10 Pieces of Real Non-Technical Engineering Advice for 2017

Engineering Advice

It’s the time of year again when most of us do performance evaluations at work.  This offered a chance to reflect on skills, experiences and other nuggets of wisdom that were gained during 2016.  

These are, for the most part, non-technical nuggets of advice.  Some of these were provided by managers, some were provided by co-workers while others were provided by individuals doing self assessments.  The common thread is that all of them were provided by/to engineers in some form or fashion as we looked back on improving our skill sets.

Standard legalize and disclaimer applies: Some have been modified for a public audience, these do not represent Zynga, info is provided as opinion, try at your own risk, not responsible for financial loss, etc, etc… 

Without any more delay, I give you 10 Pieces of Real Non-Technical Engineering Advice for 2017:

Improving Communication

Try focusing on understanding and resolving the doubts and concerns of others first – before focusing on reaching an agreement. If a solution is presented while doubts still exist, people often fall deaf to the new idea because they are focused on their concern. Rather if you take their concern and help them see that your solution accounts for and solves their concern, they will be more willing to embrace it.

Succession Planning

Continue to work to develop your future replacement.  Help guide and train them and build their confidence.  As they are able to take on more and more of your responsibilities, you will free yourself up to take on more ownership.

Relationship Building

Remember what is important to the person you are working with. Try to understand their ultimate goal. Restate their goal or purpose to them (with a slight variation) and ask for confirmation. When you in turn deliver on these goals, you may find that most people do not care about all the underlying details. You end up having the freedom to setup the details how you see most appropriate. You will also find that people start to trust you more because they know that you understood the goal or purpose even though they might not agree with the method. To them, the end goal is generally more important then the method of how it was accomplished.

Style / Swag

When all else fails, try growing a beard.


Evaluate where time is being spent on a day to day basis.  Determine which tasks take up the most amount of time.  Work to build a tool or automated solution for that routine task.  

Stress Management

We deal with a lot of last minute changes and unplanned incidents.  These are a natural part of the business and cannot be directly changed.  Our planning and accounting for them can be changed.  Try not to over commit engineers so that we do not have flexibility to account for unplanned incidents.  It’s often not a case of “if” it will happen – but “when” it will happen.


Engineers need non-monetary recognition as well as monetary recognition.  In certain situations receiving the praise from co-workers can be more beneficial then receiving a small cash incentive.  Look for ways to promote your engineers inside and outside of the studio.  


Difficult conversations are hard when they are not a regular part of the business.  This creates a formal process to acknowledge failure.  By contrast if we constantly reflect on what could have been better, then it creates an atmosphere of always making improvements.  The improvement process becomes part of the culture, rather then a requirement to fix something that failed.

Set Expectations

Be very clear about your expectations.  Hold your Senior Engineers to a higher standard.  This can easily be done by sharing what exactly you are relying on them to accomplish.  Ask them what will prevent them from accomplishing that goal.  They may need guidance and time to reach that end result, which is fine.  Make sure that both you are your engineers have a clear understanding and agreement of the goal you are working towards together.  

Strategy vs Execution

Try not to focus on being so deep in the day to day grind.  Trust your engineers to accomplish that.  Guide them and hold them accountable.  Turn your efforts toward strategic priorities to raise your group as a whole.


What other advice would you give?  Share it in the comments.

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