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Lies programmers tell


Programmers are liars. I was. You were. Maybe you still are. Sometimes I still am.

Here are a few gems I’ve heard…
1. “Yeah, I tested it.”
2. “It worked on my machine.”
3. “It was too simple for a code review.”
4. “Everything is fine.”

The last one is what I wrote about yesterday. How Tim quit for Ebay, even though everything was “fine.”

While I agree that Ebay would be a much cooler place to work than my little company, let’s go back to the beginning. At some point, Tim must have thought to himself “I should look for a better job.” That’s the point when Tim put his “shields down” (as Michael Lopp puts it so well.)

The point when he decided something wasn’t right. There’s a bit more to this decision as well. The decision that the current situation wasn’t fixable. That I wasn’t going to change. That it was easier to move on than to talk to me.

So, as I told you yesterday, I was blindsided.

From my perspective, it wasn’t fair. I wasn’t offered feedback that I could use to improve. I didn’t have a chance to make things right.

From Tim’s perspective, I hadn’t made it safe to approach me with the problem. Through my actions, I’d shown him that I wasn’t concerned with being a great boss, just with being THE boss.

And so I lost him, a great developer and my $180k investment walked out the door.

If I had to do it over again

In hindsight, I wish I’d been more humble about getting feedback on my work. I wish I’d asked more than just “How’s it going?” or “How am I doing?” I wish I’d explained WHY I wanted this feedback, and that I understood it was hard to give. I wish I’d created a culture of honesty about feedback, instead of the uncomfortableness that existed around it.

In short, I wish I’d had a chance to be a great boss for Tim. He deserved it.

But I can’t blame Tim; I must take all the blame for being blindsided.

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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