Getting Feedback on your work is critical in life and acting upon it will improve yourself to reach your goals in whatever you do. I would like to talk about how getting feedback is not only beneficial to your growth but a core value already built into society. Its not something to be scared of, its something to acknowledge as a key tool which you can use to your advantage.

When I think back to university, I think about my bleach blonde spiky hair and home made clothes. Yes, even computer programmers are allowed to be creative in university! But one event in my final year really made me think about what I was doing and how other’s views on it were important.

My dissertation draft intro was a mess. Something I had cobbled together in the small hours of the morning before it was due. Sure I managed the 1000 words minimum, but it was terrible. I wanted to explore core gameplay structures and create a whole new medium of gameplay. If those of you who don’t develop games don’t understand that last sentence, don’t worry; it doesn’t make a lot of sense to my supervisor of my very technical course. The feedback he gave me was very poor. The worst report I’d ever had! He understood my general idea, but the text was very poorly written and possibly wouldn’t do well for this area of study. I understood it being poorly written, given I was high on energy drinks at the time, but not doing well for this area of study? What did that mean?

Instead of re-writing it, I met my supervisor to ask for more feedback. He explained that what he was looking for was a technical dissertation and that the premise of this research did not have enough focus on technicalities for his liking. To read into his feedback further, if I wanted a good mark, I needed to change my idea.

In the end I changed the project to something very technical indeed; beat detection for music audio feeds, using new signal processing techniques. Lots of maths. My supervisor liked it and so did the markers. I ended up with a great dissertation which was published in a games research book.

What I learned from this event was how important feedback was during my writing, as much as the feedback in the form of results at the end. Had I not responded to the seemingly negative feedback when it could have made a difference, the same negative feedback may have come back to me in the form of my final grade.

When you are working, whether for work, study or for personal goals or a hobby, why not try to get as much feedback as you can at beginning, middle and end?

If you plan to buy a new computer or mobile phone, announce to friends that you are looking for a new one. What kind of feedback would you expect? I would expect those who are into technology to list off their personal current favourites, or tell me which ones are ‘bad’ choices. After you choose and buy your new hardware, show people and tell them what you like and dislike. You never know, they might just have a solution for that application that always crashes..

I have found good fortune in work by asking for feedback. When I graduated, I was working at a call centre, earning minimum wage and hating my working life. I was desperate to get on with my goal of working as a software programmer. I met my senior classmate, 1 year ahead of me, and asked him about getting a job after graduation. The guy told me not to worry. Not particularly useful to me I felt because that wasn’t an acceptable solution to me. However, the next day I got a phone call from a software company in London. My classmate was approached by another classmate who now worked in a small software solutions company. They were desperate for extra contract workers and asked him if he knew anyone who could fulfill a 1 month contract…

I’ve found that the more feedback I get on a subject, the more conflicting views I receive and have to process. This is never more annoying when at work and being given conflicting directions by different people. I’ve found that the key to keeping your sanity in these situations is instead of thinking, ‘well one of them must be definitely wrong, one must be right’ and trying to determine which one is correct, try to think ‘Both of them are right, from their own points of view’ Use these views in your own decision making to determine what is needed to complete the task. An example from my own work would be very recently when working on a graphics visualisation project. My manager didnt know what he wanted, but he certainly knew when it was due. My workmates had their ideas about what was needed; nicer looking textures, high detail models; basically make it more like the last game they had played on their playstation. Did they know how long that would take to make? Certainly it would be too long within the given timeframe. Consulting google gave me at least a million opinions (or hits, at least) about what was good. But the best valued solution came from within that. Use a 3rd party renderer and free-to-use graphics to make something impressive in a reasonable time frame. That way it looked better than before, and adhered to the strict deadline given.

Getting as much feedback as possible at every stage is important when completing a task. But it is also important to correctly value the feedback and act upon it. Be active in asking for advice or how your plan sounds before you begin. It may not all be positive, and some of it might not be useful at all! However, the more views you can obtain, the more information you have at your disposal to make something which satisfies the requirements in the best possible way and the more successful you become.

With that in mind, can you please give me feedback by telling me what you thought of this post:)

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