The Software Craftsman: Chapters 5 & 6

Cahpter 5 resembled Chapter 2 from Robert C. Martin’s book The Clean Coder which has many of the same themes as this book. This chapter mostly covers the fact that as a professional you occasionally need to say no. If you don’t say no when you should say no, things can get ugly quick. I won’t talk too much on the reasons why here because I talked about it in more detail here.

I do want to talk briefly about one thing that was said in this chapter. With good managers, there should never be a “us and them” attitude. This could never be more true and I recently experienced the downside to an “us and them” attitude. I was on a job with the the VP of Stack Testing in Bridgeport, CT. We were working as contractors for a fairly large power generation company, we’ll call them “Big Guys”. So Big Guys have so many power plants that instead of contracting companies like us to do their stack testing, they have an entire team of internal stack testers. However, an issue came up where Bug Guys’ stack testing team didn’t have some special analyzers that my company has. This equipment is very expensive and very complicated to use. So we arrived on site and immediately the upper management of Big Guys made us feel threatened. The upper management made multiple comments about how if we screwed up even the slightest bit that they were going to throw us off site and hire a different contractor. That was the first sign this was going to be a rough few days. Anyways, we ended up meeting Big Guys stack testing team, we’ll call them “Little guys”. All of the stack testers from Little guys were incredibly nice and welcoming to us. They were excited to have us on site and really excited to see our equipment in action.

After a 16 hour day of testing along side Little guys, we started seeing some trends. Big Guys management kept referring to the testing that was happening as “Your tests”(Directed towards Little Guys), like somehow Little Guys are requiring them to test when the reality it that the State of Connecticut was the one requiring THEM (Notice the beggining of the Us and Them mentality). Then we noticed that Big Guys were not giving Little guys any information until the very last second. Each time they did this the sent Little guys into a frenzy getting ready for the next test. Same things like this kept happening throughout the day.

We arrive on site the next day to find out that after the previous day, Little guys were upset and disgruntled about the previous days happenings. They began venting to myself and my boss. The “Us and them” mentality become so apparent when they started go against what Big guys were telling them to do. Towards the end of the second day, Big guys told little guys on their last hour of tests to pause their tests. Big guys eventually told us why they paused the test and the reason was completely strange. They had us pause for reason that were 100% unrelated to what we were doing at that moment. Little guys made a unilateral decision to continue testing so they could leave before 7 pm. Obviously Big guys were furious when they found out and there was a yelling match (Thankfully neither my boss nor I were present for) between Big guys and Little guys. The moral of the story is if they had not had this us vs. them mentality I am almost positive the days would have been smoother and we there definitely would have been less contention.

 

Chapter 6 talks about Craftsmen as gardeners. I really appreciate this visual. There certainly is a difference between someone who plants and someone who gardens. Someone who plants prepares their base, digs their holes and plants their plants and then moves on. If you do this as a gardener then you will quickly find your plants getting choked out by weeds or overgrowing other plants. This is not okay. One of the most interesting points made was the mindset of developers thinking the didn’t have enough time. I never realized it, but I have done this. Multiple times. Working on small projects I could have saved my self countless hours if I had simply taken the time to create unit tests. I see that now. I know that now. But I still don’t always do it. Why? “CAUSE I THERE’S NO TIME FOR THAT!!”. Really? Really, Tyler? Don’t you remember last time you said that? You spent hours debugging a simple logical error that could have been found in seconds using unit tests. ….Yeah, I still skipped unit testing to push features “faster”. This is something I am trying to break for sure and this chapter was a good reminder that it’s a time saver for everyone if I simply write unit tests and take the time.

Guess what, Tyler. There. Is. Time. Write Unit Tests!

I have the written on a sticky note on my monitor at home.

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