In Celebration

Just in case you haven’t been over to my new blog, I posted an entry in memory and celebration of my grandfather, who passed away early this morning.

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New Blog

Wow, it’s a bit dusty around here! If you can see through all of the dust, head on over to www.tuscaroratechnology.com. I have my new website set up there. Currently it’s housing a blog and I’m in the process of setting it up. Let me know what you think and stay tuned for more posts. I have a few things up my sleeve (and no, it’s not an arm).

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New Blog

Wow, it’s a bit dusty around here! If you can see through all of the dust, head on over to www.tuscaroratechnology.com. I have my new website set up there. Currently it’s housing a blog and I’m in the process of setting it up. Let me know what you think and stay tuned for more posts. I have a few things up my sleeve (and no, it’s not an arm).

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An Update and New Horizons

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted! Life certainly has been busy in 2012.

Update

I’ve been spending a good bit of my spare time  working overtime on two projects at work. I now know why so many people think overtime for software developers is not such a great idea. I had been working quite a bit of overtime in December and January. But then about mid-January, I just crashed. I had gotten to the place where I would sit down in the evening to work and not get any where.  Needless to say, I am now a big believer in just sticking with the 40 hour workweek for software developers. Since it’s such a brain centered activity, you need to be as sharp as you can be when you head to the office each day. The only things that help you stay sharp is good sleep and time spent on non-coding activities.

I’ve started to look into some audio programming projects on the side. Audio recording has always been interesting to me so this may be a very good way to mix my professional skills with a hobby. I’ll see where it goes. One think I’ve noticed is that there isn’t a great deal of published material on audio programming (building audio recording software, etc). Ultimately, I would like to build a really simple application that would enable us to record sermons at our church and possibly even automate some of the process.

New Horizons

Back in December, I had started to look around at the local software development community to see what jobs were available. After looking for a while and giving much prayer, I was recently offered a position as an Application Architect with First Data. I believe the job will be a blessing and help to my career. It’s significantly closer to home so it will reduce my commute a great deal. Also, there was a pay raise which is nice. There may even be an opportunity to do some remote work although that’s still to be determined. For the most part I’ll be doing what I’m doing at my current employer but there will be plenty of room for professional growth. I know I’m excited to see where the job takes me and what I learn!

One of my goals for 2012 is to publish more technical posts than I have. Many of my posts so far are more oriented toward theory. I like theory but at some point the theory has to become practice. So stay tuned for more posts this year!

All the best,

Jeremy

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Success Defined

What is success? What does being successful really mean? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit for a while and have discovered that it success is not has easy to define as you might think. One of the ways we can partially define success is to look at the traits that other successful people have. Recently, in our Sunday School class at church, we compiled a list of traits that the class has seen in other successful people. The list contained over 50 traits, some of them duplicates. I wanted to build a tag cloud to help visualize these traits and see which traits were listed more than once. Here is the tag cloud for traits of successful people (PDF): Success_Tag_Cloud

It’s interesting to note that note of the most common traits have anything to do with money or status. The common traits are nothing flashy but when someone builds upon them, they enable that person to be successful. Sometimes we are pushed to define whole success as the amount of wealth, fame, athletic ability or power. While these things may mean that someone is successful in a sliver of their life, it’s far from meaning they are a completely successful person.

How do you define success?

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Productivity for the New Year

I saw the following tweet from Scott Hanselman the other day:

“#1 Productivity Tip: Spend 10% of your time consuming and 90% of your time producing. Make more stuff. Watch less. Read less. Do.”

Think about it. Did any of the great people in history sit around and just consume? Sure they read books but at the end of the day, they still produced. And it’s what they produced that we remember today. Doing is truly learning.  Doing is truly knowledge.

What will you produce this year?

 

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Time Management

I received Robert Martin’s (Uncle Bob) “The Clean Coder” for Christmas and read it pretty quickly. I’ve been going back over the book in preparation for a series of blog posts and when I reread the section about spending time during each week to practice and improve your software development skills. In this section, Uncle Bob lays out his opinion that every professional developer should work a normal 40 hour work week and then spend 20 hours outside of the 40 hours in practice and skill improvement.

From what I’ve seen in other reviews and reactions to this book, this is a very controversial position to take. Most people react by saying something along the lines of “I can’t spend that much time on that” or “I actually have a life”. I must admit that my reaction was the same. Spending 20 hours a week on skill practice or improvement seems quite a bit of work.

While I was going back over the book, I decided to look at the numbers again and crunch them for my own life. Here’s how they break down:

  • 168 Hours per week (24 * 7)
    • 56 Hours for sleep (8 hours per day)
    • 40 Hours for work (8 hours per day)
    • 20 Hours for career related work
    • 10.5 Hours for church attendance
    • 6 Hours for three days commuting

Believe it or not, that leaves me with 35.5 hours in which to do other things such as time with family, relaxation, shopping, etc. If I divide this number by six (leaving Sunday out since it’s mostly church activities), that gives me almost 6 hours per day. If I include Sunday, it comes out to be roughly 5 hours per day. My initial reaction was: have I been mismanaging my time that badly? Even after all those activities, I still have that must time?

I think most people get hung up on the 20 hours that Uncle Bob throws out. However, I think the most important thing is the fundamental idea behind this. The important thing is that we be constantly are improving and broadening our skills so that we can be and stay professional software developers.

So in this new year, I want to make better use of my time! How do you manage your time?

 

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The Essence of Software Craftsmanship

Recently I was reading through the blog posts of the blogs that I follow and one quickly caught my attention. It was a post by Eric Meyer of 8th Light entitled “Doing a good job”. The reason why this post really jumped out at me is that I’m personally interested in the idea of software craftsman and craftsmanship. I like the idea of being good at what you do, someone who cares about what they produce. Both of these tenets are core to the idea of software craftsmanship. I have read a good number of blog posts and listened to a good number of podcasts on the topic of software craftsmanship. But, to date, Eric’s blog post is the best at summarizing what software craftsmanship means in practical terms that I’ve personally seen. I wanted to recap the points that Eric touched so that I would remember them and better implement them in my own career.

Attitude

In my opinion, it is important for a true software developer to maintain a proper attitude toward other languages, platforms or technologies.  If all you care to do is to engage in language wars, I question your desire to be a professional software developer. I believe a professional software developer will choose the correct language or solution in order to meet the customer’s needs rather than to support their own likes or dislikes. It is important for software developers to be language and platform independent. If a language or platform is needed that is out of your skill set, you should be more than willing to learn it.

Caring

Do you care about the output of your work? Do you care that the UI is built just as well as the back end? We need to care. We need to be willing to take responsibility for our work.

Practice and Self-Education

Are you willing to learn new things? In order to be a software professional or craftsman, we need to be willing to learn new things. It is imperative to not only learn new things but to learn them well. It’s nice that you know how to program using C#, C++ or Java, but can you do it well?

Practice is an area that many software developers do not seem to do well in. However, I’ve come to realize that the harder the activity the greater the return on the effort.  So, katas here I come!

Writing Code

To be sure we need to write good code. However, as Eric said, it’s important to realize that code is just the means to an end. It’s just how we provide a solution to the customer’s problem. But in your rush to solve the customer’s problem don’t forget to put some thought into your code!

The software craftsmanship movement has often been criticized by others in the software development worlds. However, I think really software craftsmanship is common sense. It is comprised of things that any honest and hard-working software developer should know and even more importantly, things that software developers should do.

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Leadership – Part 2

Earlier I started a series of posts to recap a leadership workshop that I attended. This is part two of that series.

 

What does leadership look like?

Leadership can take on different forms depending on the situation. A leader can be someone who is just a team member and not one that is part of the official leadership. Other times a leader might be the leader of an organization who can “rally the troops” to affect a positive change in the organization. Leadership is one of those things that sometimes seems to defy definition. Yet we all can recognize a true leader. They are one of those people who you would follow anywhere; who you love to work for.

 

What is effective leadership?

Everyone as seen an ineffective leader. They’re the person who you do not want to follow. They are the person who does not inspire you to better things. So what is an effective leader and what do they do?

  • Leadership must come from the heart not from the head.
  • Leadership is serving people rather than using or abusing people.
  • Leaders are only qualified to lead to the degree that they are willing to serve.
  • Leaders create a climate that is build of trust.
  • Leaders create a climate where staff are encouraged to exercise talents and skills.
  • Leaders create a climate where staff feel free to challenge up

Notice that many of these points are about others. Quality leadership is fundamentally about serving and enabling others.

 

What are some of the costs and benefits of leadership?

As with anything in life, there are costs associated with actions. In each case, we must consider the costs as they compare to the benefits. If someone desires to be considered a leader and take a leadership role in organizations, there are costs.  Some of these costs may be:

  • Increased stress at home
  • Loss of friendships or strain on friendships
  • Giving away the credit and taking the blame
  • Isolation (not as many peers)
  • Visibility (fishbowl syndrome)
  • Public duties/speaking
  • Increased stamina requirements
  • Less freedom of expression
  • Job insecurity (you’re job is on the line if this fails)
  • Less supportive feedback

Leadership should not be taken lightly. With true leadership comes much responsibility. However, leadership is not all bad. In fact leadership, I believe, can be very rewarding.  In life, most activities that require significant work and effort are rewarding. Some of the benefits may be:

  • Seeing others develop and blossom
  • Seeing others pull together and do something that individually could not be done.
  • Being able to see your vision or dream come to fruition
  • Being able to control your own future a bit more (especially as head leadership or business owner)
  • Being able to inspire others

I’m sure there are more benefits to leadership than I listed here. I think the costs and benefits will vary from person to person and will depend on what they value. However, if they choose a leadership position purely for the monetary or status benefits they will not see the benefits of leadership. If that is their sole purpose then really they’re not a true leader at all.

 

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Leadership: What is it?

Earlier this week I attended a two day workshop called “Have You Got What It Takes To Lead” taught by Dr. George Flanagan. I really enjoyed the class and took quite a few notes. Much of the thoughts that Dr. Flanagan presented is common sense when you step back to look at it. However, it’s interesting that seemingly there is such a lack of quality leadership in our culture.

I’d like to do a series of posts with the information that I received from this workshop so that I can remember the material and maybe it will be beneficial to someone someday.

What is leadership?

Perhaps one of the best ways to define leadership is to define what leadership is not. Leadership is not management. Both are fundamentally distinct. Management is doing things the right way. It’s about methodology and how something is done. Leadership is doing the right thing. It’s about making sure that you’re going in the right direction. Leadership is experimenting and taking risk. Management is all about mitigating risk. Leadership is about serving those you lead and developing them. In short, leadership is being effective and management is about efficiency.

Leadership is really a way of life. It’s something that is baked into the DNA of someone. I think you can train someone to be a leader but if it does not come from inside them – if they don’t get it – they will not become a true leader even though they may hold a position on the leadership team.

What is a leader?

There are many character traits that comprise a leader. A few of these character traits and skills are:

  • a developer of people
  • a communicator
  • coach
  • barrier breaker
  • bureaucracy smasher
  • expediter
  • facilitator
  • a passion for action
  • an ability to remain focused
  • a capacity to help others succeed
  • an intuitive insight into what motivates people
  • an ability to deal effectively with discipline and recognition
  • courage
  • confidence
  • honest
  • visionary
  • inspiring
  • competent
This is by no means a complete list but I think there are enough traits and skills listed to help begin to paint a picture of what true leadership is.
A leader is someone with ideas and who has the guts and ability to bring those ideas to fruition. Even when these ideas may not be popular, they will see them as for the greater good and press forward.
A leader is someone who is committed to continuous learning. They will continue to learn to improve themselves and they will continue to learn to that they know what is going on.
A leader must be visionary or a dreamer. However it’s not enough just to have a vision or dream. A true leader has the ability to communicate their vision translate the vision to reality and to sustain it. They will recognize that they need the assistance of others to bring the vision to life and to sustain it. It cannot be done alone.


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