Things I’ve Discovered as an RPA Developer

My experiences as an RPA developer over the last few years have shaped how I view the software and led me to some beliefs, which I’ve tried to condense into a manageable list that I hope you find useful.

So, to give you some context, I spent the first half of my career as a JAVA software engineer working for various small businesses and startups, then I went into consulting and became acquainted with Robotics Process Automation using UiPath (I call it my first love). I’ve spent the last four years as an RPA developer, creating countless bots for the banking, real estate, and SME industries.

My recommendation comes from someone who…

  1. has almost always been on small, lean teams where we had to accomplish a lot with very little.
  2. values working BOTs over specific tools.
  3. is constantly starting new projects while also maintaining a number of systems
  4. values engineer productivity over most other considerations
  5. Interacted with a lot of RPA developers with my initiatives such as RPAStarsChallenge, RPAStarsChat, UiPath Africa Series, StarsCanCode with Kolawole Emmanuel and many more.

1. I am still a student.
“How can you not understand what UiPath Studio web is?” “Have you never heard of PEGA?” Most of us have probably heard these kinds of statements far too often. Many of us enjoy software because we are lifelong learners, and in software, no matter which direction you look, there are vast vistas of knowledge extending in every direction and expanding by the day. This means that you can work for decades and still have a huge knowledge gap with someone who has also worked for decades in a seemingly similar role. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can begin to let go of your imposter syndrome and enjoy learning from and teaching others.

2. The most effective RPA engineers think like business users.
Great RPA engineers consider the project’s user experience as well as potential exceptions in the future code. They may not think of it in those terms, but whether it is an external API, a programmatic API, a user interface, a protocol, or any other interface, great engineers anticipate and handle future exceptions. The heart of good RPA engineers is keeping all stakeholders in mind and avoiding back and forth after deployment.

3. RPA is merely a means to an end.
The primary function of any RPA bot is to provide value. Few RPA developers comprehend this, and even fewer internalize it. Internalizing this leads to a different approach to problem solving and a different perspective on your tools. RPA is “the right tool” for removing all mundane repetitive tasks.

4. There are times when you just have to stop sharpening the saw and start cutting shit.
Some people are quick to jump into problems and then give up immediately. Others tend to want to research and research and become mired in analysis paralysis. Set a deadline for yourself and begin exploring solutions in those cases. As you begin to solve the problem, you will quickly learn more, which will lead you to iterate into a better solution. UiPath has a large community to assist you in getting started with problem solving. You can also participate in the Stardex Challenge and community to solve more RPA challenges.

5. You can’t create a good BOT if you don’t understand the universe of what’s possible with RPA.
This is something I am increasingly struggling with as my responsibilities take me further and further away from the day-to-day of software engineering. It takes a lot of effort to keep up with the RPA developer ecosystem, but it is critical to understand what is possible. If you don’t understand what’s possible and what’s available in a given ecosystem, it’ll be impossible to come up with a reasonable solution to all but the most basic of problems. To summarize, learn, learn, and learn some more. Join the RPA software community as well, as they all update new features almost immediately.

6. People do not want innovation.
People talk a lot about innovation, but what they really want is quick wins and novelty. Expect mostly negative feedback if you truly innovate and change the way people have to do things. If you believe in what you’re doing and know it will make a difference, prepare for a long battle.

7. RPA engineers should write on a regular basis.
RPA engineers should blog, journal, write documentation, and do anything else that requires them to maintain their written communication skills. Writing allows you to reflect on your problems and communicate them more effectively with your team and future self. One of the most important skills for any software engineer to master is written communication.

8. Mentorship is very important

This cannot be overemphasized. I have Nidhi Chaturvedi in my space always to help me out and also to point me in the right direction. I also have Shwetank Jain and many more.

What is your personal story?
So there you have it: years of RPA software engineer wisdom condensed into 20 pithy nuggets. If something struck a chord with you, please let me know. I’d also like to know if you have any pearls of wisdom from your career that you’d like to share. Please leave it in the comments section.

 

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