Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Job Description - Part 2 - The Nevyn Brand

So... a great big egotistical post while I avoid thinking about the things that have me bothered at the moment.

The Nevyn brand. What is it and why does it mean so much to me?

The Nevyn brand is a result of all of those things that I find annoy me when working for other people.

For example, if I'm asked to be less than honest... that's not the Nevyn brand. That just irritates the living crap out of me. If I were in charge I would let everyone who needs to know know, work with those people to come up with a plan or let them know exactly what I think needs to happen to fix things and then move heaven and earth to fix those things. Now that's the Nevyn brand.

If in that process there's a "we don't need to fix things" attitude and it's not followed up with sound reasoning, that's also against the Nevyn brand. Sound reasoning? Imagine it's going to take 9 months to fix a situation. By that end of the year though, that situation isn't going to exist as it's being moved to something else. It's worthwhile putting in workarounds and working with the client to make things work in the interim (though a year is still quite a long time). It's not worthwhile doing that development to fix it. This isn't a "ignore it" kind of a proposition. This is a work with people proposition - so there's still time involved here.

I keep a very strict open door policy. If you need to talk to me, talk to me. Don't go through communication channels - it's only going to annoy me. I think I've talked about abstraction in this blog before. If communication keeps going through the same filters - the same people - then the results are generally going to be catered around those people. This may or may not work for other people. But if you're able to get input from as many sources as humanly possible, chances are you'll be able to get results that cater to a greater number of people. You're also a hell of a lot more likely to preempt needs. This is why I like spending a lot of programming time in amongst the people I'm programming for. You often hear things over your shoulder that add that little piece of magic to a program.

I should probably add here - I'm really not that great a programmer. I would rate myself low. What I do well is to capture those needs that people often miss and come up with solutions. I often find myself lost when I hear a programmer talking about some of the more technical bits and pieces. For example, I have no clear understanding of an API. I use them - I probably use them a hell of a lot more than I realise - but when people talk about how great an API is, I generally glaze over.

I don't work to a schedule when dealing with customers. It's the worst thing ever.

You find yourself at a site and no one needs to talk to you but you're booked for an hour with them... At one point I was contracting to a company and had done most of the work that needed to be done. Instead of sit around and keep charging, I chose to go home and get some stuff done there. I only lived around the corner anyway so if anything came up, I was only a phone call away. The following day, I got asked to go and see the CEO of the place. He was annoyed that I had left and insisted that I stick around. This frustrated the living crap out of me. It felt incredibly disrespectful of my time. I read Alice in Wonderland in a day and Through the Looking Glass the following day. I reconnected with BoingBoing.net and was still bored and frustrated. Sure, I was being paid... but then, this is me... I don't care all that much about being paid (though it's becoming important nowadays).

The other side of the coin is that you find a situation at a site. You're in the middle of trying to resolve it when you're scheduled time is up. Leaving half way through or before everything that needs to be done is done is shocking. You either negotiate to help the customer or not. You don't stop somewhere in the middle just to keep to a schedule that ignores the reality of things i.e. that a customer's needs are never going to be constant. I may be done after 20 minutes. It may take me 3 hours. My way of dealing with this would be to give out a straight "I charge X amount / hour" and take the initial contract. Log the amount of time spent with the customer (and this is an honest "this is the time spent with the customer" log not a "I need to fill in time gaps so that it looks like I'm busy" log) and renegotiate on real figures using an average amount of time across a time period like... 3 months. Honesty plays a role in here. Being able to go in with a figure - "in the last 3 months I've spent an average of 3 hours a week here" - leads to all sorts of very quick negotiations which people I believe will for the most part be happy with.

But the Nevyn brand isn't just a reaction to the things that I think are done badly. It's an approach to things. Just recently I've made a few interesting choices around my general look. This morning I shaved off my beard. A few days ago I decided it was the perfect time to give up smoking. You heard it here first... by beard is gone (though it could grow back if me and my chin really don't get along). I'm feeling horrendously impatient (why is EVERYONE so damn slow?!). Still... I'm ready to do something... anything. So hopefully I can get those things that I really need to do done... and then find a great big giant "holy crapballs on toast how are we going to do this?" project to work on... or something.

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