The impact of giving a damn

Both of my parents and one of my grandparents were radiologists, the kind of doctor who usually doesn’t interact directly with patients. Instead, a radiology tech guides the patient to position themselves this way and that, stay calm inside a weird tubular machine, hold their breath at the right moment so that they can get clear images to pass on to the radiologist. Then someone like my mom or dad or grandpa sits in a dark room and records what they see. The provider who ordered the images interprets and delivers back the report that the radiologist recorded.

I think of software a bit like radiology. It’s considering user (and market) input and making decisions at scale – then the users experience the impact of those decisions in the product they use. If you’re lucky and smart as a software person, you’ll get user feedback on a regular basis. But in practice, there’s not always capacity or will to measure the effect of past product decisions before focusing 100% on the next ones that need to be made.

In both of these settings, it can be hard to remember that how much one gives a damn makes a huge impact even though one doesn’t see it right away or at all.

Comic where two people argue into computers. Then a flying creature picks up one of the people, carries them over mountains to where the other person is in front of their computer, and carries the person back to where they were. Then the two people type without argument.
“Internet Argument” by XKCD

Someone on my team is leaving for another project. In addition to ramping up on her new project, she identified another internal team member to take her place, helped write the job posting, wrote an agenda for the interview, put together a clear and comprehensive handoff document, and set up onboarding meetings with her successor. She said she didn’t want to leave a mess. I’m confident that the new team member will have a much smoother experience transitioning because of this. In turn, this new team member will be able to meaningfully improve our product more quickly, and more users will be able to benefit from it.