Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash
how to make an impact as an IC
·May 22, 2022·
3 min read
This post discusses what it means to own a project, product, service, system, process, etc. Ownership is a role taken on by everyone from time to time.
Ownership is stewardship. It's taking responsibility to achieve quality outcomes in a particular scope and timescale on behalf of the entire team through attention, craft, and care.
It takes attention and craft to turn a good idea into a great product. Grant yourself permission to create something great.
⛷ Skills required
- Ability to leverage your own agency to get things done.
- Ability to balance short term and long term goals to achieve high impact, sustained over an extended period of time.
- Ability to gracefully field change requests, being open to ideas, improving ideas. Be responsive and knowledgeable about business needs.
- Ability to shepherd larger initiatives: helping others to think through the implications of a change, break down the work, establish success criteria, and review contributions with an eye toward robustness and simplicity.
- Ability to drive timely consensus among stakeholders, effectively communicate the plan, and execute the plan to achieve great outcomes. Includes doing pre-work to understand ahead of time where consensus will be required and front-loading it to early phases.
- Ability to earn trust and de facto authority through clear, concise, accurate communication on technical topics and prolific design and code contributions. You set the bar for quality and speed.
- Ability to admit mistakes. They’re inevitable! Backtrack as needed.
- Know when to ask for backup when you’re underwater.
✅ Responsibilities of an Owner
- Achieve clarity of purpose early. Establish and communicate end goals in a concise, compelling way.
- Avoid or compartmentalize incidental complexity. Clarify, categorize, or abstract irreducible complexity.
- Establish clear test/review methodology focused on verifying high level outcomes.
- Ship good things.
- Unix philosophy: single-purpose, composable layers.
- Create good abstractions that make simple things easy.
- Ensure that we don’t build leaky abstractions. If degradation is required, provide a documented escape hatch that is consistent with global behavior and concepts.
- Core concepts up front: what is it, why do we have it, how does it work, what else does it interact with or depend on.
- Openness to contributions, and change management. Gracefully field change requests, treat collaborators with respect.
- Consistently and clearly communicate status, progress, and tracking to target dates through established channels. Surface blockers early.
- Collaborate to solve problems creatively
- E.g. adding examples to highlight existing functionality might be more helpful than adding new features or interfaces.
- Accelerate solution exploration through clear explanations.
- Help others to explain and frame change requests in light of long-term plans.
- Know when it makes sense to change the plan.
- Apply standards in service of clarity, correctness, simplicity, and consistency (in that order.)
- Keep initiatives on the rails. Unblock and re-route quickly and effectively.
- Don't stop until things are all-the-way done! It's often easy to leave things at 90%. Cut scope, but don't leave things half-finished. There's a big difference!