I have a new job (Developer Advocate with IBM Cloud Data Services) and subsequently a new work laptop. It's a mac and after almost 10 years as a linux-only user, that's rather a shock! Due to some nasty RSI issues, I don't use a mouse or any other pointing device*, so as well as learning a whole new operating system I also needed to learn its accessibility tools. I'm still at the swearing stage but mostly past the tears so I thought I would share what I've found - using a computer from the keyboard is fast and productive for everyone as well as less painful for me, so you may find some tools in here that you want to try yourself.
Recently I was giving some advice (that I was asked for, which is novel) regarding one-to-one meetings between developers and either team leads or management can be structured. My thoughts really boiled down to some very short points (this is why sometimes, those meetings take 15 minutes and other times they take 3 times that for a monthly update!). In case they're useful to anyone else, here's my meeting outline:
- What's going well/what are you excited about?
- What's tedious/annoying or actually a problem?
- What could I be doing that I'm not?
I do a lot of code reviewing, both in my day job as principal developer and also as an open source maintainer. Sometimes it seems like I read more code than I write! Is that a problem? I'm tempted to say that it isn't. To be a good writer, you must be well-read; I believe that to be a good developer, you need to be code-omnivorous and read as much of other people's code as possible. Code reviews are like little chapters of someone else's code to dip into.
Over time I've developed some particular processes that I find helpful when reviewing code. In particular, I often surprise people at how much review I do before I run the code. Sometimes I grab the branch so that I can use my local diff tools, but I don't actually execute code until I've established some basic facts. This post is a little insight into what's happening in this not-running-the-code-yet zone. Continue reading
After 4 years of working independently, today I start my new job! I'll be Principal Developer with Siftware, a small development agency specialising in project rescue, migrations, and generally being excellent at things that need business-conscious development skills applied to them. They're UK-based but distributed; I will still work mostly remotely. This is also a part-time role so I'll be using the other half of the week to continue with my books/consultancy/training/outreach/whatever activities - really this "big news" isn't much of a lifestyle change! I've been doing about 50% development and 50% other for the last year or so, and I'll continue to offer training and specialist consultancy services for anyone with an interesting enough challenge for me.
In fact this is my dream job. Steady, REAL development work, with real people in my timezone. Part time to allow the other aspects of my business to still get some time and attention, and to fit in my other interests/family commitments. Too good to be true? I hope not :)
Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Today I'd like to take the time to write about a technical woman who has influenced me this year, and someone whom I imagine will be surprised to read this. Her name is Donna Benjamin, but you may know her as @kattekrab.
Donna's been a virtual friend for a few years; I "intermet" her when I was preparing to host the Dutch PHP Conference in Amsterdam, in 2010. I had some great role models from the PHP community to show me how to "ringmaster" at a big conference, but I was unsure how it would look on a woman. Having already done a similar role for PHPNW, I'd had negative feedback about being teacherish (something that I still get complaints about), and I wasn't sure how else to wear that role. Lots of things work well for men but not for women (silly things, swearing on stage (this differs between cultures), asking for a pay rise, falling out of bed into whatever free conference shirt you were given yesterday ....) and I was determined not to turn myself into a decorative but ditsy hostess.
My good friend Kathy Reid talked through my anxieties with me, and sent me a link to a video of Donna introducing an even more major conference: Donna organised Linux Conf AU and the video showed her introducing it with equal helpings of excellence, approachability, and entertainment. Confident that I wasn't alone, I stopped worrying and gave that conference my best shot. Continue reading
As a conference speaker, I've read the books on how to be a good conference speaker, and coached quite a few people to raise their skills in this area too. However recently I've been meeting more virtual audiences, both delivering virtual training and doing virtual events such as DayCamp4Developers, and I thought I'd share my take on what works well in a setting where people can see your slides, and hear your voice ... and nothing more. Continue reading
The PHP jobs market is hot, very many people find it hard to recruit the skilled staff that they need to achieve the goals of their organisation. I meet a wide variety of organisations in this technology space, and they all tell me the same story: it's really difficult to get good, qualified people. And I believe that this is true, I know plenty of developers too and although I'll usually try to put people in touch where it makes sense to do so, it's not as if there is a great reservoir of hidden PHP talent somewhere.
This isn't a rant about salaries, the skills of new graduates, or the trials of dealing with recruiters, although each of those is worth a post in itself. It's about the mathematics of providing your organisation with the talent it needs at the time that it needs it. Continue reading
This is the 800th published post on lornajane.net. It's my personal blog and I started it in early 2006, when I moved to a new city with no job. I think I got the blogging bug just because I had nobody else to talk to at the time! Over the years the blog has recorded recipes, craft projects, the story of buying and refurbishing the house (a decision that a previous employer described as "brave") - and of course the vast swathes of technical snippets that are the regular content you see here.
One of the biggest dangers in this industry is getting left behind as the tools evolve very quickly. For me, working alone or as the most senior person on a project in most cases, this becomes doubly hard as there's nobody in my office to show me a new trick or share an idea that he or she learned in a previous job. So how do I deal with this?
I take "study days".
I don't mean learning to talk, I mean learning to address an audience, coherently and without dying of fright (actually I think I have clinically proven that it isn't possible to actually stop living as a result of fright). There are a couple of things that I'm involved with that may help you, if you're looking to improve your successes in this area.
This is a virtual conference, held a few times each year. I've spoken at some of the previous events and been really impressed by how smoothly something quite intangible can run! The next event is on Friday 22nd March and is about public speaking - but aimed specifically at developers. If you want to speak at a user group or conference, or be able to get through presentations at work without stress, then this session will give you some good pointers. The speakers are three excellent conference presenters - and me :) I love this format, what else are you doing on a Friday (especially for Europe, where this doesn't start until our afternoon)? You can register and find out more about the event here http://daycamp4developers.com/. Did I mention that tickets are $40? You can also sign up to get the recordings if the date/time doesn't work out for you.
There's been lots of fuss lately about women speakers at conferences, or the lack of them. The low percentage of women in technology and a missing tendency to put ourselves forward for things means that this isn't going to change any time soon. However if you've been thinking about speaking, then you should know about an online group WeAreAllAwesome which is a meeting point for women speakers to brainstorm ideas for topics, put abstracts together, and share experiences on how to give a good talk. Our office hours are 6-7pm UK time on Tuesdays, and I'm one of the mentors in that project, so if you might speak or just want to join in chatter with women who do, then you know where to find us :) Continue reading