Dear consultants and engineers,
Last week was not a good week for me. So this morning I feel like writing you an (open) letter to talk about my expectations and my aspirations for our week together.
Let us change our traditional attitude to the construction of programs. Instead of imagining that our main task is to instruct a computer what to to, let us concentrate rather on explaining to human beings what we want a computer to do. – Donald Knuth
Code is our currency. It is what we are paid to do, no matter what level you’re working on it: if you’re one of my architects, you’re thinking at high levels how big components of code work together. If you’re one of my junior consultants, you’re probably banging your head against some legacy API and worrying whether you can get your story done.
Coding is a deeply analytical activity. It requires that we sit (or stand) still for long periods of time to read, think, prototype with a REPL, wait for build servers, read stories, so on and so on. That’s what we do, and you usually do it in isolation. You’re here because you’re good at it and my expectation is that you take pride but be humble.
Now here’s my aspiration for the week (no matter what level you’re at): increase your energy level, shake off impostor syndrome, and get social about your code.
- Ask people sitting next to you to pair up for a few minutes.
- If someone asks you a question, sit down with them and crack open the code.
- If you’re trying to explain status, throw some code up on the screen.
- Call a code review for a hard problem you’re working on.
- Show off something you’re proud of.
- Talk through a new pattern you found in the open source world from your side project (if you have the time to have one, no problem if you don’t).
- Can’t find a meeting room? Invite some team members to lunch. Print out the code if you have to (remember what printers are?).
- Working remote? Get on a video call and have lunch together and screen share.
And don’t just share some gist on Slack. I know that’s more effecient, but it’s not effective and it’s not accomplishing what I want. Read on for why.
Warning: you’re probably going to have to boost your energy level to do this — I know — but it’s worth it. After writing or staring at the computer for hours, you might not feel like you’ve got the energy to get up, walk around, interrupt other people, and engage. Most of us barely have the energy to make it through the day, I know. But what’s interesting is that if you spend energy, you actually get more of it. And by investing the energy in your team or your company, they get more too. It all starts with you, and you’ll be well on your way to leadership by these small acts.
By the way, if you feel unsupported by anyone on the team or in the organization, I want to know right away.
Make it a great week folks and let me know how the social thing works out for you.