A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.

1/30/2006

Business: The Honest Geek

There is a short article on ZDNET today, ”Can IT Workers shake the ‘geek’ image?”, in the article is a quote from Paul Broome, “Most IT types are principled and disarmingly honest about things.”

Well...hell yea. The thing is you can’t lie to a computer and computer systems are designed to keep track of things. Logging is standard. Because when weird stuff happens, which it always does, the logs might contain your only real clues. We are trained to think of all the things that could go wrong and plan for them. We are trained to dig for the root cause of problems. That training is every day and on going. And it requires us to be brutally honest. We don’t get to just put a band-aid on or ignore a problem because if we do and the system fails again...we are the ones who catch it.

For programmers there is no getting around the fact that if you use bad syntax or logic it’s going to show. The compiler will immediately notify you of syntactical problems. This forces us into a perpetual lesson on the proper syntax of our current development language. In fact a great deal of what IT and programmers do is highly visible to their peers. How many times have you pulled the latest source code and had it not compile? Well, it’s not hard to figure out who checked in the bad code or forgot to check in a new file. It’s all there in the source control system. You just look like an ass if you lie about it, so you suck it up, fix the problem, and move on.

Because our jobs require us to be brutally honest the only people we lie to about work stuff, is ourselves. We might have an over inflated ego, think we’re smarter than we are, or faster...but when it comes to external work stuff...we know where we stand. Liars get caught out pretty fast and with most companies, they will end up on the fast track to the unemployment line.

Executives, marketing, and sales folks would benefit from being more honest. My belief in this is one of the reasons that I love “Confronting Reality” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Engineers are required to confront the truths of their reality. Many other positions are not. But knowing where your business really stands is critical for making sound decisions.

So yes, most IT and programmer types are principled and honest. We need to be. And so should everyone else. LONG LIVE THE GEEKS!

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