Engineering means adapting

· 2 mins read ·  Engineering Management

We all love feeling safe and secure in all aspects of our life including our job of course. Who doesn’t, right?

What if I tell you that the skills you are using right now in order to make a living out of them, probably won’t ensure your professional success in 10 years from now. How does it feel? Pretty scary I suppose 😳

This is how things look like in engineering world. Things change rapidly, technologies evolve constantly, new techniques and trends come and go so we should better learn how to adapt sooner or later if we want to tame this beast.

Adaptability is the most important skill engineers should master down the road in a pretty demanding and competitive market. Change is part of the job so we should make peace with it.

All these are easy to declare or write in such blog posts but they are definitely extremely hard to apply in real life. Engineers are people after all and they feel secure in their comfort zone. They know they are strong and safe in it.

Let me give you some examples from my own experience regarding hard and soft skills in the past decade so we see some of the changes that took place in both categories throughout these years.

# Soft Skills

Ten years ago it was quite normal for developers to work in small teams of 1-2 persons or even single-person teams under the guidance of a more experienced person like the CTO. They would have been given a deadline and a list of specs to deliver and every 1-2 weeks or so they should report directly to their supervisor.

Most of the times the Quality Assurance team would test all this work of theirs right before shipping it to the production environment.

Nowadays this watefall-ish approach is considered a bit old fashioned and sometimes even dangerous. Why? Because throughout these years we have learnt how to develop even more complex applications and this demanded to change the way we collaborate in an Agile fashion.

Now we build cross-functional teams of more people with different skills and strengths, we evaluate constantly teams progress and work, we catch-up regularly while testing takes place all way long and not during the final stages only.

Because of these changes, engineers now need to be great team players, have great communication skills, be able to participate into meetings with peers and collaborate efficiently with them, while they have an important role into splitting the workload and shaping the final product.

Modern engineers should be able to collaborate smoothly with others and not just deliver a list of tasks. Their duties are more complex and this demands an additional set of soft skills that were not required before.

# Hard Skills

Ten years ago it was ok to bind all JavaScript code in browser’s global scope while building web applications. There was not a robust module system in place so most of the times we ended up having long files with hard-to-maintain and test spaghetti code. Most of us were using jQuery to implement a ton of DOM manipulation magic across the application and this felt so good and efficient back then.

In 2015, ES6 was introduced so JavaScript finally had its own module system and we started organizing our applications codebase a little better. Ok, we had before AMD and RequireJS etc but you know where I am going with this.

ES6 also introduced classes which was a sugar syntax for JavaScript prototypal inheritance pattern and this helped many developers to start writing even more Object Oriented code in frontend. Especially people with OOP background from other languages benefited a lot because of this addition.

All these JavaScript changes helped modern frontend frameworks like ReactJS, VueJS or Angular to evolve. These tools though, enforced a top-to-bottom data flow and a declarative way to approach modern RIAs so DOM manipulation and imperative logic eventually became an anti-pattern.

Apart from that, technologies like ReactJS progressively took a turn away from ES6 classes and started promoting a more functional paradigm for various reasons that have nothing to do with this post.

Obviously, a frontend engineer who was relying heavily on DOM manipulation 10 years ago, today should adapt in new patterns and different paradigms in order to stay competitive in the market since the technology itself has changed vastly.

# Conclusion

Engineers should not be afraid of change. Actually we should all learn how to embrace it by sharpening our skillset constantly. This involves also the soft skills apart from the hard ones as we saw above.

So you want to feel comfortable in the engineering world? Sure you do. Never stop investing in your own education and evolution. Never stop adapting. Pick wisely the working environment that promotes such culture and will help you to accomplish this. Cheers!!

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