Five Thoughts After Five Days at a New Job
It’s been a whole working week since I started my new job on Monday, and naturally I have plenty of thoughts about it, most of which are good. I’m going to try and milk them for as many blogs as possible, but here are five short, sharp highlights from this week in my brain.
- Being a white man in a field dominated by white men not only means I faced fewer challenges than others might in the hiring process, but also in the onboarding process and during my job in general. While my team is not entirely compromised of white men (essentially the first time this has been the case in my career), it still primarily is. Because of my privilege I have found myself comfortable very quickly - I find it very easy to ask for help because I am so accustomed to receiving it, it’s been easy to establish a rapport with my colleagues and have banter with them pretty quickly, and I feel like I have less to prove than I would if I didn’t exist in a space that has historically been so dominated by people like me. I’ve thought a lot about my privilege in regard to my career throughout the application, interview and now onboarding process, and will write a longer post about it soon.
- Greenfields projects are really as good as everyone says they are. Recruiters will use it as an advertising hook, and I have discovered that’s for good reason. The project my team is working on is in its infancy, which means that I already a skeleton mental model of it, as opposed to grappling with some awful legacy monolith. In the 18 months at my previous job, there were still huge swathes of code they were just complete black boxes to me and I never really got to grips with, whereas hopefully that won’t be the case here.
- Communication is key. I know this one isn’t exactly original, but hear me out. I often joke that I work with computers because I don’t like people, but I think that joke points to a broader industry issue where (particularly white men) tell themselves that they can get by on their technical skills, and it’s not necessary to learn the interpersonal skills to communicate well. Some people are even weirdly proud of this - Linus Torvalds I am looking at you. Now I am on a team that places such heavy emphasis on communication, and at least so far seems to do it exceptionally well, and I already hope I never go back to any other way of working. It’s so much less stressful, it’s empowering, it produces higher quality output, it ought to have a much, much more prominent place in programming culture than it currently does.
- Agile is great, when done right. My new team does scrum by the books, with all bells and whistles, and I’d always assumed taking that approach would be overkill, but again, so far I love it. It’s great having a non-technical product manager who can visualise the big-picture and help keep each engineer on task. Storypoints are orders of magnitude better than time estimation. Writing proper acceptance criteria results in better defined tickets, which result in higher quality output. Sprint retrospectives are actually kind of fun. Jira still sucks, but that isn’t scrum’s fault. Again, I never want to go back.
- The cloud at scale is so cool. I think “the cloud” is so buzzworded, overhyped and often overrated, and I think the vast majority of projects that use it would be far better off simply not doing so. However, now I am part of a big company, with a lot of data and a lot of infrastructure (and a lot of money), getting to see up close the real power of the cloud is incredible. Yes, I think every major cloud provider is fundamentally evil, yes I think cloud lock-in practices are anti-competitive and will inevitably cause me huge headaches throughout my career, yes I hate even referencing “the cloud” once let alone this many times, but seeing so much computation happening in such a short space of time has been a true kid-in-a-candy-shop experience.
So far it has been a great start - my fingers are firmly crossed that it continues.