I’ve written a spiritual follow-up that goes into much greater detail and contradicts some of the advice present here.
How to Talk to Software Engineers
Among my friends, I have made it no secret that I have been thriving professionally in my current pandemic lockdown situation. At the time of writing this post, I have self-managed two brand-new software projects with changing scope, and have delivered both on-time with solid functionality. All while having few meetings with supervisors, business developers, and/or executives.
One of my pre-existing beliefs that has been reinforced by my situation is that meetings are nearly useless to me, whether in-person or over some form of remote voice chat (phone, Teams, Zoom, etc). I am not the type of person who can easily recall specifics of what is said during a meeting. For me, a meeting usually consists only of pushing back against inadvisable ideas, and occasionally generating a few work tickets.
I am not a fan of most proprietary computer technology. The first thing I usually do when getting a new computer is to replace the shipped operating system with some form of Linux, and it’ll usually be one of the minimal distros like Arch or Void. To make a long story short, my current operating system has a very small set of installed software. Most of my applications run in the terminal. For applications like Discord or Teams, the latter of which is in heavy use at my workplace, I tend to just keep a Firefox tab open with the web version of an app running. An important note here is that I use Firefox because I’m not interested in having a web browser that spies on me.
My approach works quite well with one exception: Teams doesn’t support voice calls in Firefox. They work fine in Chrome and its derivatives, but not in Firefox. While I tend to view “doesn’t support features” as itself being a feature, the needs of my employer don’t line up with my software usage habits. Managers need their meetings, which means I need to participate.
With this in mind, I have but a simple, radical plea.
Just call me over the phone. I have a phone, you know. My office extension has even been configured to forward calls to my personal cell phone. The call quality is infinitely better because my voice doesn’t get routed to Toronto and back, unlike when I do a call on Teams. Just enter 4 numbers and I get an impossible to ignore vibration that I will answer immediately. Need someone else on the call? The office system has conference calling built-in. It’s free, doesn’t require me to install bullshit software, and it’s been battle tested over decades of use. It’s so easy, too.
Most importantly though, is that I don’t have to wrange a complicated messy bluetooth audio setup to answer your call. I can pick up, chat for 5 to 10 minutes, and then just get back to work.
Better yet, just e-mail me. I don’t work well when I’m constantly interrupted. Let me answer on my downtime so I can get my work done.