Knowing what needs to be done

Knowing what needs to be done

This post is part of the Two Years at Gusto: Everything But Code series. The remaining parts are:


In an interview, a candidate asked me what kind of engineers excel at Gusto. I quickly ran through the list of rockstar engineers in my head and found one thing they had in common: they all took initiatives in doing things they thought needed to be done.

“knowing what needs to be done” requires you understand the context around you. If you work at a small startup, it might mean knowing where the business is currently at and where it’s heading. If you work at a large company, it might mean knowing the position of your team, its relationship with partner teams, and its commitments.

But that’s not what it really takes. The underlying requirement is to care, care enough that you actively think like an owner of the business or an owner of your team. I think it comes naturally if you are in a management position. After all, that should be explicitly part of your role. But if you want to stand out like a rockstar, that’s what it takes.

But that’s not the hard part. Proactively thinking as the owner of the company you work for is not as hard as thinking as the owner of your life. It’s unfortunate how easy it is to forget we are writing stories of our lives day by day, either by copying others’ or creating our own.

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