Things I Learned From My IT Shop I – Treat Every Day of The Project Like It’s Your Last

Posted on August 31, 2008

The start of September marks my first anniversary with this little IT sweatshop in Jersey. It’s been an…interesting year to say the least, with enough amusing, suspenseful, and headache-inducing moments to fill a small novel. I’ve survived mostly thanks to my above-average instincts, which have helped me to learn quickly where knowledge is lacking.

With that in mind, the first thing I learned is to treat every day of the project like it’s your last. Of course, given today’s economic realities, that may well be the case, but that doesn’t mean walking as if the Sword of Damocles is dangling above your head. Rather, it means developing with the realization that someone may (in fact, probably will) have to take it over on short notice.

“But isn’t that the new guy’s problem?” you might ask. That could be true if you’re leaving the shop, but often times, sudden restructuring or business needs dictate that you switch “hats”, as it were. Or perhaps you’re simply looking to move on to greater, more interesting things. In any event, before you head out the door, you might have to engage in a little something called Knowledge Transfer. The word still strikes chills into my heart.

In short, this involves explaining your code, why you coded it that way, and what you might have to do to extend it in the future. Sounds good in theory, right? The problem is that all this information is compressed into the timespan of a few days to a week, meaning the new developer won’t remember a bit of it three weeks later, when a critical release is on the horizon, and you’re knee-deep in your new responsibilities. Months later, you may still be fielding e-mails about the more esoteric parts of your last project. Put another way, it becomes like the child that lives in the basement, never leaves the nest, and drinks all the beer.

So do everyone a favor – make your design and/or code self-evident, imagining yourself explaining it to someone else down the line. That usually involves following the Best Practice for the tools you’re using, and making sure it just makes sense.

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