Finding balance as a Martech engineer
When I started my new job at NEXT, I didn’t know what to expect. On the one hand, It was a pretty straightforward engineering position. On the other hand, the team had a name I haven’t heard before — Martech. I was told we had close ties with the marketing team. Our job was to provide the technology, and their job was to provide the marketing expertise. That sounded quite promising to me. An engineering job with added value — I get to experience the world of marketing, all while working with new interesting people.
My first few weeks felt like a classic software engineering position. Though, as our respective teams grew, it became harder and harder to communicate effectively and give the marketing team the support they needed. Thus, I decided to take the initiative and fill that communication gap. That meant I started working with the marketing team more closely. A dream come true for a guy looking to improve his communication skills and broaden his horizons, but it came with a price.
I was now in two separate roles. One was my day job as a software engineer, and the other was supporting the marketing team at night, AKA — my night job.
Now, to be honest, this wasn’t really a proper night shift, I tend to start working rather late, so it’s well within the bounds of a normal workday. The main issue was the constant context switching
Context Switching is quite a buzzword these days, everybody’s talking about it, and for good reason too. Research indicates it can take, on average, 25 minutes to get your focus back after a context switch. That is quite troubling, as every good engineer knows, it takes quite a while just to get “into” a complicated coding task. So, if you’ve got a lot of things on your plate, it takes quite a while to take care of them.
Slowly but surely, I found myself working beyond the scope of a “normal” workday, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. It feels good to help out, to get things going, and to be productive. But it came at a cost. So I went in search of a better work-life balance.
The first thing that came to mind is that I do a bad job at prioritization. It’s quite amusing since my personal life is very orderly. So I took some time to think about how I could implement these ideas in my professional life. The first thing I did, which is quite trivial, was to split my tasks into priorities. Not every task has the same level of importance and urgency.
That helped, but I found myself placing almost everything into “Priority 1”. Was everything truly so important? Well, kind of. So I went deeper down the rabbit hole and came up with a few key concepts:
Yes I know, it’s common knowledge that due dates are effective. Though common knowledge is not always common practice. We use them extensively on Jira of course, but for some reason, I didn’t use them in my personal todo-list.
Help the marketing team be more independent
There’s a good quote that reads something along the lines of “Give a man food, and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime”.
Now, to be completely honest, I don’t really know how to fish. But I do know a thing or two about technology. By investing more time in coaching the marketing team to tackle more tasks independently, I greatly reduced their dependence on engineering support.
Start a daily routine
That’s all well and good, but in order to truly take advantage of these concepts, I’ve got to create a routine. So every day, I review my tasks, re-prioritize them, remove tasks that have since become irrelevant, and set new due dates if necessary.
Applying these concepts has greatly reduced my context switching, thereby improving my productivity and enhancing my work-life balance.
I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and ideas, I’m sure we can all learn a lot from each other in our quest for balance and productivity.