Let’s do a reader question post today. It’s been a while, huh? I’m now answering different questions in different forums, so it can be hard to keep track of. But this one fits squarely in the realm of the DaedTech blog. So let’s do it.
This particular reader question is quite detailed, so I’m just going to post in verbatim without adding context. It doesn’t really need it, in all of its detailed, semi-depressing glory.
Are Good Teams Writing Good Code a Myth?
The short version. Where are these mythical companies where people write code like you read about in blogs?
I’m in an odd place. While I’m no rock star I feel reasonably skilled. I left a soul-crushing Fortune 100 company for a consulting company a year ago and I’ve found that in one engagement after another I can quickly get up to speed and be productive. I write decent, unit-tested code that works, and it usually takes less time than I expect.
But, to put it bluntly, more often than not I find myself working on crap. Either the code rotted years ago and no one wants to improve it, or it’s in an early state of decay. Our Scrum is flaccid. I can still do some good work and occasionally enjoy it, but most days I sense a huge gap between what I do and what I can do. (I don’t think I’m Dunning-Kruger delusional. But who does?)
Sometimes I spend more time reading and practicing, but after a while I realize that I’ve become two developers: the one who works forty hours a week and the one whose hobby is practicing for nothing. I enjoy it, but not quite enough to do it just for the sake of doing it.
Are high-velocity agile teams who write great code nonexistent like unicorns or the real man Esquire tells me I’m supposed to be, or just needles in a haystack? Is there a different city I should move to?
Social Media Envy, But for Careers
Let’s get this out of the way up front. Social media envy is the phenomenon where everyone puts a rosy spin on their lives for public consumption. You see pictures of them at the Leaning Tower of Pisa or doing WTF-ever “hot yoga” is on a beach somewhere with 12 hard-bodied BFFs. And then you look at the Cheetos crumbs on your shirt and on the couch from your day of binge-watching Married with Children reruns, and you wonder where you went so wrong.
This is the classic parallel to the discussion here, I suppose. But I actually prefer a different one. One that’s more career-focused, and right in my lane as a business owner.
Go listen to entrepreneurial podcasts. And you hear endless success stories. “Oh, yeah, here’s how I grew my T-shirt side hustle into an 8 figure business in 6 weeks.” They’re cool to listen to, but it tends to be some of the most intentional survivorship bias imaginable, coupled with the same “best foot forward” attitude you see on social media.
As a business owner, this creates a sense that I’m constantly doing something badly wrong. Why did I just work a 90 hour week and we’re somehow on track for less revenue than last month? That doesn’t happen in the podcast, so there must be something deeply wrong with me.
All of this is to say that these good teams writing this good software probably have skeletons that you don’t perceive. You are seeing, to some extent, unicorns and lantern jawed Esquire models.