4+ Years Working in Crystal Knows

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The evolution of my role.

My first task at Crystal was to build API help docs for a soon-to-be-released product. This task was given to me with minimal instructions and no mockup for design. Naturally, I jumped in head-first and was able to deliver them in a timely manner.

This task largely set the stage for my role in Crystal. Over my years there, I gained a reputation as someone with a keen eye for design, and good instinct for predicting user confusion. Because of this, I am the default developer for any feature that still needs more refinement and critique during the build process, which is a task I really enjoy. There is an excitement when I am working on an idea that is 90% of the way there, but just needs some extra editing and shaping to get it into its final form.

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Dealing with rapid change.

When I first joined Crystal, it was a very unorganized company with lots of ideas being thrown around and no clear hierarchy. This produced some exceptional ideas, but many of them were lacking followthrough, because the culture was one that simply went after the next shiny idea without much hindsight in the process. This led to code that was often thrown away, or heavily edited in a rapid timeline.

As the company stabilized and had less inherent chaos, we were still evolving and changing rapidly. We had a great product, but didn’t quite have a grasp on our product fit. This meant that we changed business models about every 2-3 months for over 2 years. Needless to say, this taught me how to make code that is exceptionally modular and flexible, so that it could withstand the heavy changes of a startup trying to find its market.

This also personally taught me to not become emotionally attached to what I had built. As an engineer, it is easy to get caught up in the technical achievement of what you have done, but technical achievement is moot unless it progresses the product forward.

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Main Takeaways:

If I had to distill the many lessons I took away from my time at Crystal, they would be:

Value your own opinion, and the opinion of others.

Working in a small company, I learned the importance of my own opinion and how beneficial it can be for me to speak my critiques and ideas. It also has taught me to be flexible on my ideas and to present things with an open hand.

Taking care of employees is a priority.

In certain periods during my time in Crystal, I have seen rampant burnout and stress in our team. This leads to poor work, a draining work environment, and oftentimes those employees leaving the company. Though it’s often counterintuitive, I have seen that overworking your employees does not lead to more work getting done, but rather just more turnover and sloppier work.