Three unexpected benefits of talking about technical debt

29 Nov 2021

Did you know talking about technical debt can help you win at work? Technical debt conversations are not usually a path to promotion. They are more likely to be frustrating and filled with complaints. Many such conversations end with a realisation that not much will change. Despite that, there are three unexpected benefits of talking about technical debt.

When you talk about technical debt more often you do three things:

  1. Raise your profile by helping fix the debt.
  2. Show your strategic thinking skills.
  3. Position yourself for promotion.

Raise your profile by fixing the debt

Problems that aren’t talked about are never solved. Talking about technical debt in the right way increases the visibility of the issue. The greater the visibility a problem has, the more likely it is to be solved.

If you raise the profile enough of a problem enough that it gets fixed you will have helped solve a problem for your team and for the business. There’s a lot of kudos attached to a result like that.

This type of problem solving is a great example to use in interviews. Solving a technical debt problem is a great topic for questions like ‘Tell me about a time you made a difference’ or ‘Describe how you helped your team’.

Not only that, but you’ll know a few grateful people. People who might think of you when the next interesting opportunity comes up. All of this is good for your profile in your company.

Show your strategic thinking skills

Strategic thinkers consider wide ranging problems. Problems that impact the business today and in the future. People who think strategically consider important problems that aren’t usually in the spotlight.

The long-term implication of technical debt doesn’t usually grab the headlines. It’s only when the debt impacts a highly visible project that the business pays attention. Unfortunately, this situation often leads to more rushed decisions. And rushed decisions cause more technical debt or kicks the debt further down the road.

Talking about the long-term implications of technical debt helps avoid these urgent problems. As the person leading the discussion, you are showing your ability to think strategically. It shows you are thinking about the best interests of the business and team. When business and technical leaders see you have that skill, they will mark you as someone with potential. That leads to opportunities in future projects and greater chance of career progression.

Position yourself for promotion

Talking about technical debt means doing more than complaining about the problem. Valuable conversations about technical debt help raise awareness of the issue. You must think about long term impacts and ways to resolve issues. You must consider business impacts, budget consideration, and more. These topics go beyond the scope most technical job descriptions.

Leading the charge on even a small technical debt topic positions you to learn new skills and show off your existing skills. This type of broad thinking helps when it comes time to apply for a position higher in the organisation. Not only that, the people you work without outside your team will remember you and can provide great references.


Technical debt isn’t usually a fun conversation. But if approached the right way, this common topic can be a springboard for your career.

Become an advocate for fixing the debt. Highlight the impact of technical debt to show that you can think strategically. Take the conversation beyond your immediate team. Create opportunities to practice the skills that are essential for higher positions.

Not only do these three unexpected benefits of talking about technical debt help you, but they solve a problem for the people around you, too.