The following post originally was published on vplata.dev, the blog of Vicente Plata, VP of Engineering, Runway Health.
The new reality of work is remote. This is particularly true in software engineering. Terminal’s State of Remote Engineering makes it more evident.
Historically, written documentation has always been important for developers. Many years ago, when I started coding for profit, internet availability in corporate data centers in Mexico was… Limited, at best. So you ended up relying on the quality of man pages, hoping that you printed and downloaded the appropriate manuals and language documentation… And leaving a clear trace of what happened in case you, or another poor soul, would find himself in your place.
This has only become more important in the remote age. Mind you, English is not my native language, but I’d like to share a few tips I wrote about writing in Spanish which, I believe, might translate to English as well.
Crafting documentation and reports is extremely important in the multidisciplinary, asynchronous and remote world that we live in. This idea that you’ll only interact with code, and people with knowledge of how to write/read code, is simply shooting yourself in the foot.
For example: chances are that you’re going to be part of multiple teams or squads, and you’ll interact with several stakeholders. So your communication will be written, not code. Thus: writing clearly and in an understandable way will directly impact the perceived value of your contributions.
Furthermore, when it comes to networking: what you write (and how you write it) will be more impactful than almost any technical contribution you can make. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc… Basic checks can be automated, so there’s no reason to skip them. You’re linting your own writing, so to speak.
I’m obviously not underestimating technical contributions. But saying that “code documents itself” as an alibi for shitty writing is almost the encyclopedia definition of false dichotomy. 🤷♂️
So, how can you improve your writing skills? Here are some suggestions:
Of course we all make mistakes. And there’s a very valid argument towards being empathetic and kind towards those who, because of insecurity, lack of confidence or laziness, don’t write correctly. Or they simply don’t write. This is particularly true in mainly social environments.
Work-wise they can be chaotic. Don’t be chaotic, my friend. Generate value and innovation, instead of grammatical headaches.
What do you think? Visit Vicente’s blog for more, or reach out via @xnt. For more, register for Terminal’s Global Engineer career summit and attend Vicente’s session, “Moving at Lightspeed: How fast-growing companies can propel your engineering career.”
Vicente Plata is the VP of Engineering at Runway Health. He is a software engineer with emphasis in leadership tasks and roles. He also enjoys being an advisor on topics related to career growth and development for individual contributors, as well as startups with distributed workforces, remote software development teams and community building.
Prior to joining Runway Health, Vicente worked at Shopify as an Engineering Lead for Shop Pay, driving features and experiments at the intersection of in-app and web experiences. Prior to that, Vicente worked as a remote Senior Lead Software Engineer at Hims & Hers, prior to the company’s IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Vicente works in Mexico where he lives with his wife, daughters, and Luna, his pug. He also loves gardening and hiking.