Examining What Is Important To Work On In Software Projects

I observed this week several vectors acting on my thinking. It’s important to focus on the product and the overall mission, as I said last week. That’s the main vector. But then, you look at the active sprint, and you look at what else is left. Low priority tasks left there as low-hanging fruit. Second vector comes in – I want to work on something that is valuable to the team and organization, something that advances the main vector.

So, I look at the backlog and look at the bigger tasks, not prioritized in the current sprint. There are still tickets there, needed to get the release over the finish line. Bigger tasks like API integrations or outstanding features. So, then you weigh up the first two vectors. Something valuable, preferably not low-hanging fruit, and something that advances the product. By my own internal logic, picking up something from the backlog makes sense then.

And this is where internal logic is not not sound, but defies a third important vector team norms and culture. What does the team do? What is accepted in the team? And there, internal logic – even if sound – can come up short with team norms. In some teams, it’s acceptable and encouraged, on some level, to pick up tasks from the backlog. But in others, it’s not if it wasn’t included in the initial sprint planning and not added later during sprint refinement.

There is no actionable method on offer here. Thinking through things, as you navigate a new role and organization, will help you identify the important vectors at play and your own internal logic.

First Week Thoughts

First full week at new role behind me. Really grateful to jump into modern, well-architected, and advanced codebases.

The technologies I’ll be delving into on my own time and getting comfortable with:

1) Formik

2) React-Query

3) Yup schema validation

4) Styled components

5) Advanced TypeScript generics

Two things that I have been doing and practicing, as I navigate the new role:

1) Keeping product-first thinking in selecting tasks to work on. What creates the most value? What does the team need done to get over the launch line? What helps the product the most? This requires a lot of communication and starting to build relationships.

2) Pushing myself out of the comfort zone by picking non-trivial tasks to complete. It may be nice to get a little thing done to get my feet wet, but I learn more about the products and team by working on something a little more complex. Examples include a bug fix or a new feature

The Curse of Over-Engineering

We have two half days (affectionately known as Freaky Fridays) at work a month, where we get to work on our own projects or explore something new. Yesterday was dedicated to exploring Angular 2.

I thought that it might be a good opportunity to test it out in a real-world application – my Flashcards app to help me learn Swedish vocabulary.

The syntax isn’t too dissimilar from AngularJS, but rather is abstracted in more boilerplate code. Getting a basic app going, by following the Quickstart Guide, wasn’t too difficult.

“Look at where you have to be.”

Then, there was a knock at the door. It was Earl, the Grim Reaper of Over-Engineering. He asked me to remember that I am a software engineer and that everything has to be TIP TOP from build one.

So, the curse kicked in and I started scrambling to get the basic setup working with Webpack. I tried cramming in a Webpack tutorial, alongside the Angular 2 tutorial. Soon, it just became about cursing the day Webpack was built and racing through Stackoverflow, hoping someone else wrote something to make everything PERFECT now.

10 minutes before the end of the day, I realized… wait.

The goal was to learn Angular 2 and use it to build an app.

That’s it.

I told Earl that there was another engineer across the street, about to do something simple. He scurried away.

I gutted out the Webpack configuration and stuck with the lite-server package suggested in the Quickstart guide.

Moral of the story: fuck Earl and fuck over-engineering.


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