Better Developer

Corey Prak

Recording Interactions Can Be Helpful

My first major job as a Software Engineer had me working from home with other developers from all over the world. Two people lived in London, another in a small town in Poland, and even one from Guatemala.

Since we were located all over the world, the varying timezones largely influenced the amount of overlap in our workday to collaborate.

To make sure that I made the most of my time when speaking to colleagues for help or about things that I didn’t know, I’d record my interactions.

I’d record voice conversations, and when it came down to reviewing content shown on my screen or someone else sharing theirs, I’d record that too.

This was probably the most helpful thing I’ve ever done. I reduce the need to ask my colleagues to repeat themselves, and I have a resource which I can reflect back on as much as I’d like.

There were times where I’d have little to no clue about how to approach a task or problem. More often than not, it wasn’t just the first step into the solution that I didn’t know how to solve, but the next few steps. I felt in over my head, and while I might have been able to push through solving things on my own, more often than not, time and experience wasn’t on my side. I had to rely on those around me, who were luckily more than welcome to provide assistance.

I’d schedule a meeting with someone who would have time to answer all the questions I could think of, work on the first step towards a supposed solution, play the meeting back, work on the next step, and play the content back again.

Much of the content conveyed in the meeting didn’t make sense until I completed one step or stumbled upon some kind of understanding. Sometimes, my understanding would change the solution and bring more questions, to which point I’d redo the process of setting up some time to talk, and record that interaction.

In a way, the meetings I recorded were dots of information that I didn’t have to keep in my head. Had I not made any recordings, I would have had to contain pretty much all the dots of information in my head without connections between them. I’m not a great note taker, and it’s hard for me to write and listen at the same time while really taking in what was going on.

Being able to record those dots through screen captures and voice recordings let me absorb the dots slowly, connecting them at a pace I comfortable with. This method allowed me to be more efficient as an engineer and save my colleagues time from repeating themselves, among a slew of other benefits.

I know that recording work sensitive conversations and video can be taboo. Additionally, recording without consent can be an issue as well. For me, I made sure to ask when I could. I can’t ever remember someone saying something to the effect of, ‘no, I don’t want this helpful conversation recorded’. If there was every any recordings that held sensitive information, I’d delete it as soon as I didn’t need it anymore.

Doing well on interview questions, technical or not, always take a few tries before my head is used to being in ‘interview mode’. Recorded interviews allow me to review my performance with technical questions and curve balls. I haven’t recorded a live coding challenge, though. It just never came up.

Legalities and moral concerns aside, whether you should or shouldn’t do this is up to you. As a developer, I did what I had to do to thrive and get things done within the deadlines that were given. Recording content of help that I received turned out to be very helpful in my accomplishments and growth, and I’m confident it can do the same for many others.