How an app marketplace can shorten your workday and advance your career

Customization can increase engineers' value to their teams and lead to new income opportunities down the road.

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At Atlassian, we focus a lot on career development and ensuring our engineers have a path to success at the company. A recent conversation about this got me thinking of a way that all engineers can increase their value to their teams, and even achieve a level of hero status at work. It could also lead to a new income opportunity down the road.

Excelling at work means more than just performing well in the role you are assigned. Those who move up the ladder and get put on the exciting projects tend to be the ones who think broadly about their work and how they can improve themselves and their work environment. For example, you might identify bottlenecks to performance and doing something about it.

The app marketplaces set up by enterprise software vendors provide a great opportunity for doing this. More and more vendors are opening up their platforms and tooling to let developers build apps that provide just the functionality companies need to work more efficiently.

To put this in practice at your own company, look at the tools you and your colleagues use every day. Understand the workflows your company has in place, and ask, “Is there a better way of doing this?,” “Can I extend or customize this tool in a way that will let me and my coworkers do our work 3X or 10X more efficiently?,” or “Can these two apps be integrated in a way that speeds up an entire process at my company?”

Whether you’re building software, configuring infrastructure, or working somewhere else in the devops chain, most modern tools are really platforms that can be modified and extended to better match what we need them to do. Here are five classes of enterprise tool that can be customized in this way, but there are many others:

  • Monitoring tools like AppDynamics, Splunk, and Dynatrace
  • IT service management tools like Jira Service Desk and ServiceNow
  • Continuous-integration frameworks like Jenkins, Bamboo, and Hudson
  • Communication tools like Slack and Stride
  • IDEs like NetBeans and Visual Studio

(Disclosure: Jira Service Desk, Bamboo, and Stride are made by Atlassian, my employer.)

Each of these products provides the ability, through open APIs or plugins, to make them a better match for the particular work you do. That could mean automating parts of a QA process, building a link between developers and a UX team, or creating an integration that enables chatops. There is typically no charge for these types of customizations. All it takes is lifting your head up long enough to take a good look around and realize what’s slowing you down.

Removing bottlenecks will save time and reduce frustration in your own busy day, but it’s likely your team will appreciate it too. Importantly, your managers will also notice, and it’s this type of proactive engagement that’s likely to get you promoted.

Beyond the potential for great success at your company, a lot of developers see the opportunity to solve those problems for others, and make money doing so. Many app marketplaces allow you to sell your app or extension to others. Developers on Atlassian’s marketplace have made more than $200 million selling apps, and there are plenty of other marketplaces with which to work.

Whether you choose to find a marketplace app, build a custom app to solve an in-house problem, or create something that can be used more widely, here are some pointers to help you put these ideas into practice.

Think constantly about how you work

As you go about your day, consider which parts of a process are slowing you down or taking up too much time. Identifying opportunities for change requires a particular mindset: think constantly about the sources of inefficiency and how you can address them.

Observe your coworkers interacting with the tools you provide

People adjust how they work based on the tools, constraints, and processes that they deal with every day. As a result, it is sometimes difficult for individuals to recognize where things might improve. Being more observant of others will help you identify sources of inefficiency that you can help improve, especially when it comes to the tools that you help manage.

Be willing to step outside your role

If you define your job responsibilities in narrow terms, you’re unlikely to grow beyond them. Don’t be afraid to voice your ideas.

Build on platforms that are open and transparent

Being able to read and write data to an app isn’t always enough; look for a platform that allows deep integration—and that is known for its transparency with developers.

We’ve all been frustrated by inefficiencies at work, but instead of giving into them, think about how you can create change for yourself and those around you. As you take on more senior roles in your career, you’ll be expected to think more about this type of process improvement and how you can make your teams more productive and innovative. Start now by improving your own work environment.

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