Edmond Lau, author of the popular book The Effective Engineershares with us useful insights for engineers just starting out in their field and tips for founders when hiring and managing them. 

1. What are the 3 most important skills you need to look out for when hiring an engineer for your team?One, make sure they have systematic debugging skills — given a bug, are they able to formulate a hypothesis about what went wrong and then figure out the most efficient way or a minimal reproducible case to test that hypothesis?

Two, look for a fearlessness to dive into things that they don’t know — given an unfamiliar code base, are they willing to jump in and learn or do they hesitate and hold back?

Three, watch for a tool-building mindset — what are some of the tools or workflows they’ve built that they’re most proud of?

2. How to manage your engineering teams priorities effectivelyExplicitly define your team’s mission. Pick a single, top-level metric that, when optimized, most strongly moves your team toward achieving that mission. The mission and associated metric become your north star that you can then prioritize your work against.

3. 3 Mistakes to avoid at the start of your engineering careerThe most important thing to focus on at the start of your engineering career is to optimize for learning. Small deltas in your learning rate make a huge difference in the long run because investments in yourself compound over time.The biggest mistakes new engineers make are:

  • not surrounding themselves with smart people they can learn from;
  • not asking for help, particularly when the help enables you to build the right mental models and learn faster, and
  • not carving out space and time in their schedules to invest in themselves.

4. What is one aspect that is going to change the most in engineering in the next five years?We’re going to see software playing an increasingly stronger role in revolutionizing traditionally slower-moving industries. The most prominent examples in recent years have been Uber with the taxi industry and Airbnb with the hotel industry. As a result, if you can develop the skill of rigorously reasoning about the business impact of what you build, you’ll add significantly more value than someone whose sole focus is the craft of engineering.

Edmond will be sharing even more insights at StartCon on how you can maximise your resources as an engineer. Make sure you secure your tickets now! 

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