The Art of Engineering

An artist creates her work as an aggregate of her creativity applied across many layers of perception for an immersive experience for the audience, no matter if you are reading a poem, enjoying a book, or staring at a painting. In that sense, engineers may not be too different.

What does an engineer do?

To deliver a well-defined objective, an engineer:

  1. architects the layers of abstractions required to achieve the outcome
  2. devises a system of interactions across these layers to interconnect them
  3. and finally, reuses or creates patterns of code at each layer to fulfill each of its purpose on the way to orchestrating the overall solution

A mobile engineer, as an example, would typically work in an architecture comprising of the presentation layer based on design, the business layer to hold all the rulesets, and the data access layer to power the information needed to deliver an intended experience. In spite of a few different variations to build web applications, a front-end engineer would at the very least decide what aspects of the intended solution get executed in the browser versus on the server.

Does this sound like a monotonously predictable workflow akin to building a structure with blocks of known sizes, shapes, and colors? Or does this process resemble a journey as intriguing as solving a jigsaw puzzle working with unpredictable shapes, complex patterns, and uncertain outcomes? It can be either and as an engineer, the choice is yours.

What type of engineer are you?

You are an engineer working with building blocks if:

  1. you are consistently re-creating or updating previously engineered solutions
  2. your performance is assessed by the speed of execution versus your ability to solve problems differently
  3. your career growth is defined to be in the roles that are measured only by your ability to coordinate and deliver on scalar performance metrics like story points
  4. you work heads-down without much collaboration with non-engineering crafts
  5. your environment expects you to fit in within the boundaries of existing processes to deliver work

You are an engineer working with jigsaw puzzles if:

  1. you constantly research new patterns and integrate them with known ones
  2. your performance evaluation rewards failures that lead to differentiated solutions
  3. you are encouraged to grow your depth as an engineer to solve complex challenges on the way to becoming a digital architect
  4. working with extended teams of product strategists, designers, and business analysts is not only an expectation but a requirement to deliver a complete experience
  5. your environment encourages experimentation in the interest of high-quality outcomes and inspires you to challenge long-standing assumptions

Why does it matter?

None of the following are entirely new trends but their collective impact is here to stay.

Automation of skills

My first job was to write code to map source and target systems. Now you can train an ML model to do the same. If what you do has a list of predictable steps over a finite domain of knowledge, someone somewhere is writing code to automate it.

Industrialization of talent

uizard.io can take in your hand-drawn wireframes on paper to generate front-end code. With glideapps.com one could create a mobile app in under 30 minutes. Smarter code that writes new code will replace a great portion of what is done by a skilled practitioner today.

Democratization of knowledge

OpenAI recently released API for utilizing its latest model for NLP (GPT-3). What would have been a luxury of a few large companies to reap the advantages of a model with 175 billion parameters, its benefits can now reach smaller businesses and organizations.

The Takeaway

When you code for automation, it eliminates manual tasks. When you code for code that automates and teach it to become smarter over time, you industrialize an entire talent group. And the knowledge to build such a “super code” is becoming increasingly commoditized. When the dust settles, bots would have likely taken over most of the building blocks. And those with the know-how of solving the jigsaw puzzles would be still doing what they do best — integrating known patterns with emerging frameworks to build better ways of solving problems.


The Call

At the Deloitte Digital’s US-India Studios, we have been solving jigsaw puzzles for the last 8 years. We started with a simple idea — to do what it takes to help our clients reimagine their future in the digital world. Like with solving a real-world jigsaw puzzle, our path to success has not been a straight-line.

It meant bringing people together from diverse career paths under the same roof — from practitioners who understood the human psychology of interacting with a computer screen to engineers who built the best-in-breed solutions. What followed in the successive years was a collective journey to establish an identity of who we are, how we work, and what we aspire to be. Learn more about life in our studios here and here.

My DMs on LinkedIn are open if you would like to have a chat on these emerging trends. If you are a frontend, mobile, or a full-stack engineer with a passion to solve “jigsaw puzzles”, would love to hear from you and explore if our journeys can be taken together. If you are interested, I request you to drop a short note with:

  1. a quick description of your adventures in the engineering career, and
  2. an anecdote of the last time you changed your mind about something important

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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