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This Is Fine

Edited: December 20, 2019 (v0.0.3)

While discussing the traits of a good engineer, a respected peer made me laugh.

A good engineer is someone who is okay with everything being on fire all the time.

This came up when walking about this person’s spouse, and that their background was in mathematics. Apparently, this mathematician couldn’t stand the insanity that was software engineering: heuristics everywhere, edge cases, bugs, quick fixes, hacks, kludges, branches, etc.

At first I laughed, then I started to realize he was right: aren’t we always just building our way out of the proverbial fire? How often have you been introduced to a complex system that doesn’t have any issues? Do we ever stop ourselves from making a decision because we cannot prove it’s correct? Do we ever seem to get the architecture quite right? No, but that’s okay.

A good engineer is someone that can embrace things being on fire without losing their cool. They’re someone that can analyze the fire, see what’s already lost, what’s could be next, and plan accordingly to extinguish the fire. These people are good executers because they can decompose a high level strategy into tactics.