The Importance of Feedback

Ravindra Mijar
Senior Software Engineer, Versent
Imagine a scenario where you fire a command, and it doesn’t return anything! Zilch! Or an API endpoint you requested something of, doesn’t give you anything that’s useful. Just the dreaded “500: Internal Server Error”?
November 13, 2017

It hurts, right?

We expect software to give us the right feedback, and at the right time. As developers, we do write good documentation or the correct log messages at the right level. Or, do we?

Well, not always! Many developers are deep in their code context when they’re writing log messages or documentation, and what they want to convey doesn’t always come out like that. This mostly happens because “We’re an agile team. Ship quickly. Fail fast”. In this never-ending race, we end up with log messages that mean nothing to the support dudes, let alone the end user!

The same is with people. Right feedback, at the right time, with compassion, and a willingness to help is a crucial ingredient of a successful team’s culture.

At a recent engagement, I was in a team of nerds. Everyone was highly opinionated. This led to conflicts and ego issues. Some team members couldn’t handle criticism, some weren’t ready to see another perspective. Sometimes things got to a point where nobody would budge from their position and the team would be at a stalemate.

Over the course of a few months, a few people left the team. Some on their own and some were asked to.

I observed that managers would hold meetings with these folks when leaving, as is customary. But, I never got a sense that the right feedback was given to them. Something that would help them course-correct, if not in this project, in their future career.

I have been a recipient of good and bad feedback, and have experienced how good constructive feedback can change you. At the end of my fifth year in the industry, I was at a low point. I was stagnant, no change of teams, no change of roles! The yearly performance review sessions would be “Nothing wrong with your coding, or tech abilities. But, we have only a few promotions each year, and unfortunately, you didn’t make the cut”.

Fortunately for me, my employer at the time had a mentoring program, and I signed up. I was very keen to find out what was going wrong, and why I wasn’t moving up the ladder. I got an amazing mentor that year and we were able to iron out the problem. That year, not only did I top the ratings, but also got 2 promotions within 20 months!

I believe this happened because of the following things:

·      Compassion from my mentor.

·      Willingness to help.

·      My own drive to change the situation.

·      Most importantly, right feedback at the right time.

Right feedback at the right time, is extremely important! Not just for our own conscience, but for the morale of the remaining team members too.

Let’s put ourselves in other people’s shoes when we want to give them some feedback. Let’s try to understand their situation a little better, and genuinely try to help them out.

Like our CEO says – Silence is acceptance! Let’s not be silent when we see a fellow team-mate in the rough. We go far, only when we go together!

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