Brendan Enrick

Daily Software Development

Join Our Team

You are correct. I don’t usually do recruiting posts on my blog, however, I am guessing that my blog readers are people who might be interested in working with me. I joined Clear Measure a couple of months ago, which is a company started by Jeffrey Palermo and Mark Stavrou. Primarily based in Austin, we are starting to build a pocket of developers in Northeast Ohio. Our team up here is currently remote, but we are hoping to get enough people to merit some suburban office space for our team.

Let me know if you’re in the Northeast Ohio area and want to play buzzword bingo with this card:

Buzzword Bingo

We all love buzzword bingo! Right? right?

You can always check here for Clear Measure’s current openings. Even when we don’t have a listed position open, contact me anyway, because I firmly believe that a company should always be hiring. The best people don’t come along every day. That’s how I ended up working with Todd Ropog and Kevin Kuebler years ago. They were the right people to join NimblePros. 

Assumption Driven Coding

As software developers, we have to make a lot of assumptions about things. It goes with the territory, however, we try to avoid making assumptions whenever we can. One of the values that we hold up is Communication, and that means that we need to communicate with our users. June 2014 is Assumption Driven Coding month according to the 2014 Software Craftsmanship Calendar Anti-Patterns edition.

The calendar (as always) takes a more visual approach to this software development issue.

Assumption_Driven_Programming_Jun_2014

Obviously, we’re supposed to notice that Eric is missing a hand, so he cannot use this newly installed palm scanner. Whoever decided to put in this new interface should have thought of a backup system for Eric or used a different authorization mechanism.

If we step back and think of this in terms of software, we’re talking about making an assumption about our users, data, or how interaction with the system will happen. An example of this would be assuming that your users “all use the start menu”, “all search for programs”, “all use the quick launch bar”, or “all use the desktop”. Each of those is an assumption that Microsoft could make when developing its next version of Windows. Each of those assumptions would be a bad one. Heck, even assuming that I named all of the possibilities already is a really bad assumption. What if someone uses “Run” or PowerShell?

When we’re writing our software, we take a lot of guesses about how the users will use our systems. Don’t! As you’re building, watch them use it. See how they use the system. Ask the user to perform their daily routine in the new software and see what they do. Ask them some questions. And make sure that you check different types of users. Sure, you will not catch every case, but you can avoid a lot of headaches. You might not even have realized that certain users would use the feature you’re building if you don’t ask.

Let’s focus on avoiding this issue for the rest of June.

SPOILER ALERT: Eric has both a right hand and a left hand… This photo is fake.

Being a Leader

I started my career as a software developer, because I love computers and I love building things. Building software, no matter the type of involvement, is an experience worth working toward. There are few things that can provide as much joy in such a short amount of time than seeing the text you’ve written come alive. In the last 5 years of my software development career, however, I’ve been leading teams of developers rather than just typing the lines of code that go into the software. Working with a team and building great things together is something I love regardless of the type of contribution I am making.

Now that I am transitioning back (at least for a time) into a primarily development role, I want to take some time and reflect on that change. I have enjoyed all of the work that I have done in my career, and I look forward to many more years building great things with great people.

I will never stop writing code. It’s too much fun to give up completely, but I also love people and working with people. For that reason, I enjoy leading teams of developers as well. I’ve spent these past 5 years trying to improve my leadership, not just for my own benefit, but for the benefit of my teams and the software we create. As many of you know, I blog so that I can share what I’ve learned with everyone (including my future self).  Let’s talk about leadership.

Know Your Team

As a leader, it’s important that you know your team’s strengths as well as their weaknesses. This is not exactly a radical idea, but it’s one that I’ve seen ignored far too often. Every member of your team has goals, opinions, preferences, etc. They’re people. If you don’t know anything about them, you’re not leading your team. The best experiences I’ve had as a leader are always when I am communicating and soliciting feedback and ideas from everyone involved.

I make a point of getting to know my team. I make sure to lighten the mood, so I can meet the professionals as well as the people they are. If I know that certain people have tendencies toward certain things, that allows me to lead them better. It’s my job to make sure that they’re doing their job well and are happy about it.

A good friend of mine, Steve Smith, recently took on the role of CTO of Falafel Software, and I was chatting with him about that new role. He was commenting about getting to know his team and having discussions with them. I suggested he spend an hour or two pair programming with everyone he’ll be working with. This gives him the chance to talk with them and also learn how they like to work. It comes with a couple of very important benefits: it lets Steve write some code and it also lets him learn about the projects.

Know Your Projects

One of the most frustrating things as a developer is having to constantly explain and re-explain a project to a manager. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you know the project. You’re involved. Sure, you need to talk and ask about how things are going, but you should understand what’s being done. You’re not there to tell people what to do. You’re there to help people get those things done.

If you need to sit down and pair with your team, do it! Sit with the designers and help them design. Sit with the developers and help them code. Work with the team. You’re a part of the team.

When I am leading a team, I am with the team. I’m only in my office when I need a quiet space. The rest of my time, I am sitting right next to the team. If I roll my chair back, I’m bumping into a developer or a designer. That’s my ideal situation. When anything happens in the project, I need to at least be aware about it, and constantly pestering my team for status updates is not an appropriate way to do that. It wastes their time and reiterates that my time is more valuable than theirs (completely false).

Solicit Feedback

Clearly, before I make a decision, it’s a good idea to make sure that the team has a chance to weigh in on things. When you are a leader, it is likely not a democracy. Make sure you know that and make sure the team knows that. If a decision I make will impact the team, I at least alert them to it before the decision is made. This gives the chance for cries of outrage. More often, I prefer to actually have a quick discussion before making my decision.

One topic that comes up all too often is physical versus digital kanban boards. This often has to do with the circumstances of the project. Obviously if everyone involved in the project is in the same room, a physical kanban board has a lot of benefits, but if you’ve got a single remote user, you’ll lean the other way. I’ve had a few developers with strong opinions one way or the other, so I try to accommodate when I can. I know which to use for each project because of the developers who are on them, because I get to know my team.

Asking for feedback allows the team involvement in the decisions and gives them some stake in things. Make sure you’re listening and taking their suggestions to hear. I know that I never know the best approach from the start. I chose my team, because they’re smart and can help me make the right choices. Often the right choice is based on the team, so you really should ask the team.

Identify Leaders

As a leader, you need to help other leaders become better leaders. Often leadership qualities are on your team. That’s great for you! Let them take on some leadership. Give them the chance to lead some discussions, meetings, projects, etc. It will help them (and the team) to build great things. Sharing responsibilities with others will let you focus more, and will let them grow as leaders. You’ll need peers to help you lead others and people to cover for you when you’re busy or out of town.

Your team is often better at leading than you (or they) might expect. A leader who has never had the chance to lead may not know they can. If you can identify and grow leadership in your team, you will have empowered your team to make good decisions. The more your team can do on their own, the more you (and the entire team) are able to accomplish. Build more. Build better. Build the leadership in your team. It’s there already. You just need to find it and grow it.

Lead the Team

Yes, this also sounds kind of silly to mention here, but I am serious. There is a big difference between leading and directing. If you’re leading, you’re out front blazing a trail. If you’re directing, managing, or even guiding, you don’t have to be out front. When you’re leading a team, you’re setting examples. You’re doing things the right way (whatever that is for your project). You’re not cutting corners or doing a sloppy job. It’s your job to not only help, but to make sure that everyone else can follow in your footsteps to achieve success.

How you lead a team is extremely important. If you cut corners, your team will as well. If you have a sour attitude about the project, that will spread. If you’re lethargic and bored by the project, you won’t be seeing an interested, engaged team. Be the team you want your team to be. If you don’t you can’t expect any better from anyone else. This doesn’t mean you need to be the best developer, designer, tester, copy-editor, or anything else. You just need to be willing to put forth good, positive effort. You’ll be amazed at the results. When I do that right with a project, I am always impressed with how the whole teams steps up to every challenge. Whenever I’ve cut a corner, I see it repeated. It’s just not worth doing.

Set an example. Be a leader to emulate. Stay positive. Keep things moving smoothly. That is your job. Leading is hard. Doing it right is harder, but it’s very worth it. If you do it right, your team will do amazing work that will have you in awe. With that said, I’d like to thank all of the developers and designers who have ever been on my teams. I was glad to have every one of you on my teams, and you did fantastic work. (You all knew that already though!) We all achieve some great things! Now it’s my turn again!

I Joined Clear Measure

I am just about to finish up my second month on the Clear Measure team, and I am still very impressed with what this team has built considering how young the company is. I’ve known Jeffrey Palermo, one of Clear Measure’s founders, for plenty of years, and I decided to jump at the chance to work with him and his team. It is an opportunity that I could not pass on.

Role Change

Many developers who have worked with me in the past are excited to learn that I am now getting to write a lot more code than I did before, since I’ve stepped out of a leadership position and have taken on a Principal Software Engineer role with Clear Measure.

I am looking forward to the chance to delve back into the world of coding more. I’ve been able to write quite a bit of code while leading my teams, but this will give me the chance to get back to what I love. I’d been looking for a chance to make this change back to development for a while. I don’t expect that anyone can keep me permanently out of a leadership role, but I am in the industry for the development.

I’ve been leading development teams for Steve Smith and Michelle Smith for quite a few years, while we were running NimblePros and while we were Telerik Services. Easily the most difficult decision I’ve made in my entire career has been to part ways with them, primarily because it seems like such a big mistake to stop working with them. I am sure that this is not the last time I will work with those two. In fact, I am already discussing some plans for a side project with Steve.

Diving in Head First

I’ve been extremely impressed with the speed at which I was able to start writing code with Clear Measure. Many others are impressed to learn that I was building and running a solution in my first hour at Clear Measure. That’s just awesome.

Additionally, since Clear Measure had just started the project, I was able to get things running the way I wanted them to. The project is running under continuous integration and is a derivative of this Iteration Zero project. Letting the new guy run loose like that was something I was very happy about. In fact, the entire company seems to be based around the idea that people will make good choices when given the chance. I agree!

Two Dimensional Brendan

Now that I am working remotely, my team primarily sees me through a webcam. That’s certainly a change! I am a big proponent of having a team that is co-located, but for the right team you make exceptions. I think Clear Measure considers me the exception, and I consider them the exception. I’m just glad that we can agree on the situation.

I went from being in spaces like these:

Team Room 1

Notice the close proximity and lots of pair programming. No walls and everyone is constantly able to share information and ideas.

Team Room 2

In these buildings:

NimblePlex

Yep those two buildings are what I like to call “The NimblePlex”. NimblePros shifted around quite a bit between these two buildings over the years. I had 4 different offices while I was in those buildings! Long stories to explain all of those!

Now I am using this desk:

HomeDesk

It works pretty well for me. I made sure to get one that was for work and one that wasn’t. I am currently seated about 5-6 feet to the left of where I sit there. That’s important to me, having that separation.

For anyone paying attention to these pictures, I’ve got a Software Craftsmanship calendar on my desk, a Pluralsight mouse pad, an ASP Alliance coaster, and that’s a stack of books in the reflection. Can you identify the books? If you have a copy of the Software Craftsmanship Calendar, you might recognize three stars from this year’s calendar!

I did not expect to be working from home at this point, but it’s been interesting. I am able to have much better lunches than I did before. I now take 20 minutes to prepare and eat a salad most days, and I am watching Star Trek on Netflix during that time. I take a full hour for my lunch break though, so I have time to finish the episode while running on a treadmill. It’s amazing how much more energy I’ve got in the afternoon with this routine. I cannot recommend it enough. In fact, if I do move back into an office, I am looking into having a treadmill there!

Going Forward

I am never one who is without goals. If anything, I would say that I have more goals than I could possibly achieve. I’ve always thought that a good thing, since it gives me direction.

I am working on and planning some Pluralsight courses, which hopefully will be out soon. I’ll keep you posted.

As I’m sure you figured out, I don’t mind working remotely. In fact, it’s got some benefits and has been going well. My next goal at Clear Measure (aside from the success of the company and the projects I work on) is to build up an extremely talented team around me. I’ve started that process already, and Rich Hildebrand recently joined our team up here.