Andy Hunt: Secrets of a Rock Star Programmer (Part 1)

 Career, programming

Andy: Practice. Practice. Practice. You know, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, man, practice.” That’s the joke, but that’s really it. This is something I harp on in my talks: “go with experience.” You know, experience really is the best teacher, so you want to set yourself up to be able to play with stuff, be able to work with it, be able to do it, ’cause, otherwise, even just reading about it, it’s not the same.

Ed: Right. Okay, well, what do you when you’re on a team that is having trouble with collaboration? How would you approach improving the collaboration when it’s determined that the collaboration is the problem?

Andy: I get them to talking. Anytime I’ve gone and consulted [with] a team where they’ve had those sorts of communication issues in between themselves, the number one thing that seems to help is something like a scrum standup meeting. It’s a daily meeting. It’s very focused on the agenda. You answer your three questions and you get the hell out of there. It’s not some lengthy meeting or discussion or diatribe. You don’t problem-solve; you don’t discuss. You answer the scrum three questions: here’s what I’m doing today, this is what I was doing yesterday, here’s what I plan to do tomorrow, here’s what’s in my way.

The idea is [that] whatever is in your way the manager takes as his to-do list, and you just go bop, bop, bop, bop around the room, and now everyone knows what everyone else is working on [and] if there’s an issue with that, but they don’t need to be working on it ’cause you did something similar last week, or you decided with somebody else that that’s not the way this project is gonna go or whatever. Now you’re aware of it. You know what everyone else is doing. You know what they were working on yesterday; you know what they’re blocked on. This person needs a QA machine. This person needs you to finish what you’re working on. You know, whatever it is, you get a sense of everyone’s pace, everyone’s velocity, because you hear day after day, “I’m doing this, now I’m doing that, now I’m doing this other thing.” You can tell if somebody’s falling behind.

It’s a really, really effective way just to get everybody playing on the same page. And then from there, you can do the little spur-off meetings, say, “Okay, well, let’s -- let’s work this out. Let’s solve this problem,” you know, whatever it takes. So that is the number one way to kick-start getting a team to communicate with each other.

Ed: Let’s close up with some personal questions. What sort of student were you in college?

Andy: Curious. I was a curious student.

Ed: All right. How much stock do you place in GPA and other traditional academic measures of success as a predictor of real-world success?

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