When we think of greatness in the world of sports, one name that immediately pops in my mind is Michael Jordan. Widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan’s approach to his craft is legendary. While the world of software engineering might seem miles apart from the basketball court, there are valuable lessons we as software engineers can learn from the Michael Jordan approach and apply them to our work as software engineers.

MJ engineering

Work Ethic

Michael Jordan’s work ethic was unmatched. He was known for his tireless practice and training routines. He often said that he made more than 9,000 shots in his career, and he missed more than 26 game-winning shots. His point was simple: he wasn’t afraid to fail because he knew he would learn from it and get better.

In software engineering, this work ethic translates to a commitment to constant learning and improvement. Building great software isn’t just about talent; it’s about putting in the effort, making mistakes, and learning from them. Just like Jordan would practice free throws for hours, software engineers need to code, test, and debug to improve their skills.

Focus on Fundamentals

Jordan’s brilliance on the basketball court came from his mastery of the basics. His understanding of the game’s basics was impeccable, excelling in areas like shooting, ball-handling, and defence. His understanding of the game’s fundamentals allowed him to make the right decisions under pressure.

In software engineering, mastering the fundamentals is equally critical. Understanding clean coding, data structures, algorithms, and coding principles is the foundation of building robust software. It’s tempting to dive headfirst into the latest technologies, but without a strong grasp of the basics, your code may for example suffer from inefficiency, bugs, or scalability issues.

Embracing Short-Term Pressure and Competition

Much like Michael Jordan excelled in short-term high-pressure situations on the basketball court, software engineers should welcome high-pressure scenarios. These moments, characterised by tight deadlines and immediate challenges, are opportunities to show problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and resilience. Embracing short-term pressure in software engineering can lead to growth and the development of a confident mindset, allowing you to tackle complex projects with grace and effectiveness.

Continuous Self-Improvement

Even at the peak of his career, Michael Jordan constantly sought ways to improve his skills. He was fully committed. He adapted to changes in the game, learned new techniques, and kept pushing his limits.

In software engineering, the landscape is ever-evolving. New languages, frameworks, and tools emerge regularly. The Michael Jordan approach encourages us to embrace change and commit to lifelong learning. This means investing in yourself and staying up to date with trends, attending workshops and conferences, and adapting to new technologies.

Teamwork and Leadership

While Jordan was a dominant individual player, he also recognized the importance of teamwork. His leadership skills were instrumental in the success of his teams. He inspired and motivated his teammates to perform at their best.

In software engineering, collaboration is key. The most successful projects involve effective communication, teamwork, and leadership. Just as Jordan elevated his team, you can help lead your software development team to success by fostering a positive work environment and encouraging collaboration.

Staying Healthy and Looking After Yourself

As software engineers we spend a huge amount of time at our desk in front of our screens. It’s easy to overlook the importance of our health and nutrition. Just as athletes like Michael Jordan maintain their bodies to perform at their best, software engineers should focus on their well-being. Stress is a real concern in our field, and neglecting your health can have a negative impact on both your work and personal life. It’s essential to find a healthy work-life balance, take breaks, and get regular exercise. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of mental health. Practice stress-reduction techniques, seek help when needed, and make time for activities you enjoy outside of work. Remember, staying healthy and looking after yourself is a strategy for long-term success in your software engineering career.

To sum it all up

The Michael Jordan approach to software engineering is not about dunking a basketball but rather about achieving greatness in your field. It’s about work ethic, focusing on fundamentals, not being afraid of short-term pressure situations, continuously improving, and being a team player.

Here are five practical tips to help you adopt a similar mindset in your software engineering career:

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

    • Just as Michael Jordan spent countless hours on the basketball court, you should dedicate significant time to practice your software development skills.

    • Work on personal projects, contribute to open-source projects, and continuously seek opportunities to code and solve real-world problems.

  2. Set Clear Goals

    • Define clear and achievable career goals as well as project-specific objectives.

    • Use these goals to motivate yourself and maintain a sense of purpose in your work. Regularly review and adjust them as needed.

  3. Learn Continuously

    • Be a continuous learner. Technology evolves rapidly, so stay updated with the latest developments in your field.

    • Take online courses, attend conferences or workshops, and read books or articles to enhance your knowledge and skills.

  4. Embrace Failure and Criticism

    • Michael Jordan faced numerous setbacks and criticisms throughout his career. Similarly, in software engineering, you will encounter challenges and possibly criticism.

    • Learn from failures and view constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks; instead, use them as stepping stones to improvement.

  5. Mentorship and Collaboration

    • Surround yourself with colleagues and mentors who can guide and inspire you.

    • Collaborate with experienced engineers, participate in code reviews, and seek feedback to refine your skills and develop a winning team dynamic.

By embracing these principles and finding the right balance that prioritises your well-being, software engineers can strive to become the best versions of themselves in their careers, leaving a lasting imprint on the world of technology. Much like Jordan’s enduring legacy inspires basketball players, his approach can encourage us to excel as the finest software engineers possible.