When I first started in my current role as a web performance engineer, I used to disrupt my entire department (albeit on Skype) when I was working. I wanted all hands on deck when I took on a task I was unfamiliar with because I was afraid to ruin someone’s site or break their server.

[Now that I understand a bit more about how business works, I’m aware of how awful the impact of this was for the department and company (if a project was worth $xxx and my time was worth $xxx/hr and each one of my teammates time was worth $xxx/hr, we end up losing a lot of money with every project). Whoops.]

I grew to the point where I could successfully break things without the assistance of others, but old habits lingered: if something was out of my area of comfort, I’d “outsource” the completion of it internally. It felt good because the work was getting done, I wasn’t breaking anything, and I could complete more projects in the same amount of time. Perfect!

Well, not really.

The problem is that I wasn’t growing. In my line of work, I need to develop a sixth sense for the root of problems as soon as the symptoms are introduced. There’s no other way to run support and competently (and profitably) deal with issues at scale.

In other words, I need to develop a mastery of my craft. This can only come from a tireless and focused dedication to it, regardless of how long the work takes and how painful it is.

Looking back, it’s clear that I spent the better part of a year stunting my own growth. Once the crutch was removed, there was a near overnight uptick in my rate of learning and growth. Additionally, my confidence has gone up since I now understand that the issues that seemed terrifying to me a year ago have simple fixes, or at least a very clear path to resolution.

This confidence allows me to sell better, spot potential issues from afar, and delight customers with my increased competence. Winning.

The lesson to me, aside from the obvious danger in developing a dependence on things that harm me, is that I have to be in a constant posture of evaluating the net effect of the things I do while on “autopilot.”

Habits make a man.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.

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