Don’t be vague in your communications and assume that people know what you’re talking about.  All you’re going to do is spawn more communications and delays.  Take an extra couple seconds and include the right words, images, or just general clarity so the receiver knows what you’re talking about.

May 23rd, 2013

Posted In: How to Work, HR

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Spelling matters.  Yes, spell-check is awesome, and really fixes things, but if you write the wrong word, it doesn’t matter because spell-check won’t find it.

“I’m resting the value” vs “I’m resetting the value”.

The first version of the sentence doesn’t make sense and makes my head hurt.  The second version of the sentence makes perfect sense.

It’s these kinds of things that can make you look like a fool when in fact you’re just lazy.  Neither of which is good, of course, but one is certainly better than the other.  Worse though is if you continue to make these kinds of mistakes along with other communication foibles that make it look like you either don’t care or simply don’t know how to effectively communicate.

In the age of twitter and facebook where grammar is something of an afterthought it’s more important than ever to write your business communications clearly.  Poor writing equates to a poor quality programmer.

April 19th, 2013

Posted In: HR

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So I just reviewed and am overhauling a project another programmer worked on.  The programmer worked way harder than he needed to in order to get the project completed.  As a result, it didn’t get completed and that’s why I’m taking over.

In this system, it’s a reverse shopping cart.  Meaning the customer is selling stuff to the website instead of the website selling stuff to the customer.  This particular project is actually a pretty easy one because the programmer doesn’t need to create all of the code, structure, backend, administration, functions and features that would be required for a system like that, instead he/she only has to utilize an API to a system that handles all of that.

The API handles pricing, cart functions, customer functions, order processing, etc.  All you have to do is tell it what the customer is doing (adding an item to the cart, removing an item, attempting to log in, etc.), and the system will reply back with success or failure messages and any pertinent details.  Our programmer is then responsible for outputting necessary information the the page and moving the customer through the process.

I estimated this project at less than 10 hours.  The previous programmer spent 9.5 hours on it thus far and is about half way done.  He wrote a ton of code to handle advanced cart management and other object-oriented systems when he didn’t need to.  All of those functions, even those concepts were handled by the external system.  All he needed to do was send the user actions to the external system and it would handle all of the high-level stuff.

My message here is simple: just because you can build a sophisticated system that can handle everything under the sun doesn’t mean you should.  A much smaller, simpler system is going to be faster to implement (and cheaper since time=money), easier to debug (less lines of code in a less complex system) and easier change or manipulate in the future.

April 7th, 2013

Posted In: How to Work, HR

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I don’t care how good a programmer you are or you think you are: If you’re not reliable, you’re worthless.

Most employers, including myself, are very flexible.  If you say you’re sick, need a vacation, have something special going on, we’ll make accommodations.  If however you don’t show up, don’t answer emails, ignore our phone calls… well that just doesn’t work.

How do you keep your employer (or customers) happy?  Report in.  Your immediate boss (if you have one) should get a status update from you in one form or another at least a couple times a week if not daily.  Situations may vary there.  Your customers or clients: give a status update weekly if there aren’t any hot projects going on and there’s just stuff on the various back-burners.  If a client has a hot project, daily updates should be sent describing what has been done, what is left to be done, and what new items have come up.

“But we have a project management system!”  Doesn’t matter.  Just because a client, boss, or co-worker can log in and see something in there, it’s not the same as an actual communication effort from you.  If that system sends out emails of your updates, that’s half-way acceptable.  Make sure to follow those up with a phone call once in a while.

Don’t be lazy and just not communicate!  It’s the quickest way to make you look like a terrible programmer, even if you’re a good one.

April 5th, 2013

Posted In: HR

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