When thinking about my professional growth, it's easy to look at the things I have done. I've been taking on new responsibilities, from leading my team's efforts towards a major company project to doing my first (and second) beta release of our mobile app. I've worked on my personal growth, trying to learn to become a better listener and a more effective communicator. I've started to learn about areas that I don't work in every day but that do relate to my work, including learning more about web security. Over the last few months, I have made a lot of positive steps in my professional growth. But some of those steps are not things with visible results. Over the last few months, and particularly the last few weeks, I've moved away from some of my bad habits and show growth in areas that may be less visible but are no less important.
One area where I've seen myself improve is in not making uninformed decisions. I hate making decisions, but when it comes to important things (like my work), I prefer to do it all myself and not really reach out for help. Sometimes this means I'm making decisions that are not mine to make - in fact, I've had teammates comment on my PRs a few times to ask if I had confirmed my work with our team's product manager or designer (spoiler alert: I hadn't) because I was making decisions that were best for me but might not have been best for the product. For the past two months, I've been working on a project that's very strongly guided by design, and I've noticed that in situations where I might have previously made decisions on my own when I didn't have guidance, I was instead reaching out to the designer on the project and asking for his input and ideas. I know there are still situations where I made decisions without consulting design, but I think I have gotten better at recognizing that not every decision is mine to make (and that in many situations I don't have the context necessary to make the best decision) and stepping away from my instinct to do all the work without consulting anyone else.
Another situation where I saw growth in my decision not to act was one where I decided not to engage with a teammate who I felt was not choosing his words in a considerate way. The details of our interaction are not important, but what is important is that while I made an effort to understand my teammate's concerns and the issues that were raised, I didn't feel that my teammate was taking my concerns into consideration, and I felt like my teammate's comments were more of an attack on my decisions than an attempt to understand the situation. I considered reaching out to my teammate privately to further discuss the issue, but I realized that I wasn't confident in my ability to have a productive conversation that wasn't focus on how my teammate's words hurt me. I've always struggled with interpersonal communication, particularly in situations where I felt attacked or unfairly questioned, and in the past I've reacted poorly to criticism, both in my words and in my actions. This was a situation where I could have reacted poorly and could have replied to my teammate's comments in a negative way, but instead I was able to see the situation from my teammate's perspective and understand that while I was hurt by my teammate's words and didn't think their concerns were raised in the best way, engaging in a negative way would not have helped the situation. Sometimes the best answer to a difficult situation is not to engage, and this situation showed me that I have made strides in understanding which situations can be helped by continuing a discussion and which situations are best served by letting it go.
Sometimes growth means saying no to a new opportunity - and I experienced that a few weeks ago, when my manager asked if I was interested in participating in a diversity initiative. While normally this is the kind of project I'd love to be a part of, after some work-life balance issues that I encountered during my last special project, I decided that I'd rather to stick my normal workload for a bit and not take on any work outside of my team's regular product work. While I would still like to get involved in this project in the future, I knew that taking on a new responsibility was not the right move for me, and while it seems counterintuitive to think of not doing work as growth, for me it represents a growth in my ability to recognize my limits and what I need to do (and not to) to be productive at work.
It's easy (well, somewhat easy) for me to look at the things I've accomplished over the last few months and see growth. I've taken on new responsibilities and contributed to a new part of our codebase. I've written more technical blogs and discovered new opportunities to learn. I've identified areas where for improvement in our codebase and advocated to have that improvement work included in our future team plans. What's harder for me to see is my growth away from bad habits - from making decisions that I don't have the context or information to make, to reacting poorly to interpersonal situations, to taking on more work than I'm able to do during a productive work week. Over the last few weeks I have seen some situations where I'm growing away from those bad habits, and I feel that it's important for me to look at these situations as a large part of my overall growth. As I continue to grow, these situations are a reminder of the fact that I am making progress, but there's also a reminder that I have farther to go. There are many ways to grow, and for me it's important to remember that growth includes both taking on new responsibilities and habits and letting go of the responsibilities and habits that aren't serving my growth.