It takes more than doctor get blame screenshots to be a great engineer This Is Us episode 227 of the soft skills engineering podcast. I'm your host Jameson Dance. I'm your host Dave Smith soft skills engineering is a weekly buy show every answer. You're not technically questions by the technical field of software development. I have I ever doctor to screenshot know I have like memed up a screenshot. I put a bunch of 100 Emojis all over it GIF people that it was sick, but it was good. This is a good let you know when you do a demo or something and you have a presentation and it's like you get to the the Pinnacle and everyone's like silent. That's why you have those 100 emojis. Yeah, please clap ya do I think our patrons Dave? Yes, I'd like to thank those that have made contributions to get the one-time shutoff there William Jones free to Mozzy does ahi ben-artzi. And those are going to be at the level to get them a weekly shout out their oladepo. Thought he could John's veins and regular Hardison oleksandr Michael. Config. IO Nick Travis Sanders evgeny slodkowski.
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Going to be our first question. Oh, no, you don't there's a thing a different thing. That's why I don't want to read our first question. I do want to say something else. Yes. It's that time of year where we post our annual Utah Jazz conference where I m c and Lester Davis Eyes alive show during during the conference. I don't know if you've heard about this Jameson, but there's this pandemic going on a few people have talked about it. I don't know if you're aware. I enjoy the freedom to wear a bandana over my face without anybody looking at me weird anymore.
So this year for the Utah Jazz conference, we are doing a four-part conference talk series at lunchtimes in the Mountain Time Zone in October. So feel free to go to contacts. Utahjazz.com and you can sign up to do that. You don't even have to fly to Utah this year. You can sit at your home and eat your sandwich while you watch talks online that I will be empty. All right, I will die first good job. This is from a listener named the letter d what should I expect from a junior developer and how can I help them grow a junior developer join my team of for a few months ago just learn things at a reasonable speed but it is still hard for him to implement new features without help or existing code to copy and past jobs. I usually gave Junior simple easy tasks, but we don't have that those simple tasks in my current job because we're working on complicated internal systems.
Also other Junior developers have spent lots of their private time learning. I don't think this junior has been any of their private. I'm running. I don't want to ask them to learn their private time, but I can't help but feel annoyed about the fact that they still cannot pick up a well-defined task in our backlog and complete it by themselves. I think they really need to take some time learning some Basics like networking and some skills, like keyboard shortcuts of text editors how there's a lot to learn. However, sometimes I lose my patience when I have to repeat myself in addition to the lack of Knowledge and Skills. I feel like they always wait for someone to tell them what to do and explain everything to that. I tried to tell him the whole picture of the project before explaining a specific task, but I could not see any Improvement. What could I do to help them or make myself feel better? Okay. This is this is the first time where I felt like instead of saying quit your job. It sounds like you want to make them quit their job.
Who's the French word Limoges Limoges? Yeah, yeah. Okay, so I just got to say right off the bat. I'm seeing so many red flags in this question, but I don't know if you got the same impression Jameson.
I even tried to tell the developer the whole picture of the project before a simple task, but it didn't work yet. I told him how everything worked.
Takes me more than once. I told them every detail of everything and I don't know what the problem is. Yeah any other weird things you see you're not getting some concerns. You have some concerns that other Junior developer spent their private time learning in order to be successful. This one hasn't done that. It should not be a prerequisite that to meet the bar. You spend a bunch of your personal time learning about your complicated project. So I feel two ways about that. I feel like the industry would be worse off if that was the requirements.
But then when I think about what would I want to do personally? I feel like I would tell my past self to do that. You know, like it shouldn't be a requirement. It shouldn't be a gate that keeps people out. If they don't have the free time. I mean, they really doing childcare. Maybe they have other responsibilities outside of work. So they can't but at the same time it does make a difference it does and it's a proxy for a passion. Which is this word. That means like I like you I hate you. I think you will do good work. Like I I want to tell people. Yeah, it's bad if your work requires it but then if someone is struggling at their job and they say like what should I do? I can't keep up I would.
I don't know working really hard. Is it is it is an answer sometimes? Yeah, and I'm a I'm a huge hypocrite in this area because even though I say it shouldn't be required every time I start a new job. I totally put in tons of hours to get up to speed. So absolutely. Yeah same it's the same. Yeah. I don't think I've ever but especially when I really had to learn a bunch of new stuff ever kept it to 40 hours. Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely not for me too. But if you if you're just going to flounder, I mean, yeah, I don't want to live in a world where it's a requirement that you have to do it. So, I know another red flag I'm seeing here is and I'm reading between the lines a little bit here. But the question asker says I tried to tell him the whole picture of the project before explaining a specific task, but I couldn't see any Improvement and I think I'm reading between the lines cuz I'm assuming this was a verbal interaction.
And the fact that this developer feels the need to verbally explain the whole project to a new developer tells me that you either have no documentation or crappy documentation that new developers can use to ramp up at their own pace. So for people who don't process verbal communication as quickly or as completely as you do this is going to be a huge apetamin to them. Everything makes sense to me when I explain it to someone else. It's so clear the words that good. I feel really smart that I know all these things that I could say. Yeah, it's it's hard to just listen to someone talk and then for me, at least I have to play around with the system for a while and yes personal experience with it before I can understand it very well. Okay, so I have a story about this about 25 years ago. I guess I just dated Myself by saying a number of years, but I played a online text-based game called Federation.
And it had a somewhat complex economy where you could you had like stocks and planets and you could trade things and manufacture things and build factories and what not. And as you advance to the game, I got more and more complicated you had to manage like a more complex economy with more moving parts. And I remember I was chatting with someone else who is playing the game and I asked them how some of the stuff worked and they typed out just this huge wall of text explaining this very complicated system to me and then a few days later. I was asking a question and this person got really upset with me cuz he said I already told you all this.
Yeah, and I kind of feel like this developer here that Junior developer who's like yes, you did say all those words you did and yeah, you know about 20% of the sunken. Yeah, you like building up this scaffold to hang new Concepts on the scaffold wasn't ready to hold all the way to Spencer Highway project at once yet. So I just fell off. Yeah. I mean at the same time there are some folks who jump in as Juniors and have the same level of experience and skill put are somehow able to just keep their head above water a bit more and Yap up with new things and be more engaged in more proactive and I don't know some of that feels like personality you were an eight characteristics of people. I don't know that you can make a good environment. I don't know that you can force someone to change who they are though. So I think advice is going to be focused on how you can make the environment better for you and your people but but there could still be junior developers that aren't successful one. Don't don't work out. I don't know.
That's the hard judgment call to make is distinguishing between people who are unable to keep up because they just really are qualified for this job or people who aren't able to keep up because your environment is bad for people who are otherwise qualified and I think maybe what's happened here is that they First Tee Junior developers who have been on boarded have been successful because they met the first criteria to qualify for the job and they also have a good alignment on the way. They consume information with the way that you're handing it out. And with this new person this new Junior developer. It's not really clear whether they're qualified for the job. Let's just assume they are and given that assumption it's possible that the way you're handing out information just on the work for them. And so that's why I think onboarding needs to have different modalities for people you need to make yourself available to answer questions verbally in real time. And you also need to have documentation. It's not like just creating a calendar event on their on their calendar every week for an hour with you is enough. It's also like just reading.
Jason is also not enough, but the combination of the two might allow a broader set of qualified developers to succeed places that are good for junior developers are usually good for everybody if your system is well documented in your processes make sense and it's easy to make changes and that's going to help everybody no matter their skill level. So there's some investment that pays out to everybody where one of my teams right now is investing in improving deployments and the team is pretty senior over all but one of the benefits is it saves senior people just as much time as it saves Junior people right? Because it's it's the same amount of pain. I guess maybe the senior people picked up the painful process faster, but it's still as kind of laborious. So I think you can you can justify some of these not just
By helping them or Junior Bucks, but by making your team better as well for sure. I'd like the canary in the coal mine analogy. Wait how well so I guess I made an assumption there. But that on your team. It was a junior developer who called out the pad deployment process and the senior folks just wear like whatever I can deal with this. I mean, it's kind of everybody for a long time and you just kept the road like a good manager told him to suck it up and crack the whip and Nae Nae.
Perfect. But yeah, I mean it definitely folks of all experience level had pain with it. What about take some time learning some Basics like networking. So I wonder if I mean the field as you're so brought there's so much to know if your Junior you're you're going to have gaps for sure. But I wonder if it'd be worth putting together some sort of like curriculum or break or something some kind of syllabus where you say, these are the skills that you'll need and you might not have all these but you need to be you need to be working towards developing strengthen them. So if you're really good at Lenox, but really bad it's not working or something like that then baby Focus their it's impossible to be good at Lenox and not good at networking.
Yeah, I guess maybe I just to get the desktop up and running. You have to be a network admin.
The year of the Linux desktop. Yes at last it's the year of that Linux Network. Admin. Oh, yeah, but there's some gaps between the developers skillset and what they need to be successful, which is fine, but it's like this surprise like, oh you don't you don't know much about networking like you don't know. I don't know HTTP or TCP or whatever it is. And and you should then you should probably be able to tell people that that's an expectation and and kind of Point them toward stuff to help them learn. It is not that you have to teach them everything about networking but you should at least be able to say a networking is important for this job check out the sex worker something like that, you know, or maybe even ask them about it in the interview. Yeah. I assumed that that's too much to ask it stands to reason that you would want to hurt and it to have the skills. Yeah, but it's a junior developer. Right? Like they hired a junior developer. So so they're not going to be strong and everything that the job requires. That's my assumption.
Yeah, and that makes sense. Maybe then maybe the follow-up to my comment is maybe at this job. You shouldn't be hiring Junior developers unless they have unusually high levels of networking skills. I don't know but you're making a curriculum ABA bootcamp of source than where you say. Look over the next eight weeks. You should be studying these topics and coming up speed and hear some like exercises. You can go through to learn them. And here's the section on keyboard shortcuts. I like that. I like flipping keyboard shortcuts in their thing. It is a thing but do you really think it's the keyboard shortcuts? It's like he takes an extra point five seconds to move that Mouse over there. Is that really the thing that's making a developer with so many questions about Junior to senior and we finally answered it. It's knowing your Sublime Text Keys really? Well, I think it is sort of frivolous because you write code much slower typing Israeli the bottom. I can only guess usually you're you're poking way of the line of code for like 20 minutes. So it's not like not knowing a shortcut will will hurt you but there's something to say
To be sad for flow where y'all can easily manipulate stuff than you can kind of like forget about that part of it. And I found it. It makes it easier for me to get into a flow state yet happens rarely for the record. I'm being a huge hypocrite here too because I'm a huge proponent of keyboard to work godson like Speedy navigation on the computer. So again, I'm just being a hypocrite. Okay. Well, I still like you but I think although I think what I'm hearing here is maybe a little bit of bias in the question asked her where they they sense like some slowness with the ability to use the computer and Technical ways quickly and you know jump through tasks quickly and they may be her getting overwhelmed and maybe it's actually not keyboard shortcuts, but rather just a general unfamiliarity with a whole Suite of tools that are important for this job and I get that impression. Like I've seen people struggle with the computer and I've often thought well then maybe they're not a very good engineer, you know, but it's like, I don't know. I like it. This could be orthogonal. So I don't know fantastic at solving problems and if
Have to pair with them. I need to like tape my mouth shut so that I don't yell out in frustration is I watch them hunt and Peck for the right key to type or something, right? Okay. Well have answered the question I think so. I mean, I think that it's really good to do everything. You can to make the environment conducive to success for people who don't come in with all the skills that you want the name of the junior level like this and I think you may have hired some extraordinary really good Junior developers in the past who have made this unnecessary for you. And if you're going to scale the team and continue to have a nice sustainable lungevity, you're going to need the stuff that we talked about a curriculum for onboarding you're going to need to go documentation, you know, you can't be there to answer all the questions for everyone forever. So it's a good thing to do anyway, and it probably would help this person and if it doesn't
Then maybe they're not the right fit for the team. Anyway, if you've been a software developer at the same job for a few years it might be time to start looking around quit your job is our favorite advice. But first you should probably find a new job trust me. It is better this way which matches developers with employers based on what you want like your location salary requirements and Technology. Do you want to work with I actually signed up myself and within a week, they sent me an opportunity that looked really good. My current approach to job seeking is tweet dumb stuff and help the company notices me. So it sounds like an improvement. I think once you sign up you get a consultant to help you find Opportunities. I also like the very elect to specify your salary requirements early rather than going through the whole interview process only to find out won't want your salary expectations were way off that actually happened to me in an interview. We've been nice to avoid that you can start using battery without reversing a linked list on a whiteboard to they don't have a coding test sign up.
If you are thinking about taking your advice the soft skills engineering patented advice on quitting your job check out that arif.com soft skills to sign up. That's vettery. Com. / stop skills. If you use that link, you will help support the show and if you get a job through battery, they will send you $300. Thank you so much to battery for sponsoring the show. All right. Do you want to meet her next question Dave? Sure. This comes from Edgar who says I've worked with three managers in the past two years at my first company and all of them seem to have trouble producing results from Team meetings and what I want more specifically my managers have mentioned things / event / changes they would plan to do with the team or me and several weeks or months go by and their idea is never mentioned again at times it felt like maybe it was me that was unable to produce the outcomes of set ideas or that maybe I was some sort of a lost cause however my most recent manager doubled the ratio of ideas to results so I don't think it's just me.
For my one-on-ones. We have a long-running list of things we talked about and even the trail there doesn't seem to amount to anything.
How do I hold my manager accountable for things they say or plan to do how do I bring up these conversations and one-on-ones without making it seem like I'm the one managing them great question. I Love It Like Jagger to my heart is if you are you this manager, I worry that I am so the core problem here is that it's really easy for a 5-minute meeting to generate like weeks of work and coming up with an idea. That sounds good is great. And then I added to my list of stuff to do and then clarifies it and sometimes prioritizing means pushing that cool idea that sounded great way down at the bottom cuz a bunch of other stuff came up. Yeah, especially if it's a thing that directly requires me to do. I found it. The lowest ratio of ideas to result is when I say, that's a great idea. I will go do the thing then I don't cuz I do a different thing instead so some of it might be
Sort of a time management issue with your manager.
aurorae an ownership issue where
they're trying to own all of the results from these ideas instead of doing the classic. That sounds like a great idea. Why don't you go do that? I love that one. I loved it to have you found it. There are two categories of people when it comes to signing up for tasks. But there's people who sign up for Tasker Andover say I'll do that but who just don't really take it that seriously like it doesn't pester them or or nag them until they get it done for them is another class of people who when they say I'll do that their fingers are literally typing into their to-do list at this moment and they will be reviewing that to-do list like 5 times today and give you a status update on it until it's done. I'm going to say yes, I have found their those two people. Are you just saying that to be nice? I know which one I am which one are you to which is the problem because then I have to drop things that I've already said yes to so what do you do you feel this like sense of obligation to deliver on the things that you've agreed to do or are you just like well put that on the pile?
If I don't do it no one I'll never mention it to anyone and it'll be fine. I think it's the worst of Both Worlds where I say. Yes, and I feel a great sense of obligation and then I don't do it and follow up more stuff on top of it. Okay, like Waze on my soul still I would love to be the kind of Carefree person. That sounds like the kind of person who has 20,000 unread emails have a pretty heavy Soul right now. So it's waiting to pounce. Yeah. I'm looking at my to do list from last week. I was on vacation the week before but there's a bunch of stuff on there yet. So I'm the kind of person who when I agree to do something is going on the to-do list and if I haven't done it by the time I agreed to do it or close to it, you'll be getting a message from me saying hey, I haven't forgotten that thing you assigned me to do, you know, so I don't know in order to focus cuz that's that's the problem. I have I can't there lots of things that sound great to me and I say, yes, we should do that. Yeah. It makes sense that. I'm the one that should do that and then then my calendar explodes or exactly
A couple of weeks ago we talked about this on the show where we talked about techniques for saying no and as I recall you have a Post-It note on your monitor.
So the other one that says sit up straight fell off so my posture has gotten worse, but the don't say us posted notice still going strong as in it's stuck to my monitors strong adhesion. Let's say yes. Yes, it is tightly stuck. Awesome now, I'll tell you that when a person like me who you know, I only accept things I only accept ass that I intend to deliver on and I take them very seriously and and deliver on them. It gets paired with a manager who's just an idea Factory like this is a bad combination in my experience. And if I have a manager this just going to stand me with ideas 80% of which they won't even remember but a hundred percent of which I am like feeling as a huge obligation to deliver on that's a pretty problematic situation. I think I think I might be what's happening here except it's a little different because the managers actually giving themselves tasks and not delivering on those. Yeah, so it was
Do as as the person being managed by someone like this where you feel like they're committing to I think you have to figure out like what the magic incantation is that they say when they truly intend to commit to it and like sometimes I'll give an example of this but I had a customer back when I was in the defense industry and one of his famous phrases when he was getting us to commit to stuff was if we were sitting here nodding her head and saying yes to the things he was asking us to do he would look over and say I don't see your pencils moving somebody meant by that was I don't believe you're actually going to do this unless you're writing it down and that was it that was our indication to him that we actually plan to do it cuz he he's the kind of person to give us a ton of stuff to do but when he said I don't see your pencils moving we knew he was serious. And so that was our clothes off with your manager. You need to figure out like when he takes on tasks, how do you know he's actually going to take them on and do this for this particular person. It was that funny phrase but maybe your manager has something else that maybe they create a calendar event that you see them typing it into their to-do list like that where I would have a one-on-one with them and they'll be away from their computer, but when they ask
Sign up to do a task. They would like lean over their computer and type it in and I know oh, that means it's going to get done. Yeah, so that's that's sort of like planning for their prioritization strategy. I guess where you just assume stuff is going to get drop. Would you ever give feedback about this to your manager to say? Hey, it seems like there's a lot of things you say you're going to do that. Never end up happening. I would probably not start with that. That's that's pretty aggressive. I would probably start with head like to I want to make sure we have a good working relationship and I want to know, you know, maybe this is just a passive aggressive version of the things you said, but I want to know what it looks like when you're committing versus just idea aiding, you know, I'm brainstorming just thinking yeah, cuz I I feel very much like I identify with the manager in this question. So I'm thinking of what I could do. I mean I mentioned delegating as a way to solve this you can't make your manager delegate, but you can offer to take some of these tasks on if you think he's a really important and it seems kind of wishy-washy whether it'll get done or not. You can you can just say hey it's like to do that.
Maybe and then it just becomes your problem depends on the task. So not only are you following up on the project you actually doing it.
Yeah, I mean it again it depends on the task. If it's stuff you can do that could be part of your job then maybe you should do it. Another thing you can do is when the idea of a test comes up you could say instead of letting your manager say I'll do that. You could ask the manager question and say who won the team would be best situated to do this and that. Just kind of puts them in the mindset of Delegation. Yeah, maybe form a committee get stuff done. Now. I have two problems. Yeah for my counsel. Yes with subcommittees and committee chairs secret meetings. So your answer is basically like you got a only accountable for the stuff that you think they're actually going to do it just sort of accept that things will get tossed out there that might not ever happen to have I think you've had three eyed big idea people in a row as managers.
And you are a check the box person and a my friends most big idea. People are not check the box people. Would you ever follow up about a specific task or a specific thing that was proposed or assigned to the manager? And you might be surprised what you hear. I've had a situation where a manager gave a bunch of ideas of tasks to do and I dutifully wrote them all down and then later I was following up on them and the managers who told you to do that do that and I may have been guilty of that as well. You know, I've had people say to me, you know, I'm going to do XYZ when I was the manager and I've said who told you to do that and it was me. So I think as managers may be that I'm going to reverse the question around see if you're a manager. It behooves you to be very clear about what you're committing to do and what you're asking others to do. Yeah. I think it's fine to bring it up with your manager when it when it
Specific thing that's happened to me several times and I never felt attacked or or mad. Sometimes I feel guilty. But sometimes it was that there was information or I had done things. I just hadn't shared it yet, or did you ever feel so guilty that it impacted their performance review?
They didn't ask because they made me feel bad. Yeah, they asked me about the Halloween party, whatever. Yeah, there's this idea of being ruthless with your time and not letting other people take your time and being very deliberate about what you spend your time on at work. And I think maybe these managers suffer from not being ruthless with their time because they just take his commitments and you know, maybe start on any other idea is in a world where we all have constrained amounts of time and other resources, but primarily time we all know there's a limited amount of stuff we can get down in a week or two weeks or months or whatever and a micro company. We have this idea of the line and we use the word below the line, which means I have it on my list if it's below the line, which means it's not going to get any of my attention and it would be good to get explicit with your manager in this situation to say is this above-the-line and below-the-line for you, you know, an invasive up line means I'm going to do it and commit to it below the line means it's a good idea, but it's not going to get my attention.
I think if you could clarify that with them and maybe use that as a as a term that you used to convey that information it would be good because if you don't have a turn light below the line above the line, it's just on the list or not on the list and that kind of concerned what you're allowed to talk about So Below the line is like I don't want to make you feel bad by saying no, but no right also means later you might say my line is for this month or my line is for this week, and it's below the line for this week. But maybe it'll be about July next week or next year after you leave the company. Yeah, that makes sense. I like that. There's a similar concept with a different name than my company.
Got the cut list. Yes. They're there is a line on it. But there's a list and somewhere in the list is a cut off where all the crap goes on The Cutting Room floor and just all the stuff that is below the right good ideas. That didn't make the cut. Right now just like I was a pretty good basketball player middle school, but didn't make the cut didn't make the cut. That's right for the leap up to the Freshman. Yes, that was aspirational. I was like six grade. This is really bad at basketball.
Well, if we answer the question, I think so good luck. This is a tough situation, of course and we love to hear how this goes with your manager. If you want to write back in please let us know. All right, what can people do if they want their own questions answered Dave click the ask a question button where you can fill out our form with our question information, you can give us as little or as much information about yourself as you like social security number is optional just kidding. It's not even allowed make sure you give us the Friendship code that's on the front of your credit cards and the super best friendship Cuts in the back.
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