Ask HN: What lessons did you learn from your best and worst colleagues?


Best: Trust is a two way street. When people trust each other and build on top of what others have built magical things happen.

Worst: Giving the benefit of the doubt for more than a few times will inevitably end in a disaster if the person is beyond redemption. The easiest way to recognize somone who cannot be helped and their work cannot be salvage is to look for persons that don’t accept help and act like their work is perfection.

I learned from my best colleagues: success is about trust. Nothing pays better dividends than being humble, being right a lot, and doing good work. This builds allies and allies build careers.

I learned from my worst colleagues: don’t assume that anyone will protect you from toxic or abusive people. You must be willing to protect yourself. When people come for you and your project, either be willing to throw down (metaphorically) or be willing to walk. Bad people often don’t have bad careers, and there is no justice.

Best: It’s possible to go from being lowballed as an engineer at $30K/yr at the start of your career to pulling $250K plus bonuses in 10 years.

Worst: If you slather a sub in the hottest sauce available from Firehouse subs, and eat it as a way of proving how tough you are, you can be rendered useless as an employee for the next 36 hours. Very nice guy. But strange in a way not typical to engineers.

Best: Talking to people and discussing ideas will get you further than an email. Email should almost be a tool to summarise your discussion, spread to a wider audience and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Worst: That pretending you know what you are doing, never asking questions if you don’t know what you are doing and having no sense of humility will lead to your demise.

Best: tactical diplomacy can be learned and is very valuable

Worst: The people who talk about others will talk about you

Best: It’s okay to say you don’t know something

Worst: Don’t tell employees you pay them so they shouldn’t have to use Google.

Best: if it’s complicated, it’s wrong.

Worst: almost no business deliverable is one tenth as important as the people telling you to give up your time, strength and sanity in order to achieve it will tell you that it is.

Best: Decisions don’t get made in meetings. Tailor your communication to your audience. Be diligent and ethically consistent and people will respect you for it.

Worst: Stay in your lane.

Best: delivering high-quality work quickly matters

Worst: but it’s amazing how long a person can last without doing much at all!

Best: you get the most life satisfaction from working to your best ability all the time.

Worst: some workplaces allow the negative workers on the team to get away with anything.

Best: Be practical and be focused on the domain problem instead of the surrounding tools, abstract methods, etc.

Worst: Fire them all really really quickly. People that are bad after week 2-4 will never not be bad afterwards.

Best: Stay calm and recognize that long term success is more important than short term ups and downs.

Worst: Good people can sometimes land in the wrong role. Change conditions before passing judgement.

If you were placed in a situation where everything feels like it’s on fire and falling apart, don’t go complaining to your manager. There’s a good chance your leader ship already knows, and that’s exactly why they put you there. Because they trust you to get things back on track. But this isn’t necessarily great for your mental health. So you have to prioritize and strike a balance on what matters and what doesn’t. Don’t let small things get to you.

Best: Office politics is more about perception of doing work and less about actually doing work.

Worst: Apparently knowing how to use excel efficiently isn’t better because manual calculations prevent errors.