My career as a developer started 5 years ago. Before that I have 15 years work experience from other roles, and I‘ve been thinking about what I learnt from all those jobs I had before.
Questioning predefined tasks 🤔
ELDERLY CARE was my first full time job, providing care services for senior citizens in their homes. The shift started with receiving a work list printed on paper. These were public services that had been granted based on certain requirements, so it was pretty much an official work list. But…
I learnt that the details could be outdated, misunderstood, or sometimes just not the most important task to prioritize that day. I became critical of instructions written by people who where not there, and tried to understand individual needs instead. Also: an entire year of hard core training in empathy.
Systems thinking ♻️
THE FISH FACTORY processed 300 t pelagic fish daily, with intake from the boat dependent on work done in sequence by 50 people. Most packing 20kg boxes, some driving a fork lift truck or operating a fillet machine. The elevator moved pallets frozen the previous day, and it was such a critical bottle neck that one person was assigned elevator duty to avoid prolonged stops.
I learnt how constraints affect the system as a whole. If the elevator or any other part of the system was too slow, the entire production would grind to a halt. You truly grasp the concept of work flow when it is physical. Boxes clogging the conveyor belts, pallets queueing up with no floor space, lines of people literally just having to wait because their work stations are blocked from progress.
Influencing decisions 💥
UNIONS are valuable and I was a pissed-off 21 year old elected representative, capable of reading and utilizing the labour laws better than company management. Fun times. Buy me a beer and I can tell you the story of when I intentionally got myself fired to dispute illegal work contracts.
I learnt that organisations consist of people and decisions do not materialize out of thin air. You can often impact more than you think, even if you feel like you have no say at all. Companies can have the most rigid power structures in place, and it is still possible to push, prod, nudge, plant ideas.
Computers are not magic 💻
OIL INDUSTRY PROCUREMENT stood for a handful of temp office jobs over the years. I quickly picked up how to use Office programs and found my way around ERP systems, which landed me these gigs as a person who could use whatever software without the courses upfront.
I learnt that I am apparently “good with computers”.
Improving daily work 🛠
THE BOAT ENGINE FACTORY provided steady work all year round, unlike the fish factory. Workers were still typically considered interchangeable units, especially in the warehouse functions, but there was variety and autonomy — which meant we excelled in creating routines and optimization hacks.
I learnt how being lazy is a fantastic trait that motivates improvements. Faster, so we could have longer coffee breaks. Easier, so we could think about other things than the tedious. More resilient, because getting packages in return with missing or broken spare parts was boring repeat work.
Limitations are my jam ⏳
DESIGN AGENCY for 4 years, everything from print to HTML/CSS for static sites. A lot of designers enjoy working in a limitless realm for as long as possible, before they are forced to reign it in. They tried to teach this approach to creativity when I studied graphic design, but I revel in the realistic.
I learnt to prefer discovering the limits early, then proceeding to be creative within those. I don’t get thrilled about what we could potentially do with unlimited time and twice the number of people. I genuinely get most excited by what we can do here and now with the resources we have.
Effectively involving stakeholders 💬
RUNNING A BUSINESS as a freelance frontender for 7 years. When building custom websites at fixed project prices, it was essential to know exactly how to keep clients in the loop. Working in solitude, attempting to solve all the problems before a big reveal, would have been a terrible approach.
I learnt the value of showing work in progress. I got the hang of asking the right questions, and setting up a process that allowed me to get direction along the way. To this day, I don’t try to impress with my suggestions — instead I bring others along and utilize transparency while work in iterations.