The Perks of Pace: Using Speed to Become a Well-Rounded Engineer

Using speed to challenge her prioritization and decision-making skills, this engineer develops more than automation systems for Shelf Engine.

Written by Kim Conway
Published on May. 02, 2022
The Perks of Pace: Using Speed to Become a Well-Rounded Engineer
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As a society, we have a need for speed. 

Between order-ahead coffee runs taking mere minutes from start to finish and the seemingly unlimited possibilities of e-commerce brands offering overnight shipments, we’ve grown accustomed to the luxury of near-instantaneous satisfaction. We expect short turnaround times and settle for nothing less than quick, seamless experiences.

The same can be said of the demands placed on engineers working to build products, navigate problems and update code to align with customer requests. Keeping up with the pace of expectations, whether internally or externally, is no simple feat — especially when bug fixes require elaborate solutions and system design upgrades call for extended periods of focus. 

That’s why the engineering team at Shelf Engine, a company dedicated to generating supply chain solutions through automation to help customers increase profits and reduce food waste, thinks about how they can use speed to their advantage without sacrificing the quality of their work.

For software engineer Frances Cheng, incorporating speed into the development process not only challenges her ability to prioritize and make decisions, but it also unlocks opportunities to enhance her skill set.

“Shifting from project to project helps me experience all aspects of our codebase,” she said. “I can process and locate unique coding problems and find innovative solutions, helping me become a more well-rounded engineer.” By focusing on the big picture, Cheng avoids overthinking and instead keeps her workflow on track.

Built In Seattle sat down with Cheng to learn more about what speed-friendly methods she trusts to maintain her workflow and how her team works together to overcome the added stress of tackling backlogged tasks.  

 

Shelf Engine team members having a meeting in the office
Shelf Engine

 

Frances Cheng
Software Engineer • Shelf Engine

 

How does moving quickly as an engineer benefit you, your skill set and your overall career?

As an engineer, moving fast helps me to hone my prioritization and decision-making skills. On our team at Shelf Engine, we’re responsible for developing order automation systems for more than 3,000 retail locations across the U.S. Working quickly allows me to focus on the bigger picture — building an outstanding forecasting tool — and not overthink minute details that can easily slow down my workflow. 

 

During your career, what methods have you learned that help you work faster?

I’ve picked up a couple of skills that help me work efficiently. Every morning, I write down what I want to accomplish during my workday and the steps I need to take to complete my assigned tasks. I can then segment my day into intervals of specified workflow times and give myself hard cutoffs for each assignment.

I’ve also begun to incorporate the Pomodoro Technique into my day. I’ll work for 25-minute stretches and then take a five-minute break to gather my thoughts or give myself time to think through a problem. Though this sounds counterintuitive, working at this pace helps me build solutions quickly.

Working quickly allows me to focus on the bigger picture — building an outstanding forecasting tool.”

 

What are the potential drawbacks of working with speed, and how do you navigate them?

One drawback to working quickly is that some things can get left behind. The bottomless pit of incomplete tickets during a work sprint can seem daunting at first, but there are ways to mitigate the overwhelm. My team dedicates meeting time to reviewing backlogged work in order to determine what can be deleted and what must be pulled into our current workflow. This routine helps prevent important, but less urgent, items from falling through the cracks.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via Shelf Engine and Shutterstock.

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