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Add Value and Make Noise

I first heard the phrase “Add value and make noise” from Louie Bacaj‘s video course, Timeless Career Advice for Software Engineers. The phrase has been stuck in my head ever since.

Many software engineers believe that if they constantly deliver high-quality work, then the work will speak for itself and they’ll be rewarded for it. This may be true in some cases, particularly in smaller companies. But the harsh reality is that the expectation that your work will speak for itself may be one of the reasons why you are not getting the rewards you deserve and the career progress that you seek.

In addition to doing good important work, you must also “make noise” in the right way and in the right places so that people who have significant influence on your career know about what you’ve done and why it’s important. Most talented and hardworking professionals have no problem getting work done. But making just the right type and amount of noise is often where many fall short.

How to Make Noise

Communication skills are the non-negotiable requirement for making the right type and amount of noise. To effectively “make noise” about your work, consider the following:

  • Use a weekly work log to track what you’ve done. Share it with your manager regularly. It’s way too easy to forget the small but impactful things.
  • Do not hold back when you write your self-evaluation reports during performance review cycles. Use your work log to remind yourself of what you’ve done throughout the review period.
  • Write, share, and get feedback as often as you can—about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re doing it. You’ll be able to easily reference these materials in the future if need be. Jay Sivaraman has some useful resources here.
  • Intently use one-on-one meetings with your manager(s) to communicate your goals and what you’ve achieved, among other things.
  • Contribute meaningfully to meetings and discussions. Often. It turns out there’s an art to this, especially for those of us who’d rather not spend much energy talking. ShadĂ© Zahrai has a short course on LinkedIn Learning with simple tips on how to speak up in meetings.
  • Always remember to tune your communication to the needs of your audience, especially if said audience does not have the same level of technical know-how as you. This is surprisingly easy to forget.

You may wave these off as “politics” that you want no part of. And yes, it is quite annoying that you have to consider these things as part of your career strategy. But you have to remember one of my favorite quotes from Pericles:

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.

Just don’t be the person who makes a lot of noise and does no valuable work.

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