In 1970, tire manufacturer Firestone recalled 10 million tires. A faulty engineering design separated the belt from the tread: the rubber on the circumference that makes contact with the road. Unfortunately, it took dozens of accidents to recognize the manufacturing defect.
New engineers need to understand their mistakes can have serious consequences. If you want to move up the career ladder swiftly, the room for error is slim to none (actually none).
Here are five mistakes new engineers should avoid if they want to gain long-term success.
Let’s dive in:
1. Don’t Neglect Usability
New engineers tend to get too creative with the job at hand without thinking about customer needs. Your work should help in solving customer problems, otherwise it’s just a waste of time and energy.
Usability is the first thing engineers should take into account. Thinking from the perspective of how customers are going to use the final product allows for quick adoption. From there, it won’t take much time for industry experts to take notice of your work.
However, it’s a challenge to gain this perspective since there is hardly any client interaction. Here are a few ways to dig deeper into usability without having to face customers.
Interact with product managers. They are the ones who have in-depth knowledge of product roadmaps, user needs, and intent. Integrate the information with your vision to keep customers at the heart of what you do.
Get access to customer insights. Support teams regularly measure customer satisfaction. Piggyback on these insights to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your audience.
Study competitors. Learn from what your competitors are doing right, but apply it with your vision.
2. Don’t Accept Data on Face Value
Engineers who built the Kansas City Hyatt walkways took the data provided to them without testing it. The result: walkways crisscrossing the hotel’s multi-story atrium collapsed.
Whether you are a fresh graduate or a seasoned professional — validate the data, always. Great engineers often act as devil’s advocate to challenge the data from an external source. It gives them room to check and recheck for the betterment of the product.
That means there will be times when you have to agree to disagree with peers. You have to be smart on how you manage these conflicts. Do not react to bad data, rather respond. Stay calm and listen to what your peers have to present, and then communicate your opinion in a calm but firm manner.
3. Don’t Disregard Security
According to an FBI report, employees are a big source of intellectual property (IP) thefts. Hackers specifically target the weakest link in an organization through sophisticated phishing attacks.
Do not take security lightly; one mistake can cost your organization big. Be up to date on the company’s security policies and adhere to it by all means. If you have doubts or questions regarding the policy, clear it out with your supervisor.
Apart from this, maintain a solid password management system. Keep changing passwords anywhere between 30 and 180 days. This makes it difficult for hackers to get access to sensitive information.
4. Don’t Skip Testing
If you want to outshine right at the beginning of your career, keep testing. Only incompetent engineers deploy designs into production without testing.
Test as many times as you need to, find flaws, go back to the drawing board, come up with a better version, and repeat. The process might seem tedious, but it ensures a high-quality output.
To churn out good work consistently, follow exploratory testing. It’s an approach where engineers dig deeper to find out causes behind a successful or a failed design, bringing more value to your testing process.
5. Don’t Get Too Many Degrees
Often, engineers focus on collecting degrees rather than building experience. Companies are looking for educated engineers with experience and skills. A slew of master’s degrees doesn't guarantee you a job or even better pay.
Instead, learn on the job to polish your skills. When you are done with your first job, you’ll have real-life engineering skills as compared to your peers who’ll be coming out with just another advanced degree.
Finally, DO Always Think Ahead
Problems will always arise, it’s your job to identify them before they occur. Build contingency plans to ensure that if one solution fails you’ll be ready to implement another one effortlessly.
Ultimately, thinking long term allows you to mitigate problems and identify opportunities — making you all the more valuable to employers.