Wednesday, October 12

Software G Forces and Ease At Work

One of the good things about working in a big flashy corporate are the facilities that are made available to employees. For example today we had Kent Beck come in and give a talk for the most part of the morning.

It was a good talk. Beck himself is a brilliant speaker if a little sheepish, but the manner in which that he embraces this side of him in itself gives him an air of confidence. Indeed a major theme in his work is to accept people as people and not assume that just because the work of programmers is largely mathematical that programmers themselves are - as well as accepting that we as an industry have social issues that need to be acknowledged and worked on.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. The first part of the talk was titled "Software G Forces: A talk discussing the dramatic changes to the development as the deployment cycle shrinks", and literally listed what to expect if we attempted to shrink our own release cycles from months to minutes. Beck assumed that we had all already bought into the idea that instant release cycles was the aim and in that sense it was more of a observational than conceptual talk.

Although the talk was very good and did what it aimed to do, I think most of the audience were stuck in stage zero and were not of the position that shorter cycles was always a good thing. As such the questions and feedback was less about what was said and more to do with why we wanted to in the first place. For sure, Beck's ideas require a philosophy change or paradigm shift to work and reap benefits and simply "working faster" wasn't the point.

In other words this talk was probably came a little too early for some of us. Still I found it quite beneficial to know the material effects of moving to a faster release cycle, and I was uplifted when he explained how Amazon manage to release thousands of times a day. It was liberating in the same way as when you realise you don't necessarily need static typing or OOO any more, a kind of vindication of a feeling you may already have had, or a meta-awareness of the software development industry.

The second part of the talk, "Ease At Work: The importance of maintaining an accurate self-image" was pure psychology and in my view didn't have much to do with software but more general work ethic - but perhaps in a way us in technology may understand. Ideas like self-awareness and communication were correct and materially rewarding as well as learnable behaviours, and that the only thing holding us back were the lack of traction, laziness and habit. I already try to implement many of the things he mentioned in my everyday life, but it was refreshing to hear it in the context of IT let alone work.

I'm going to put my hands up here - before today I had no idea who Kent Beck was. That's more an indication of my own disinterest in my chosen career rather than his celebrity status, and having studied XP in university I certainly know of his ideas and work. So yes, it was a privilege to have him address us this morning. I was expecting a fully technical talk but instead found something quite human, commonsensical and practically useful. For sure, I still think Computing is a technical field and can never be seen as a social industry and that a lot of modern effort to make it so is a bit shoehornish. But what I realised today is that there is room for some soft skills in my work and that it's quite worth the time to achieve some of those.

No comments:

Post a comment