A few lessons for a new software engineer

By Jack Gisel at


  1. Estimations are hard
  2. It's we and me, but never you or them
  3. Do the work

Estimations are hard

I struggle a lot with accurate estimations for projects. When I code I usually have 2 modes: full focus feeling like a 10x developer or a more regular mode where my attention is pulled into many things. Full focus mode isn't as common as it was when I was hired. When you're new at a company, not many people are going to ping you with questions. Also, all the work is new and exciting. Getting heads down time and getting into flow is very easy. After about a year or two at a company, you will find yourself being pulled into many conversations, reviews, interviews, etc. Finding time to lock in on a problem becomes less of a daily thing and more of a weekly thing.

I say all this because when I estimate code, my default is always how long would it take me in full focus mode. This is one of my biggest flaws now. I don't have a good gut feeling on how to estimate for the regular mode. Because of this, all my estimations fall closer to the full focus mode.

Regardless of how much you think you can be the hero, follow the advice you probably have already received. Make an estimation and double it, or even triple it.

We and me

This is a basic rule. If you are ever speaking negatively about something on your team, it's always we never them or by name. If you're the only one to blame, feel free to use me. Do not ever place blame on one person, unless it's yourself.

Do the work

Here is my simple equation to succeed on a team. The best way to get promoted is to do the best work. The easiest way to do the best work is to do the work you enjoy. The fastest way to get the work you enjoy is to earn it. To earn it, you need to make your manager and PM like you. How do you get them to like you? Do the work. Get your sprint work done. Ask to pick up bugs or items in the backlog. Tackle tech debt. Claim the action items from team retros. The key here is to: complete what you are supposed to do and be proactive. A proactive teammate gets promoted, gets the worth they want to work on and teams like them.

In my first 8 sprints at my first job I messaged my manager and said: "Hey boss, I just wrapped up my work for this sprint. Is there anything you would like me to look at for the remaining days? I was looking at these 2 tickets (insert link) in the backlog and they caught my eye." I did this like clockwork and eventually, I was getting first/second choice on roadmap items months away.