Big Picture Thinking as an Engineer

Posted on Oct 20, 2021 - 0 min read

Some of the best engineers I've had the privilege to work with weren't the ones that had domain expertise or knew how to code a complex algorithm. It was the ones that were consistently able to zoom out of the work they were doing and have an understanding of how it fit into the greater engineering org and the business.

Big picture thinking is something that not all engineers can do well, but in my experience it is one of the best predictors of an engineer that will consistently move up the career ladder.

So what does big picture thinking mean for an engineer? It means a lot of things…

It's being able to bring consensus between multiple cross-functional teams. It's the ability to assess risks and trade-offs when planning a build or fixing a bug. It's being able to determine the cost of doing something or not doing something. It's understanding users' needs and putting those ahead of your technical preferences. It's understanding the business drivers behind the roadmap and how your work will have an impact on it. It's having a clear picture of how to measure success when the feature ships.

Good engineers can solve complex problems. Great engineers understand why they're doing so and the value it brings.

Are you a big picture thinker? Are you adding this skill to your growth list?

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