in Business, Technology

On lazy engineers and automating business

During my career as a senior developer, and as the head of a team of engineers and product managers, I’ve had to make only a few new hires. Fewer than one may think, in fact. Since 2007, I’ve been in charge of hiring perhaps 6-8 new staff members, which is unheard of, given I’ve only ever worked with fast-growing young tech companies. This small hiring pool got me thinking about the core need for why one needs to hire new engineers and subsequently the cultural reason why my team at WooThemes grows differently to other non-engineering teams within the same ecosystem. Here’s why I reckon this is the case.

Pattern recognition

This is what engineers do every day. A lazy engineer is a sustainable engineer. While this sounds derogatory, it’s actually the greatest compliment one can give to an engineer. When an engineer finds themselves coding the same logic more than twice, it becomes a snippet, readily available for the next 100,000 times they’ll need to code the same type of logic.

The lazy engineer also thinks of tomorrow and how they can save themselves time later when they are required to debug and dissect that same code to fix something.

Investing in efficiency

Pattern recognition yields some really exciting consequences. One of these such consequences is automating or easing up repetitive tasks. Whether this be using a system like If This Then That or Zapier, or developing a quick web app or shell script to complete a common task, this efficiency yields amazing returns, as the engineer now has even more time to a) create, b) innovate and c) succeed further.

How to do this, today

Here’s a quick real-world example, before we get to the “how”. Whenever we launch a new product at WooThemes, everyone needs to know about it. Certain teams need to know before the fact as well. Therefore, we use our Trello board workflow, coupled with a few simple Zapier zaps, to notify everyone at the appropriate time.

When a product is awaiting final audit, we inform our pre-sales and documentation department, so they are aware and can look at the documentation and fix issues or suggest areas for improvement. We also inform our marketing team by making a new card on their Marketing Trello board, so they can prepare the product for launch to the most appropriate audience in the most appropriate manner.

Once a product has launched, an email is sent out to our entire team, informing them of the product launch and who to speak to if they have any questions.

These are 3 simple zaps, with no coding required.

How to accomplish this is really easy:

  1. Write down a list of all the tasks you do in a single day. Do this for 3-5 days.
  2. Identify the tasks you repeated at least twice.
  3. Use a system such as Zapier to automate this task.

These three simple steps are a great way to foster automative thinking and pattern recognition habits, while also saving yourself time in the long run and being more effective with the team you have on hand today.

Imagine if your entire engineering staff thought this way. That’s what I’m so fortunate to have on my side. Each of our engineers at WooThemes, given the way they think about and approach tasks, is able to handle as many tasks as two engineers in an average company, as they think for tomorrow, consider each other’s needs and anticipate pain points for our customers, one another and for themselves.

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  1. This 100% made my day Matty, thanks for sharing it. I know first hand the pain that is the product development cycle, and the fact that you guys are using Zapier to make that easier and better makes me proud.

    Appreciate it!

    • Thanks so much, Alison! We’re loving Zapier and look forward to creating more zaps to automate our workflows even more.

      Do y’all use Zapier internally? If so, for what?

      • We actually had a team meeting last week to talk about all of the ways we each use Zapier in our personal lives which was a fun convo to have.

        I actually power all of our webinars via zaps, deal with a lot of swag that way, use it for various notifications. I think my favorite zap use by a teammate is connecting Trello to Hackpad to easily write their weekly report of the tasks they’ve accomplished that wee. Every Trello card in the “done” column adds the information to a Hackpad document. Super helpful!

        • That sounds extremely helpful! I may try that one, in fact!

          Which are your favourite web apps to connect? Personally, I love using Trello for triggers.

          Thanks Alison! 🙂

        • I don’t get too crazy or creative with apps, in fact my favorite zap is sending my emails to my phone as text messages. 🙂 Wufoo, Trello, Gmail, Google Docs…simple things that I can automate is what I do personally.

        • Ah, interesting. I really should try a few more zaps involving Gmail.

          Good call. Thanks Alison! 🙂