Wouldn’t it be great if you could be in a section of an office, surrounded by intelligent people, working on projects that really mattered to you personally, and never having to interact with the rest of the company? I know a lot of people who would consider that a dream job. I would hate it.

Don’t get me wrong, as an engineer, the first few days would be delightful. Lots of interesting conversations over coffee. Working on engineering projects that are just purely interesting, regardless of how they fit into the company. That sounds fun – for a bit.

And there’s the rub. Within a few days, I’d start asking myself, “Why am I working on this?”. “What is it accomplishing, and where does it fit into the company’s goals?”. I shouldn’t live in a vacuum, nor should my engineering team.

How about we take a better approach? One that starts to ask those salespeople, “What does the customer want?”. One that starts to ask accounting if I have a budget and asks HR how hard it would be if I needed to staff up. And how about asking the CEO what goals they’re trying to accomplish? You can learn a lot if you just ask.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten that we need to accomplish the company’s goals – not ours. If you’re running your engineering team in a vacuum, it’s not good for the company, and it’s probably not good for your career.

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