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Sam Lightstone was recently interviewed on IBM developerWorks. The interview includes some interesting ideas on how Sam got started in technology, thoughts on social networking for software professionals, and learning from failure. See the full interview here http://bit.ly/bgLY6V
I was interviewed recently on IBM developerWorks about Making it Big in Software. One of the questions asked me about the unique career challenges in software. What makes software careers so unique is change! Change is our challenge. We work in an industry that redefines itself every few years. There’s no other profession like that – even in the engineering disciplines. Think about other professions, like accounting, law, nursing, medicine, dentistry, education. Their skills and tools evolve over time, but fundamentally what they do at the end of their career will look pretty similar to what they did at the beginning. Not so with software! New languages, new platforms, new paradigms emerge all the time. A few years ago nobody was talking about social networking, cloud computing or multi core programming for dozens or hundreds of CPU threads. These are today’s sea changes. That constant change will continue, and it’s what makes software so dynamic. But it means all of us in the profession need to ride those waves and stay current.
I’ll add another point to my answer which I think is really important for software programmers and engineers to internalize for career advancement. A unique quality in the software business is that a lot of the great innovative ideas come from the engineering teams rather than the business and marketing executives. That’s what has, to a large degree, elevated programmers from their early status in the 1960’s and 1970’s as skilled technologists to our modern conception of software programmers as rock stars. Driving software innovation elevates your rock star status and can be a major impetus in fueling your career. More on these ideas in Making it Big in Software.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669) was a Dutch painter. When you see his paintings you can’t help but be amazed by their detail and lifelike nature. The problem with paintings, especially the ones that are based on classical realism, is that there’s always one more stroke of the brush you can add. The painter is never finished. So too with software. There’s always one more test case to try, one more error scenario to trap, and one more use case to cover. That’s why, left to their own devices, software projects never end.
Does everyone have a clear understanding, and does everyone have the same understanding of “done”? Ask around in your team – I absolutely guarantee that in most organizations people do not!
RED FLAG WARNING: Software developers love to say things are “basically done”. The problem with “basically done” is that it usually translates to 90% ‘functionally’ done, but the last 10% of the work could take more than 50% of the time. As they say, the devil is in the details and the details are always in the final 10%.
Because there’s no such things as exhaustive development (and in particular, testing with full branch and code path coverage) one of the most important steps a software project manager can take in driving a high-efficiency team is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands the definition of “done” for the pieces they are working on. When is the code done? When is testing done? It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s an effort well worthwhile.
More on secrets of software project management in Chapter 15 of Making it Big in Software: Get the job. Work the org. Become great.
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Columnist and author James E. Gaskin interviews Sam Lightstone for ITWorld.
“Career advice: Making your mark in software programming”