Our Thoughts On Mentoring

Develop With Passion®

The company tagline is "Develop With Passion®". This is a crucial, but often overlooked element of introducing a team to a set of new practices. Whether people share the same values or not, people respect people who stand up with conviction for their beliefs. If you love what you do, other people will notice and (most) will want to share that passion you have for your work. If we come in completely fired up about practices and techniques that can be leveraged, yet are lukewarm in the delivery, the message will get lost.

Stop blaming other people for your inability to introduce practices and strategies that will make your team more effective

Our consultants, get the great joy of being "those guys". The one's who comes in to shake things up and challenge peoples assumptions about the way they build software and the software development process in general. Having a deep love for the software creation process, we have crafted a set of strategies that have helped mobilize every team/developer we have interacted with on the benefits of optimizations to facilitate more rapid, controllable development. Our goal is to share these strategies in the hope that they will inspire other developers who are in positions of influence (that is all of us) to encourage their development team to strive for something better.

Invest in Building Solid Team Relationships

Before you can hope to reach people at a technical level, and try to encourage them to improve their development practices, they have to know you are authentic. This is especially important for consultants, who are often viewed as the ninja paratroopers of the software development world. We swoop in, do a bunch of "magic", then we leave!! This view has to be dispelled as quickly as possible. If a team that we engage does not believe that we truly care about them on a personal and professional level, they are not going to be able to listen to ideas that are brought to the table. The first couple of weeks on a new contract are spent building a level of trust between our team and the other developers that we will be working with. What does this investment look like:

  • Lunches/Coffee breaks getting to know developers outside of the workspace
  • Pair Programming Sessions where we can assess each team members skill level, providing information that can be used to focus future mentoring sessions
  • Encouraging open communication within the workspace, which helps identify each developers comfort levels, boundaries etc.

Focus On Small Victories

After that first couple of weeks of building relationships, there is an accurate idea of how much work needs to be done to get the developers thinking and practicing in a fashion they may not be accustomed to. For the majority of teams out in the wild, there are practices that should be second nature to most developers yet are still not being used to glean full team/individual potential. There is a limit to how much an individual can assimilate at one time. This means that if we come in and throw TDD,BDD, DDD, Interface Based Programming, Automated Builds, Continuous Integration etc.. at them all at once, it will be too much information. Based on the level of the team, the focus is on individuals and practices in a piecemeal fashion. Think of running it like you own mini iterative project, with the end result being having your development team completely immersed in a much more productive and optimized environment. A set of small wins is usually introduced incrementally using the following steps:

  1. Introduce the concept of an automated deployment script. If nothing else, to decrease the amount of manual time that is probably being spent on deploying applications that are going out to production. The amount of individual time saved on decreasing the amount of human intervention required for deployment will allow your development team to focus on other tasks to ramp themselves up.
  2. Start leveraging an automated build script to compile your application. This will inevitably lead to some codebase structure refactoring that will make it more malleable to an automated build script.
  3. Introduce the concepts and practices of automated unit testing using an framework
  4. Bring a continuous integration server into the mix.
  5. With the foundations in place, switch into a mode of pair programming with the client developers.

Once in a place where pair programming can begin, a focus is made on the following concepts:

  1. Capture the benefits of truly leveraging object oriented programming fundamentals
  2. Interface based programming
  3. Test Driven Development
  4. Tooling that exist out there to facilitate rapid,testable development
  5. The benefits of trying to achieve mouseless computing

As you can imagine. It takes a bit of time to have this knowledge flow and be completely understood by each developer on a team. When it happens, amazing things start happening. Other teams start to notice, management starts to notice. Teams will be coming to your team asking you the secret to your success. Then the cycle starts again.

This is a way that teams, independent of management can start to achieve some gains associated with adopting micro optimazations to the way they do their work. At times the approach to team engagements/improvement might seem a little cavalier, but often:

It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

More people need to start taking chances. Every single developer on a team, regardless of years of experience or title, is in a position to initiate change. Do you see room for improvement, introduce it. Be the catalyst for change that inspires other people. Don’t hide behind excuses that shield the fact that, more often than not, the problem lies with developers who are content to whine and do nothing, versus doing something and "maybe" receiving some heat.

Do you or your team want to become more productive ? Do what it takes to make it happen. It’s that simple.

If you’re looking for help, contact us

Develop With Passion®!!

Additional Thoughts...

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