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Dr John Hawkins

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A Job Well Done

Posted on 2006/10/29 13:56:14 (October 2006).

[Friday 27th October]
I really busted a gut at work today, I was in before 9 and worked through lunch (dining only briefly "al desko"). As a result I managed to crack the one last major technical challenge necessary to get the new feature I've been working on up and running in time for the big demo, the week after next. So I've now got a week left to dot the Is and cross the Ts, and make it into a really polished presentation.

I left the office today feeling extremely pleased with myself.

Me and my colleagues at the European and US offices had talked endlessly earlier on this year about how we could implement this new feature in the product I work on, and the fact it had been talked over so much without anything really getting done had created a bit of a sense that the whole thing was just unachievable.

Around May everything had to be put on hold due to another more pressing project, and it was only at the start of this month that we were able to start turning our thoughts back to the original task. This had only compounded the sense of how difficult it would be to get the new feature off the ground.

So a few weeks back, in light of the fact I had another business trip looming, I somewhat rashly said I'd have the first version of the new feature up and running by the time I went to the US. I said I'd have all the major bits done in a month. There was widespread doubt and even a bit of laughter when I first proposed this, and yet here I am now, a week ahead of the deadline, with the bulk of the work done and dusted.

When I think back to around a year ago I recall having feelings of inadequacy about this job. As any software engineer knows, one of the most difficult parts of the job is understanding how an existing system works, such that you can make changes to it - trying to read someone else's source code is always tough, but when the system is also really huge, and including lots of legacy support which you absolutely must not break, this task becomes extremely daunting.

So the last couple of weeks has been a great example of the old saying about being able to do anything if you put your mind to it. There's a slight sense of irony that I've only started to feel something resembling job satisfaction for the first time after I've told the company I'm leaving, but I'm well aware the two things are bound up in a big cause effect thing. If I hadn't made up my mind to leave, I wouldn't have had the same impetus to get everything wrapped up by the end of the year, and probably we'd still be just talking about software we might write, rather than actually writing it.

Comment 1

Great skill telling us all about something without giving out any real details!! Ha!! :)))))))

Glad you got your bit sorted though. A sense of achievement is something to be covetted! I'll look forward to the time when we can know what you've been working on - perhaps when Vista is launched? Or are you still bound by NDA after the event?

Hope the new employers are pleased with their catch!

Posted by Nigel at 2006/10/29 16:28:24.

Comment 2

I think that this is classical. When you are about to leave all the goodies of your work come out and you start feeling that maybe.... But I think that the decision to leave is a good one so, best compliments on having whooped their asses at the programming job, now they need to find a replacement! :)

Posted by Lox at 2006/10/29 16:31:38.

Comment 3

Was "al desko" your own invention? Really made me laugh.

Off Southwards in about 12 hours, so will be out of email contact for several days.

Posted by Mum at 2006/10/29 18:55:45.

Comment 4

9 times out of 10 its far better to stop talking about something and just do it.

From my own experience, this is the only time that boundaries ever get pushed. It requires someone of vision to make a bold commitment and then be too proud to not deliver.

With this method, you kind of 'will' the solution into existence from the depths of your mind, fueled by your ego's fear of looking daft.

Everyone else just plays safe.

Well done John, you're my A!

Posted by Tim at 2006/10/30 09:43:21.

Comment 5

Tim: your assessment of the situation is absolutely on the money - my recent (somewhat uncharacteristic) bout of workaholicism is all about pride and ego. It's about leaving behind a legacy, and trying to earn the respect of the people I've been working with the last year.

It's interesting to me - I went through the interview training course at my company, and one of the things I took away from that is that a good employee should not be too egotistical. Whilst in many ways this is true - someone who thinks they're above everyone else is not likely to be good at team work - on the other side there are times when, exactly as you say, a whole project is driven by a single person's ego.

Posted by John at 2006/10/30 13:11:21.

Comment 6

Mum: sadly no, I cannot claim invention of "al desko" - I heard it from my friend Simon, not sure where he got it from.

Posted by John at 2006/10/30 13:29:45.

Comment 7

Good observations, guys! Very true. Employers bang on about "team players" and you even get the "tall poppy syndrome" cropping up sometimes while in a job, but it's those people willing to go out on a limb that actually "push the envelope" and get things done, make innovations. There's that whole negative phrase "designed by a comittee" and yet the real successes are powered by individuals, or small groups willing to take chances.

(apologies for the gratuitous usage of quotation-marks there!)

Posted by Nigel at 2006/10/30 21:59:57.

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