When working in a team trying to deliver software things don’t always go right. Quite often they actually go wrong. Sometimes though they go so wrong that there are consequences for others. And when things go wrong, someone is to blame.
It’s natural to protect yourself and make sure all attention is on the next person by blaming and pointing. Perhaps you just sit idly and let others deal out blame and this helps you get by on a day-to-day basis. If you and the people around you are dealing out blame, you aren’t only making it bad for those around you, but for yourself.
You’re sitting there, writing code for another feature request and a message pops in. You know it’s important, since it’s a direct message. You glance at the notification and see the words:
Dev: “You broke the build…”
You click the notification and get taken to the 1-on-1 chat, where you read:
Dev: “You broke the build, you fix?
Short and to the point. An efficient message. Perhaps not the most effective though, since you’re sitting there and scratching your head. You’re feeling annoyed. Not because you broke the build, nor that this person let you know about it. It’s because you can’t seem to get hold of the feeling of the person behind the message.
Are they irritated? Maybe mad? Possible stressed out? None of the above? The uncertainty of this can easily put you in a negative state of mind, and that won’t help with collaboration. Continue Reading
As a technical team lead, you are in a unique position to facilitate the growth of your team or watch it spin out of control. You can run it with an iron fist or meekly get overrun by strong forces. You can encourage psychological safety or allow watch things fall apart in a toxic environment.
What makes or breaks a team? How can you bring out the best in the people around you? What can you do as a technical team lead to ensure the success of your team, and as an extension your product? Continue Reading
Let me introduce you to Malcolm. He’s my imaginary developer-friend currently working at Mega Enterprise Inc Ltd Corp. He’s been butting heads with the lead developer, Jack, for a while now. They don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye on a feature that Malcolm implemented. You see, Jack doesn’t like how Malcolm writes his code. Formatting is wrong and he uses way too long variable names, and he doesn’t write a single comment and…(list goes on)! Jack hates reviewing Malcolms code. Malcolm usually gets his code back from Jack, with a long list of TODOs. So Malcolm goes off to re-do most of his work just to give it back to Jack…When Jack’s finally happy with the code; It adheres to his preferred coding style and uses the correct enterprise patterns that have been decided upon. He allows it through the magic gates to master.Continue Reading
Working in a distributed team isn’t easy, especially when members are spread across 4 locations. I was recently part of a team that was doing pretty well, but wasn’t functioning as a cohesive unit. There seemed to be hesitance towards pair-programming sessions, even though doing quick Skype calls seemed to be fine. We were relatively open during retrospectives, but were missing out on the deep conversations.
I had a feeling this was a trust issue, and that spending more time together could help. Sitting in an online meeting doing team-building exercises didn’t seem like the best approach, which is when I stumbled over Mob Programming as a way to both get work done, and build up the team’s collective trust and understanding. Continue Reading
Many software development teams have a process including retrospective meetings. An opportunity for the team to look back at a period of time and assess how it has functioned. It’s often connected to the Scrum, but you don’t need to be adhering to any process / approach to see the value of having retrospective meetings. The goal of the retrospective is learning. What worked? What didn’t work? How can we improve something that’s broken? Should we continue with something that’s working?
Another aspect of the retrospective is that it’s meant to be a safe place for team members to speak their minds. The idea being that given a safe place, a team can figure out its own problems and possibly even solutions.
To create that safe place there needs to be trust. Enough trust so that team members can be candid with each other about issues that arise while working together. Enough trust that allows the team members to be vulnerable, and know that they won’t be judged. Where blame isn’t handed out, but rather bonds created and learnings are formed.
But how do we create a space in the busy life of a software development team, where deadlines and bugs are commonplace and there’s often a pressure to deliver something that will create value? Continue Reading
Working in any team environment will involve communication between its members. To really bring the best out in others and yourself, having a culture of where honesty is important. It’s also something almost anybody will verbally agree to. Yet being open and honest in a good way is extremely hard. How often do you refrain from saying something completely honestly because you don’t want to embarrass someone. Or what about the time somebody called you out on something in front of the team? Sure you may have needed that feedback, but what happens to your relationship with that person? What about the team dynamics?
Blunt honesty can not only be harsh, but downright devastating to hear. How then are we meant to move beyond the complications of honest communication and get to a place where our being honest actually provides room for everyone to grow? Continue Reading
The video in question is #43 in the funfunfunction series and addresses a very important subject: “Does a developer need to be nice?”. I’ve written a summary of the video, and added a few of my thoughts a the end.
Working as a developer involves communication on many levels. We need to communicate with business stakeholders in a domain specific language, abstracting away much of the technical jargon. Team communication on the other hand is a lot more technical, and closer to our reality in code.
A lot of our communication is silent though. It happens through async tools like email, Skype or Slack. I’m sure that anyone that’s attempted communicating this way has experienced how easy it is to under-communicate, leading to a ping-pong of messages before the intent and understanding is conveyed.
The end goal of all this communication is software that delivers value to users.
Software isn’t finished when it’s been delivered though. It changes over time and with it loses its original intent. This leads to even more async communication, which can go over months or years. I’m talking about the communication that happens through the code we write.
We’re sometimes placed in situations where we need to present our software to stakeholders, business owners or end users. These users may or may not be technical, but they will most likely be the other side of the user interface you are creating. They are the reason you create software and are genuinely interested in the end result. In recent years, with Agile and Scrum, these presentations tend to take place more often and you’re in the limelight presenting the latest and greatest. Many years of honing our skills as software developers have all but prepared us for this challenge, and we may end up getting a response from the attendees along the lines of this:
Too much uptight focus on technical details, digging deep into issues that nobody cares about, discussing the framework, library or platform chosen to solve a particular problem leaves you attendees bored, confused and sometimes feeling dumb since they haven’t got the faintest idea what you’re talking about. This leads to frustration, arguments, cold-fronts or just a general feeling of “meh”, where developers, stakeholders and users just don’t get the value out of this important meeting arena they could.
So what’s a developer to do? Here are some tips and thoughts for preparing for, presenting and participating in more technical presentations.