Confidence is different for everyone – there’s no one correct definition or expression of confidence. For one person it’s built over time by successes and failures, and for others, confidence is natural but needs to be tempered and sharpened by time. It’s also something many people struggle with that requires a lot of hard work and self-reflection for them to harness.
It’s an abstraction that humans have to cope with every day.
We interviewed six CircleCI engineers at different stages of their career to find out what confidence meant to them and how it helps them succeed at work. A common thread we found is that confidence is a necessity for engineers. It’s a requirement to make sure that they’re not only building things that work, but that they also have the right systems, tools, and processes in place to make success repeatable.
“You want an engineering system that’s basically the equivalent of a factory,” said CircleCI VP of Platform Mike Stahnke. “You put in raw materials at one end, you get an output out the other end that is in a known shape and has known properties. That’s one of the things that’s always interested me about automation, and in particular CI. It’s the factory floor for software building. The confidence you want in there is that I can make a change and it doesn’t change the overall form of the thing I’m building on the other side, that it’s still within all the quality measurements. And that’s pretty much what CI is: a confidence-gathering process that’s automated.”
For CircleCI Software Engineer, Jacque Garcia, sharing knowledge and working through problems with others (and boxing) helped shape her confidence as an engineer.
“Pair programming is definitely really useful there too,” she said “It’s easy to want to solve something on your own, and just take hours and hours really trying to figure it out. When it could’ve been easily addressed by just asking someone, ‘Hey, have you encountered this problem?’”
“Before pairing, I try to really understand what the problem is. Of course, there are times when you just have no clue. And that’s fair, as well. I think that’s also part of gaining confidence. You gain confidence by asking questions, and not being afraid to ask for help.”
While it’s impossible to land on a universal definition of confidence, there’s no denying that it’s key to building great software. We hope that these stories have shined a light on how others develop, sharpen and harness confidence while they code.