The Value of Autonomy

Learning is always my top priority when it comes to work.

Learning fast requires the time and flexibility to follow areas that are interesting. 

Take a couple steps forward, and then one back. Time for mistakes and self-correction.

In short, it requires autonomy—my second highest priority behind learning.

Autonomy does not mean no supervision. It doesn’t mean no manager or criticism or feedback. 

Feedback and criticism are key components of my first goal: learning.

Good managers and peers provide feedback and ask questions that help with learning. They’re crucial in making work enjoyable too.

Autonomy instead means the freedom to explore different areas. The freedom and encouragement to make mistakes and improve.

It means less micro-management, and more support. 

A key part of what I like to do—solve problems—involves choosing which problems to tackle first.

In tech and startups, where I like to work, there are too many problems to tackle at once. So choosing the right ones is critical. 

And to choose the right problems requires some autonomy too. 

It means periods of exploration for problem definition, data investigation, and proof-of-concepts. 

But not all will lead somewhere. That’s part of the process. And it requires autonomy to execute well.

Learning first. Autonomy second.

Two key components of the work I like most.