously all your colleagues and managers are enlightened, empathetic people who have undergone some personal growth and leadership training…
At the same time, no-one likes to feel disappointment. If you’ve previously promised a toddler that if they only wait till after dinner they can have a lolipop and then don’t allow them to have one, you should expect a huge meltdown.
Similarly if you’ve spent two weeks on a feature but the day before are forced to tell the person waiting for it that it’ll be further delayed what you’ve effectively done is triggered that emotion within them.
There are so many ways this can be avoided:
- Get ahead of the problem by starting a dialogue about potential issues as soon as you get an incling that there may be some challenges to overcome.
- Talk about the key aspect of what is being developed. Does it all need to be available to get 60% of the functionality? Can it be broken down in some way? Something is better than nothing in nearly all cases. Maybe enough of the feature can be delivered on time?
- At the very least, you coming forward early allows whoever is downstream to manage the toddler in their life.
No-one likes a toddler shouting at them
3. Surface your work
Technically this isn’t expectation management but if you’re able to do this in a straighforward and direct way you will reap the benefits as more freedom. At the very least you’ll start to gain some leeway and breathing room when it comes to your day-to-day work.
It is important that you know what you are working on and have basic time management skills.
It’s even more important that your team/colleagues and managers know what you’re working on, how it fits into the overall goals of the business and why it is valuable.
You should never assume that because something is important to you it is important to everyone around you. You know what you’re doing and why but others won’t.
Yes, it may well be a great improvement to the automation framework which will reduce the mean time to restore service to 5 minutes from an hour but if you never put this in front of your co-workers all your greatest work will fly under the radar.
Just by saying “hey, come look at this, it’s cool” you’ll have people standing behind you when times are tough… and in the meantime you’ll have space to create.
I hope you found value in these points! 😀