My Actionable Takeaways from The Effective Engineer

January 23, 2021

My friend recommended the book, The Effective Engineer, when I started my first job as a software engineer.

The Effective Engineer goes over the importance of:

  • adopting a growth mindset
  • an iterative approach to execution
  • building long term value

This book is most relevant to those very early in their career because of the strong focus of learning and process optimization that I think most senior software engineers already have lived experience with.

I am currently six months into my first software engineering role. These are actionable takeaways from The Effective Engineer that I’ve applied to my work process:

  1. Dedicate one hour outside of work to learning each weekday. This is because learning compounds. For me, this includes writing technical blogs, reading tech books, and learning more about the technologies I use at work.
  2. Identify and focus on high leverage activities. Edmond defines leverage as impact produced / time invested. In simpler terms, leverage is the return on invest (ROI) for the effort you put in. High leverage activities have high ROI. My high leverage activities include working on new features, bug fixes, and code reviews.
  3. Make a todo list for the next day at the end of the day. I write my todos on sticky notes because I like to cross off items as I finish them. This also makes my daily e-standup very simple to write up.
  4. Identify metrics to measure progress. At FreeWill, we have documented engineering career paths. For my role, I did a self assessment for each category to get a benchmark of where I am. I will continue to do so quarterly to help identify areas I’ve improved in and areas I need to focus more on.
  5. Get feedback and iterate as you execute on projects. For most tickets, I write up a tech spec and get feedback on it before executing. This process has helped with:

    • improving my written technical communication
    • learning better ways to approach a problem and understanding the decision making process between various options
    • saving time because I can address potential problems to my approach before I code the solution


It is important to invest in learning, especially when you are early in your career because learning compounds.

If there are any books that have helped you grow as an engineer, I'd love to hear any recommendations you might have!

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