Top productivity tips from a senior software engineer

Zalando’s Ferghal Smyth discusses the hardest part of his working day and shares some of his top tips for staying on track.

Whether you’re a well-seasoned software engineer or just at the beginning of your engineering journey, it is always helpful to get some insight from others.

The nature of working as a software engineer can mean the day-to-day tasks involve a lot of moving parts, which can hinder your productivity.

To help with this challenge, we sought some insight from Ferghal Smyth, a senior software engineer at fashion-tech company Zalando.

Smyth works alongside the product manager in the company’s self-service platform for partners.

Speaking to, he said his day generally includes a lot of leadership responsibilities.

“I help break out the tasks at an engineering level, working with my product manager to understand new features [and] what the partner wants from our self-service platform.”

Time management challenges

Even as an experienced software engineer, Smyth admitted that the hardest part of his working day is around time management.

“I get a lot of questions, internally and externally, in the team where I’m trying to support people. This can really break up your productivity because you become less effective and there’s a lot of context-switching so you have to put in place some things to actually manage those cases.”

Smyth has had to come to grips with time management and productivity tips more recently while he is helping someone else transfer from a non-engineering role into eventually becoming an engineer.

“One of the hardest things for them is actually to manage the expectation,” he said. “Being an engineer takes a long time, a lot of work and it’s important to keep that in mind.”

Because of these expectations, Smyth’s top tip for staying productive on the road to becoming an engineer is to “have realistic goals and timelines” to help you stay motivated.

“If you think  you’re going to get there really fast, you have to realise it’s a lot of work,” he added. “Looking back at what you’ve achieved over time will help you become much more successful.”

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