The Three Attributes

Level-Up-DSI’m Davey, and I’m an architect with @KainosSoftware. As part of my job I get to work with a lot of great people, from young cubs that haven’t yet graduated, to old timers that have lots of experience. Part of my role is to be a coach that can guide people on how to develop their career and themselves, but also I interview a lot of people wishing to join the company, and people who wish to progress their career from within as well.

I wanted to share with you some attributes that I think are good for people to have; attributes that I certainly look for and and things that I try to develop in myself. This isn’t a list to say that you need to know technology X or have achieved certification Y, it’s more like a few guiding points that can help you on your journey — no matter if you want to be a software developer, tree surgeon or movie director.

The first attribute is called having a ‘growth mindset. In essence, a growth mindset means adopting the mental model of trying to improve yourself, and if your fail, its not because you cant do what your trying to do, but that you cant do it ‘just yet’ — you need to work at it to develop it, and that takes practice. Think of it like ‘levelling up’ your own abilties.

I think a growth mindset is really important to have, because each and every one of us has something to learn and something to improve upon — but for some of us there is a barrier there to even trying. Maybe it’s fear that you wont know what your doing, maybe your a senior person in a company that doesnt want to look silly in front of others or maybe its because you think it’ll be too hard to even start — your overwhelmed before you even begin.

My advice to you is to just give it a go. Instead of saying ‘I don’t know this or I’m not smart enough’, say ‘I don’t know it yet’. From a practical point, you absolutely still need to put in the effort, but the key is not giving up if you hit your inevitable first hurdles.

Say you want to learn how to code — you need to devote time each and every day. You’ll never learn it all in one go, but I honestly believe that if you keep trying, things will begin to ‘stick’ and one day you’ll find yourself not being an amateur anymore. At the moment I am learning Go, and I’m reading and trying out as much as I can. Will I remember it all? Not a chance, but some things are starting to stick and maybe in a few weeks or months I’ll know enough.

The second attribute I think is important is having a positive attitude, meaning that it’s really easy to think something sucks, or to moan about your job or your manager, or to feel that something is going to be so pants that you don’t want to do it.

I spent around 2 years onsite in Bristol for 3, sometimes 4 days a week at a time, working on a massive Government project, which was tough, but it was also a really great learning experience. When my involvement came to an end, I really fancied having some time at home on a Belfast based project. However, a new role in London came along that was way outside anything I’d done before — and I was going to be doing that 4 days a week, on my own, and I really didn’t fancy it. In fact I was firmly of the view that I was going to say ’No’.

Then I thought about it; I was basing my perception of this new role on what my previous role was like. I didn’t have any facts to base my opinion on; it was just a pure negative emotion to the unknown. I figured then that I should give it a go, and base any decisions on facts — facts about what the project was like, the people, the travel aspect, being away from home, being on my own etc. It’s my 6th week now and I love it — travel is down to a good ratio and I am doing things and learning things that I never would have had the chance to do, if I’d said no. I even had my wife over for the weekend, and it was excellent.

My advice to you is to just give it a go. Instead of saying ‘no’, say ‘I’ll try it and see’. That way your basing decisions on facts, rather than emotions, and if anything you minimise the risk of future regret because at least you’ll know for sure what it would have been like.

The third attribute which I think is good to possess is self-awareness. We all have a mental model of what we think we are like as a person and what our strengths and weaknesses are. However, this model we have of ourselves is rarely accurate as we often over-value some aspects of our abilities and undervalue others.

I believe we should all be actively seeking feedback from others as much as possible on what they think we could do better, as this feedback will help align our own perception of ourselves with the reality of what others think.

Saying that, don’t assume all feedback is 100% accurate , but instead look for the common themes that appear over time or from a number of people. Maybe you didnt realise that you are aggressive with a customer or passive in group sessions. My colleague Steven, has some excellent guidance on giving good feedback.

So to summarise, I think the attributes above will really help you on your journey to improving as a person or within your career. Certainly, I for one really value people that try to embody these attributes and I hope to be such a person myself — let me know how I’m getting on!