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Why is context important?


2024-07-05 | 1 views

business career development

It often happens that within larger organisations teams work on a product where the team itself is not aware of the placement of this product in the bigger system. They sometimes don't even know who the users are! In my opinion this is a big problem and should be avoided.

This problem mainly consists of two separate problems which are "The developer does not know who their user is" and "The developer does not know which systems the product interacts with and how they work". I think both of these problems need to be tackled but how?

What is the context?

I think when a new person joins a team, bigger emphasis should be given to what the context of the products is that the team is currently working on. For instance where does it place itself in the system, what is it's input and what is it's output and what are the goals that this product is trying to achieve. This is very important to start understanding why certain logical decisions are made in the code. If this is not clear confusion might arise about what certain parts are meant to do. These questions sometimes cannot even be answered by most of the team members which is a shame.

Another vital point which I think could be solved in a single onboarding meeting is who the end users are. I understand that meeting users will not be possible in many use cases but illustrating a basic profile of a user of the product is always helpful. Is it an internal co worker within the company or is it another companies' users or is the product meant for clients? This still applies when discussing non-client facing applications since the clients of these systems, which are other systems most of the time, still have certain characteristics and goals they aim to achieve. These are all important aspects that a team should know.

Understanding all connected stacks

In my professional career I have often tried to not only get a good grasp of the stack that is used within my team, but also to get an understanding of the parts that our team does not necessarily have to modify but still interacts with. This could be a certain API written in another programming language, a pipeline that runs every release or a certain tool that is used during development. I think getting a certain basic understanding of how these tools work and how they are built is important. This goes further than just getting some slides about the overview, in my opinion when you interact with an API using Java it is very important to also at least know how a basic API is made using Java.

The reason why I think getting a moderate understanding of all the connecting stacks is that communication between teams benefits greatly from developers who have certain overlap in their skills. If all developers would take the time to get a basic understanding of all the stacks connected to their teams products solving problems, where multiple teams using different stacks have to interact a lot, would become a lot more streamlined. It would also reduce the amount of meetings where teams talk past each other instead of with each other. An example of this is when frontend developers communicate with backend developers and backend developers start talking about threads. Threads are not often used within frontend development and this can cause a lot of confusion when the frontend development team has no experience with the backend stack that connects to their frontend.

Enriching experience

Aside from the aforementioned advantages of greater efficiency in communication it also grants the opportunity to broaden your skillset with new tools and languages which means that eventually you might even get good enough at the connected stack that you can make it your main stack if you would want to. Many developers find it difficult to find time outside of their work to get experience using other stacks than they themselves use, well this is the perfect opportunity! Your work will probably even be excited when you propose to spend some time getting a better understanding of the API that your team's product calls every day.

It also makes your work more diverse since you will be able to tackle different challenges using different languages and tools.


While it might seem scary at first to learn new things, just imagine that you felt like this as well when first learning the stack you are currently using. I think every developer can benefit greatly from getting a basic understanding of all the connecting systems to the product they are working on.

Creating a simple hello world application in a new language is always quite simple and straight to the point, have you already tried making one in all the languages that are contained in the stacks that are connected to your product?

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