Uncharted Waters

February 20, 2018  9:49 PM

Where is the Junior Engineer?

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

I read an article the other day called Who Killed the Junior Developer. The author talks a little about her experience with job hunting as a new graduate and also what the job advertising landscape looks like. The cliche is that companies create advertisements for a position that they can’t possible fill. They want a new graduate with 5 years of ruby experience, expertise in Angular, Underscore, and some random NoSQL database. And the starting salary is 40K a year in a large North American city. The company decides they can’t find a suitable candidate and then outsources the work to somewhere in Asia or Eastern Europe.

This is hyperbole with a thread of truth. Really though, where are the jobs for junior engineers?

Continued »

February 19, 2018  4:21 PM

I fell into the (project) pit – and how to get out again

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
IT, performance, project, schedule

NBC’s smash comedy Parks and Recreation begins with the story of Andy Dwyer falling into a pit.

No seriously he falls into a pit.

He later writes a song about it, called, “The Pit.”

It sounds like about a third of the software projects I’ve worked on.

Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister have a similar term for projects that stink before they are even started, but no one can admit it — The “Dead Fish Project.”

So your team fell in a pit. Or perhaps you have a dead fish on the table.

Now what? Continued »

February 8, 2018  9:04 PM

Making Time for Skill

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

Around the first of the year I wrote a post about skill development. it covered a handful of things I would be forced into learning over the next year or so. Skill development is something that most people do on the job. There is demand for something new. and someone has to do it. May as well be you. So you fumble through whatever the new skill set for a while and become competent. The first bits of work are probably something you look back on regrettably as soon as you have to make changes there.

This process can be amplified (good or bad) by spending some personal time. It is easy to talk about what people ‘should’ do, but those ideas are usually wrapped up in the idea of a privileged person with unlimited spare time and resources. That ain’t most people, it certainly isn’t me. And yet, there are still some things I want to get good at.

Continued »

January 29, 2018  9:52 AM

Never be blocked. Ever.

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
blocked, Lean, requirements

blockerEarly in my career, I worked at a company where everyone was assigned multiple projects. Each status meeting was an exercise in explaining why nothing got done but it wasn’t your fault because you were blocked.

The programmer needed access to the version control system, so he was blocked. The IT person needed to set up a new server, so she was blocked waiting for approval from purchasing. Purchasing, if they were even in the room, would explain they were blocked on management approval.

This might have been okay, as the staff had other projects to work on … except those were all blocked as well. A “good” project manager could work as a sort of expediter, haranguing people to get the work unblocked until they give up and do it. Of course, while they did that un-blocking, some other PM would be blocked, which led to the “best” Project Managers being those with the best people skills. Hopefully they were on the most important projects. Sometimes they even were.

While extreme, this problem still exists on many teams in a much smaller way. Team A is waiting for the API from Team B, which needs to get the function signature approved by Architecture, who are waiting for more clear requirements so they can make sure the API is extensible — or in a hundred smaller ways.

Here’s what to do about it.

Continued »

January 26, 2018  10:59 AM

Motivation Matters

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
HR, motivation

MotivationImagine for a moment you come into a small team and see a gaping problem with the infrastructure — the test process doesn’t find the right bugs. Instead of running the same tests over and over again, you want to pivot, to address emergent risks. Or perhaps you want to add change the performance tests to run under secure mode to be more accurate. It doesn’t matter what needs to be done as much as your motivation to see it done.

You write a bunch of cards defining this new work, which will take about the next two-week sprint for the whole team. Then you get team buy-in. Next you talk to the product owner about changing the entire flow of the work for two weeks to this new approach.

What’s going to happen now?

The answer, of course, is “It depends.” Most people will recognize it depends on how much schedule pressure the product owner is under, as well as the company culture.

What we often miss is that it depends on the Product Owner’s personal motivation style.

Continued »

January 24, 2018  2:35 PM

The Socialtext Effect

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Socialtext LogoDoes anyone else remember back when the web was mostly static brochures, bad eCommerce sites, and hand-curated “search” engines?

That year was 1999, when Darcy Dinucci defined the term “Web 2.0” to mean sites where the user brings the value. Flickr, Etsy, Youtube and Facebook are all web 2.0 companies. Without customers uploading, adding, and sharing, these sites are just empty shells.

Tim O’Reilly’s List of Web 2.0 concepts (below) includes the wiki, the editable web page. Today there is a wiki plug-in for all the major information sharing tools, but in 2002, there was only one company offering a commercial tool: Socialtext.

Socialtext was Web 2.0

I worked at Socialtext for three years, and met some of the brightest minds in the industry. Here’s the story, a little of the why, and how to build something like that in your organization.

Continued »

January 22, 2018  10:14 PM

Better Story Slicing

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

Slicing up user stories into something useful has been trouble at every company I have worked with. Usually what happens is the development gets stories in various states. One story is clear cut and takes a day. The description of another story seems clear cut, but ends up taking a week or more. Product management complains that sprints are unpredictable. Each late feature cascades into the next sprint causing something, probably important, so shift off the immediate radar.

Unpredictability isn’t the problem, though. I’m not even convinced it is ‘a’ problem at this point. Unpredictability is a symptom of something going on in the organization. Luckily, it can be fixed and like with most things in life this gets easier with practice.

Continued »

January 9, 2018  9:16 AM

Cultivating Good Hiring Practice

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

Google created Project Oxygen in 2013 to review data starting in 1998 about every person they employed. This project reviewed data surrounding hiring, firing and people leaving google, and how people move around in the company. The goal was to discover what made the best Google employee. The result was that Google ended up learning what most of the software world already knows. The best employees, according to Project Oxygen, have the ability to coach, listen, empathize, think critically and solve problems. Being able to describe big O to coworkers wasn’t on the list. Being fluent in the latest javascript framework du jor wasn’t on the list.

From what I gather, Google hiring practices tend to be heavy on credential requirements and programming tests. That doesn’t exactly reflect the results of this project. So, how do we cultivate good hiring practices? Or at least, hiring practices that build capable teams?

Continued »

January 2, 2018  9:52 PM

On Boarding New Technical Staff

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

On board is something technical people don’t seem to think about very often. Bigger companies handle this through the Human Resources department. There is probably a handbook and a series of videos explaining step by step what to do with a new person. IT builds new computers based on employee profiles so that everything is setup on the new person’s first day. The startups I have worked with didn’t have any of this. I had to get my computer setup and figure out what systems I needed access to when someone pointed me to a URL that I couldn’t log into.

I am starting the new year with a new gig, and that reminded me of some of my preferences for the first day on a new job.

Continued »

December 30, 2017  8:27 PM

Favorite Browser Extensions for Test and Quality

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
browser, IT, quality, test

Favorite Browser Plugins

It wasn’t too many years ago the world discovered Selenium IDE, the record/playbook tool the runs for free in the browser. Click, click, click, verify that this result had that value, and testers could suddenly create automation … of a sort … in FireFox. It quickly became the favorite browser extension of many a tester. Then again, it was the only browser extension of many a tester.

A few years after that, James Whittaker suggested the Heads Up Display (or HUD) for testing at the Google Test Automation Conference. That discussion starts about 49 minutes in:

It’s been some time since Whittaker’s talk. The Tester’s Heads Up Display never quite materialized, but we can build our own.   That is, we have tools that pop in, pop-up, insert data, and show things that are happening on the browser that usually require acrobatics in the web developer tools console.

Here are a few of my favorite browser plugins, primarily for Chrome, all at no cost.

Continued »

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