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Leverage As A Career Heuristic

Published 10/14/2019

How do you set your goals? In the context of a company and as an individual contributor. In today's episode, we're talking about sustainability as a heuristic to help drive your career growth.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
On many past episodes, we talk about some of the pitfalls of our biases, of our cognitive distortions, and often this discussion turns to the concept of heuristics. Heuristics being the kind of rules of thumb that we use when making snap judgments. And heuristics are incredibly important. Unfortunately, often they get a negative rep, even on this show. So in today's episode, I want to talk about a specific heuristic that you can use to kind of drive your career growth. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on the show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. Before we talk about the heuristic I want to discuss today, I want to take a step back and think about how we as developers, as engineers, as designers, as product owners, how do we set our goals? Of course, in the context of a company, you may have revenue goals, you may have official OKRs that everyone agrees on, but there's a distinct line in the sand between the common goals like making more money and the more specific goals, like having a positive impact on a particular group of people, no matter how you create your goals. Almost everyone falls back to some kind of basic rules of thumb, for example, almost everyone wants whatever they do to be sustainable. And I don't necessarily mean environmentally sustainable. Of course, that could be a part of your values, but people don't tend to set out with the expectation and the desire to fail or to stop doing something that they're doing quickly. The heuristics of earning resources or social recognition, social appreciation, these are the heuristics we tend to share. And these heuristics can kind of be automatic. They're built in. We don't have to sit down and write down that we want social recognition. We don't have to sit down and write down that we want more resources so that we can survive and thrive. So we have a bunch of these automatic heuristics, so what if we wanted to kind of create or build another set of heuristics on top of this? Most of the time when we think about our values, it is not necessarily at the heuristic level. In other words, they aren't really rules of thumb. We have to think very hard about how we measure certain decisions against those values. Today I want to talk about a heuristic that will help you grow your career that may not necessarily be obvious. It may not necessarily pop out to you from your nature or your subconscious. But before we get into talking about this particular heuristic, I want to introduce it with a bit of a caveat. And that is that no one is going to care about your career more than you do. Think about that for a moment. No one will have the capability of caring about your career more than you do. Now many of you have probably heard this in some form or another that nobody is going to care about your life or your job or your income more than you do. And it's true, but some of the connotations need to be cleared up here. This doesn't mean that no one else cares about your career at all. It also doesn't mean that everyone else is out to get you or that they will put their careers above yours. Very often decisions are mutually beneficial. They benefit both your career and the other persons. So we have to be careful when we are thinking about making moves for our own careers. We have to be careful in assuming that no one else cares at all about our careers. When the truth is probably somewhere in between, I've heard some pushback on this idea also from the angle that other people can't care as much about my career as I do. And I think the better way to think about this is no one else will invest as much in your career as you will. No one else will invest as much in your careers you will. And when we think about it this way, they usually clears up any kind of confusion. So let's talk about this heuristic. First we'll talk about what the heuristic is. Then we're going to do a quick sponsor break and then we're going to come back and talk about how it applies in particular scenarios. In your career, you're going to have moments where you have to negotiate. And negotiation isn't always about getting a better salary. It's also not about getting a promotion. Of course those are moments of negotiation, but you're negotiating all the time. Negotiation is a part of our lives pretty much every day. Now we often think about negotiation as getting the best bang for a buck, getting a better price on something, but negotiation is much more than that. At a fundamental level, negotiation is the process of resolution, the process of finding common ground with another person in order to take the next step. Essentially, anytime you are making decision, especially when you're making collaborative decisions, you probably have some dynamic of negotiation happening. Additionally, you can imagine that negotiation happens within ourselves as well. We seem to have two sides in any given decision. The one side that wants to do the thing that is immediately gratifying or maybe the thing that is safe. And the other side that wants to do the thing that's long term better for us, or maybe a bit more risky. And often the decision making process for an individual is kind of a mock trial between these two sides, listening to the arguments of each one and then deciding which one is the most persuasive. And so it benefits us to understand and to be good and negotiating. Pretty much all negotiation relies on leverage. And this is the heuristic that you can use to grow your career. Now, I want to be clear that I think there are a lot of ethical implications in this discussion because leverage can be gained by totally innocent and even beneficial processes, or you can gain leverage through very unethical processes, even the illegal processes like blackmail. In the same way that earning resources as a heuristic, you can come by those resources in both illegal and legal ways. So remember that with every heuristic that you use, you need to bring with you the tools of inspection, the filtering that you have through your values and through your ethics and of course, using the filters of societal norms and even what's legal. But once we get on the other side of that, once we get to the place where we can gain leverage, we can build leverage for ourselves in ways that are totally above board. We provide ourselves a much better position in any negotiation. So how do we use this heuristic? How does it change our decision making? We're going to talk about that right after we talk about today's sponsor, Flat Iron School. If you're like me, then you are a lifelong learner. And it doesn't just have to be at night after you get off of your job reading a book or watching a course online, you can go back to school. It's fall and kids aren't the only ones that have school to get back to. At Flat Iron School, students are parents, musicians, travelers, working professionals from all walks of life. If you are an entrepreneur that's running your own business, a marketer diving deeper into user behavior or maybe just someone who loves design, it's time to level up your creative chops. And you can do this in 24 weeks. Here's what's really cool. Flat Iron offers a money back guarantee and they can help you change your career with one-on-one support from a dedicated career coach. You can find complete details about what Flat Iron School offers by heading to FlatironSchool.com slash terms. That's FlatironSchool.com slash terms. And you can join the global community of change makers at FlatironSchool.com slash Developer Tea. That's FlatironSchool.com slash Developer Tea. All One Word. We'll see you in class and thank you again to FlatironSchool for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We're talking about the heuristic of leverage. And the way that you can imagine using this heuristic is to think about any decision that you're making, think about any venture or investment that you're making, and think about it through the lens of how this affects your leverage. A great example of this that follows our previous kind of caveats of ethical consideration is using the heuristic of leverage to seek professional independence. What does this mean? Well, it essentially means that you have the latitude in any given situation to walk away. Whether this is you signing on for a project or for a job in any scenario where you have the freedom to make a decision to walk away, you have leverage. And you can think about this from two sides. You can think about it from gaining that independence by increasing your income, for example, or you can think about it from the opposite side, which is reducing your obligations. Another way this can play out, and this is once again, well within our ethical considerations, is represented by the phrase that knowledge is power. If you come to any negotiation table with a significant amount of knowledge about the different kind of working pieces, moving pieces of the negotiation itself, that knowledge can give you a clear picture of the motivations and the kind of latitude that you have to negotiate. For example, in any salary negotiation, it makes sense to do both broad and specific research. Target your broad research towards other people who have similar responsibilities to you. You can do this online very easily. It's a few Google searches away, and then target your specific research to measure how you will impact the company itself. Understanding the space that the company is in, the phase that the company is in, these are ways that you can gain knowledge that is beneficial to you in a given negotiation. The final example that we want to use is actually going to explore one of those unethical places where you might try to gain leverage, but then provide an alternative to that way of gaining leverage. That is to hold information, to become irreplaceable because you have a bunch of information that you haven't shared with someone. This actually tends to happen inadvertently on software teams because an individual knows a lot about a particular area of code, and because it's so esoteric or because there's so much information available, it's cheaper to hang on to that person than it is to require them to share that information. Of course, this can be incredibly risky, which is why for those people, they tend to see positive effects from this, at least in the sense that the company that they're working for is likely to be more willing to pay more for that knowledge to stay on the team. This can be used unethically. This can be weaponized in a way if you either make things artificially difficult to understand so that you are the only one who can understand it, or if you intentionally withhold or mislead from the facts. What is a better way to gain leverage? What is a better way to become irreplaceable? Instead of being a bottleneck, instead of being the linchpin in that system, you can become irreplaceable by doing exactly the opposite. By sharing so much information that all of the other engineers that you work with, all the other people that you come into contact with, they become better because of you. Now, your value is not based on the knowledge that you can withhold, but instead on the knowledge that you can share. A developer that raises up all of the other developers around them is positively irreplaceable. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. I hope you enjoy this concept, this idea of using these kind of higher level heuristics to guide your career growth. If you enjoyed today's episode, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're already using. Again, here's thank you to Flatiron for sponsoring today's episode of Flatiron School. Head over to FlatironSchool.com slash terms to learn more about what Flatiron School can offer you, or just go straight to FlatironSchool.com slash Developer Tea. That's FlatironSchool.com slash Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Today's episode wouldn't be possible without a speck out of him and our wonderful producer Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.