DaedTech

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DaedTech Digest: Functional Style, Isolation, and Blogging Mental Models

Welcome to yet another DaedTech digest Friday.  We did a mini-move again this week, relocating from Phoenix back to San Diego.

As an aside, I think I might solidify what I’ve gravitated to a little already, and make the digest column a weekly blurb about the remote work/location-independent life.  It’s not necessarily directly related to the theme of DaedTech.  But it does dovetail with my takes on remote programming.  Plus, I should be able to mix hobby behavior with earning on my own blog, right?

Anyway, the first tidbit is this.  People often ask me “so do you like rent apartments or AirBNB or what…?”

The answer to that?  We use AirBNB and VRBO to find places.  But when you extend a stay out to a month plus, you get away from $150 per night, and you get a monthly price which often comes at a steep relative discount.  It’s not as cheap as renting an apartment.  But it’s not as expensive as hotels or short stays on those sites.

But that’s for a first stay.  What generally happens is that we make good connections with our short term landlords.  We’ll then deal directly with them for subsequent stays, because it’s less expensive for both parties.  And so, here we are, back in San Diego for a month.

Picks

  • Turning on and getting familiar with Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts is something you won’t regret, if you haven’t already done it.
  • I’m going to pick the Hit Subscribe Facebook page.  This isn’t me patting myself on the back.  We have an intern working for Hit Subscribe, putting together a social media offering to complement our content.  So she’s putting all of this together and doing a great job of it.
  • Last night, we had dinner at the Ocean Beach Pier Cafe (“Walking on Water Cafe”).  It’s depicted in the picture above, but this video really gives you a feel of what it’s like to be there.  Anyway, if you’re ever in Ocean Beach San Diego, it’s a fun place to get a bite.

The Digest

As always, have a good weekend, all!

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When To Pull the Fire Alarm and Run out of the Building?

How about that for a blog post title?  Of course, I can’t claim credit for it.  It’s reader question Tuesday and it was actually the reader who phased it this way.

Here’s the question:

I made a mistake.

Took on some side work that I thought would be a simple way to make money but it turned out to be a mess. I have stayed up nights and worked weekends to get it out the door but it is a failure.

I knew it would be from the beginning and stated my concerns to the team and project manager but they did not listen. Even though I should have stopped working on it at that point, I tried to power through it.

Now the project has truly blown up for all the reasons I said it would. And now I am extremely tired and have to catch up on all of the other work I neglected. I guess I was not assertive enough and should have set boundaries. I was supposed to work 20 hours per week but management did not tell the team that so they were confused when I would say the customizations they wanted would break the budget.

My business partner told me to be more assertive but I guess pride made me think I could pull it off. When do you pull the fire alarm and run out of the building?

When Do You Run out of the Building?

Let’s dive in and answer the question as quickly as possible.  When should you pull the fire alarm and run out of the building, presumably never to return?

Never.

Professionally speaking, this won’t ever go well, and it will burn bridges.  By “pulling the fire alarm,” I’m assuming that you’re referring to a relatively perfunctory bit of notice and a quitting of the project.  Doing that on a contract, especially one going poorly, will strain and break professional relationships.

That said, if we’re talking about personal sanity or burn-out, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.  Side work shouldn’t ever threaten your mail line of work, let alone something like your health.  So understand that when I say not to pull the rip cord, I’m speaking strictly from a professional perspective.

If Not Pulling the Fire Alarm, Then How to Get Out of It?

When I do work for clients or even have sales discussions with prospects, I tend to operate in perpetual consultant mode.  What I mean is that I’m always looking for a way to help them, even when I decline taking the work.

In the event that I ever do what we’re discussing about here, “breaking up” with a client, I still maintain this attitude.  And that’s what I’d recommend here.  There are two main ways, off the top, that you can be helpful with a break-up in this situation.

  1. Find someone else that can help them or that they should call instead of you.  Ideally, you’d tee this up as recommending someone more equipped for the situation.
  2. Have the hard conversation: this project is going to fail.  Tell them that you don’t feel good continuing to accept money because it would constitute malpractice.  And then (and yes, I know, this sucks) offer to write some of your revenue off for your role in this.

In both cases, you’re getting out of the situation.  But, unlike just phoning it in one day (or giving a couple of weeks of notice), you’re making this about their best interests rather than yours.

I’d say beyond getting out of the immediate situation here, there are some broader lessons for free agents to take away here.  For the rest of this post, I’ll speak to these.  How can you keep things favorable and avoid nightmarish client engagements?

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DaedTech Digest: Databinders, Design Docs, and Bandits

Another week, and another Friday digest.  And it’s been quite a week.

I honestly try to be a good blogger.  I try to make things about you, as readers, as much as I can, instead of indulging my own vanity.  But these last few months with me building a business have just been tiring.

So I set out with the best of intentions in these posts to generate value.  But then, out of tiredness, and like some Grandmother with a wallet full of pictures of identical-looking, unremarkable grandchildren, I just start talking about whatever occurs to me.  For me, what occurs to me is the last week of stuff.

This particular week sees a study in contrasts.  Since Monday morning, my life has been an undifferentiated blur of things relating to the blogging business.  Corporate taxes, 14 hour days, spreadsheets.

But before that, I had a now-distant weekend that was awesome, reminding me why location-independent business building is worth it.  It was recently my birthday and, to celebrate, my wife booked me a weekend of adventure that included ATVs, desert lake sightseeing, Brazilian steakhouses, a winery, and midnight gellato in Scottsdale.

Here’s a picture of her, looking like a bandit in the desert, to serve as an avatar of the difference between my weekends and weekdays lately.

Picks

  • So far, so good with our new location-independent mail service, Postscan Mail.  If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could forward my mail to a service that would receive it, scan it, and make it all digital,” give them a look.
  • Speaking of my hatred for physical mail, I’m going to throw another nod to our bank for Hit Subscribe, Fifth Third Bank.  While I don’t think for a second this is unique to them, they were pretty awesome about something I requested their help with.  I told them that I wanted one of their branches to be our business’s “home” address for mailed checks and for them to just deposit anything that came in.  They helped me set this up over the phone in five minutes, with no fuss at all.
  • Oh, speaking of Hit Subscribe, I’m going to shoehorn this inappropriately into picks.  WE’RE GROWING QUICKLY!  And we need authors.  If you think you might want to write blog posts as a side hustle, let us know!

DaedTech Digests

Have a good weekend!

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Junior Developer: The Title You Should (Almost) Never Accept

I’ve had sort of a hate-hate relationship throughout my career with the title of junior developer.  Wait, that’s too nuanced.  Remove the “sort of” — I’ve just had a hate-hate relationship with the term.

This isn’t a job title you should accept, unless you have your back against the wall.  A prospective employer might say to you, “congratulations, we’re offering you a junior developer position!”  Treat this equivalently to “congratulations, we’re offering you a position at $10,000 below market value!” or “congratulations, you’re on your own for health insurance!”

If you’re hard-up, take it.  But keep your job search going full throttle, and keep your current “junior developer” role off your resume.  If you don’t have mouths to feed and rent to pay, take a pass.

Why?  Well, I’ll get to that.

Regular developer patting a "junior developer" (actually a toddler) on the head

Junior Developer Title on My Mind

Last week, unprovoked, I tweeted out my opinion of this title.  I don’t need to rehash that tweet here, since I’ve already explained my stance here.  But I got a thoughtful and reasonable question in response.

I didn’t respond to this because I’m terrible at Twitter.  In fact, I didn’t actually notice it for days and then I got busy.  I thought to respond at that point, but then I realized that I’m enough of a blabbermouth that I’d adjudicate myself much better in a blog post of 1,000+ words than I would in a tweet of 280 characters or fewer.

Then, coincidentally enough, someone mentioned me in another tweet (that I also didn’t notice for a while).

“How do you reward junior devs that are kicking ass?”

My initial, off-the-cuff thought?  Stop calling them “junior devs,” for God’s sake.  But I didn’t get the sense that was appropriate for the conversation.

Instead, I think it’s appropriate here, in a post telling you not to accept this title.

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How to Get a Programming Job without a Degree

This week’s reader question Tuesday is a look at how to get a programming job without a degree.  It’s probably a good one for me to hold forth on.  In my book, Developer Hegemony, I argue that, in spite of my own two CS degrees, I probably wouldn’t recommend that course of action to prospective programmers nowadays.  It’d be hard to justify ROI on it, especially at expensive schools.

So if you don’t get the degree, then what?  Here’s the reader question.

How do I get a job without a CS degree? The only entry level postings I see require a CS degree. When I look for how to get a job without a CS degree I see lots of information on education. They say to read books and write code and that’s great. I’ve done all that. I know how to code. Now where do I apply? I don’t see anyone hiring entry level without a degree.

First Things First: Why Don’t Companies Make This Hire?

You might think that companies would at least give you a crack at the entry level via the interview.  You tell them you can code and you understand if they don’t simply take your word for it.  Isn’t that what the interview is for?  To allow you to prove it?  And, wouldn’t this be doubly true since the demand for programmers far outpaces the supply?

This makes sense at sort of a macroeconomic level.  But it actually breaks down a bit when you look at any individual company.  Yes, an individual company probably needs more programmers than it has at any given moment.  And yes, the the interview process, theoretically, should give any potentially qualified candidates the chance to prove themselves.

But individual companies are optimizing far more to avoid false positives than they are false negatives.

Companies Avoid Brillant Paulas

The job interview is, frankly, a terrible way to find talent.  It consists of strangers seeing how generous they can be with the truth without technically lying to each other followed by gut feels, snap impulses, and other assorted non-scientific things.

And, while all companies like to kid themselves into thinking they’re good at this, on some level they know they aren’t.  They know that, for all of their efforts, they’re going to whiff occasionally and hire a Paula.

Hiring Paula is embarrassing.  So the candidate search process has evolved to optimize to minimize complete whiffs and make them understandable if they happen.  If you hire someone with 2 “senior software engineer” titles on his resume and 10 years of experience, how were you to know?  Likewise, if you’re hiring at the entry level, and you hire someone with a CS degree… how were you to know?

But if you hire someone with no experience and no degree and they turn out to be Paula, well, then you look pretty silly.

So our mission here today is to figure out you can minimize the degree to which hiring you could look silly.  That’s what gets you interviews and eventually offers.

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