Setting Your Course
When you drive to work, you don’t spend 30 mins perfectly aiming your car at precisely the location of the office. You take a practical approach of pointing in roughly the right direction and making thousands of slight corrections along the way. Your time at Spiff will similarly require lots of small adjustments.
Picking A Destination
A good place to start is to check your pod’s OKRs and Roadmap items. These objectives have been discussed between engineering and product and take into account company goals as well as the specific users that are impacted by the work of your pod. If you believe that the pod objectives are the right things to focus on, then you might pick a few of those as your personal goals.
If you suspect your pod objectives are focused on the wrong things, you should prepare an argument for how to improve them and discuss with your manager and/or product manager.
There are also times where engineers identify initiatives that are separate from the goals of their pod. Should we establish better testing patterns for behavior that depends on the output of a statement calculation? Perhaps life would be better on your pod if started a weekly tradition of posting Nicholas Cage memes?
Measure Your Progress
Your goals should be focused on the long-term success of the people using the software you build.
Sometimes the long-term success of our users is best impacted by improving our own processes, tooling or habits. You might choose to set goals around these things, but just remember that you need to be able to draw a clear line between the work you do and how it affects end-users.
Now you need some way to know if you are heading in roughly the right direction. You need to pick a few metrics that can be objectively measured. If your goal was to make it easier to setup a plan, what would you expect to see differently in a world where it was easier vs a world where it was harder? If you wanted to increase team cohesion on your pod, do you expect to see more emojis posted in the pod channel?
Pick a few of these metrics, and start tracking them. You’ll want to bring your personal goals and how you are measuring to your 1-on-1’s with your engineering manager. Make sure you agree on the value of what you’re working on share your progress as you learn more.