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Reflections on quitting my job.. Programming classes I’ve learnt over… | by MooseyAnon

Reflections on quitting my job.. Programming classes I’ve learnt over… | by MooseyAnon

2023-10-31 20:43:37

Programming classes I’ve learnt during the last 7 years.

Sitcom character with worried look on face and hands on head saying, “I quit my job.”
We made it out boii!

Final month I give up my job. There have been a number of causes for my choice nevertheless it primarily boiled all the way down to me turning 30 this yr, having an existential disaster questioning wtf I’m doing with my life and finally, realising I wasn’t having enjoyable programming professionally anymore. I concluded that I wanted a while away to fall again “in love” with programming, as a pastime with no monetary strings connected to it. Clearly, I recognise that is an extremely privileged factor to do, not working is one thing that many individuals can solely dream of.

So right here I’m, in my PJs after waking up at 12pm on a Tuesday, reflecting on my time working as a “skilled” programmer, a profession I’ve largely fallen into accidentally.


I used to be by no means a type of youngsters that bought into programming at 10 yrs previous. Once I was 10 I used to be on the cage within the property subsequent to my nan’s home shouting ”high bins!” as I did my finest Bend it Like Beckham impression (I’m nonetheless bitter I might by no means get the spiky hair going). All through my college life my primary guiding heuristic was enjoyable, I solely ever did issues I loved. So when the time got here to choose a level I selected psychology as a result of the syllabus regarded cool and I’ve all the time discovered people fairly attention-grabbing. Its humorous, as I’ve gotten extra expertise as a developer one of many issues that stand out to me essentially the most is that there are much more human issues than individuals realise in any given software program undertaking. Issues that cant merely be coded away, so understanding people has been surprisingly helpful.

I’ve all the time been an avid reader of blogs and on-line publications. Whereas at uni I has subscriptions to Scientific American, Wired, Arch Each day and Dezeen (what can I say, I’m a cultured man). Towards the top of my time at uni there was lots of buzz round CRISPR and self-driving automobiles. It was round then that I heard of neural networks for the primary time. I believe the truth that I understood the underlying analogy of neural nets was actually necessary in serving to me recover from the unconscious psychological barrier that I couldn’t be concerned in expertise in another method than as a shopper.

In any case, as I bought towards the top of my diploma I might not ignore the ”What are you going to do with psychology?” query. After sitting on the query for a while I (naively) figured the three most necessary areas within the working world I might have an effect on have been: people, finance and expertise. I knew I didn’t need to develop into a therapist as a result of I had already been unofficially doing that for my family and friends for some time and peoples issues are tiring af. I’d all the time disliked finance (and nonetheless do tbh) so the one choice left was expertise.

I keep in mind the day I wrote my fist line of code, it was 2nd of Jan 2016. I used to be 2 months away from 23. I began the day stuffed with optimism and tried the python course on CodeAcademy (it was nonetheless free again then) and actually all the things went over my head. I couldn’t grasp any of it. I keep in mind feeling like an fool for even pondering I might do that at 23. The failure confirmed the stereotypes I’d seen on TV, that for those who didn’t begin writing code at 10, then this wasn’t for you. Simply as I used to be about to surrender I made a decision to strive CodeAcademy’s HTLM&CSS course. To my shock, I managed to whizz via it and firmly understood the fabric. I genuinely assume if I hadn’t finished that course I might need develop into an funding banker or one thing 🤢.

Quick ahead two years, an internship at AKQA, a shitty SWE job at a shitty startup, after which I bought the supply to hitch the crew I’ve simply left. The most effective description of our function within the firm might be what AWS is to Amazon, the crew manages the corporate’s inner infrastructure and knowledge centre. All the pieces from procuring racks and servers; designing and implementing the info centres community topology; configuring servers and all of the companies that run on high (all the way in which as much as JS for the interface utilized by different groups); configuring and working a naked metallic Kubernetes (k8s) cluster and possibly much more stuff that presently escapes my thoughts. It’s a actual numerous set of issues to work on.

After precisely 5 yrs (to the day) with the crew, I made a decision it was time to pack all of it in for a bit. Nevertheless, whereas the experiences are nonetheless contemporary in my thoughts and I’ve some respiration area I need to go over the issues I’ve realized and found in my journey from programmer coaching wheels to at the moment, the place I might describe myself as regardless of the programming equal of puberty is.

Have an opinion

After my first yr within the crew, I keep in mind asking one in all our senior engineers for technical suggestions. I requested him what I might do to enhance. He informed me a bunch of stuff however the one which caught was, ”have an opinion”. Through the years I’ve thought of this rather a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that having an opinion on a technical choice forces you to have the ability to justify that call and to justify it you want a deeper understanding of that expertise or selection.

I’ve all the time described SWEs as 15-year-old women combating over their favorite boy bands, leaping from one band to the following when one thing new and sizzling comes alongside. Having an opinion grounded in sound technical understanding can assist calm that psychological storm of feeling such as you all the time must sustain as a result of you’ll be able to both disagree with one thing based mostly on proof or can discover connections between issues based mostly in your deeper understanding.

I imply, he might have actually meant ”fuck everybody, simply bully your opinion onto individuals” with no deeper which means however that is how I’ve interpreted it. I assume you can say its simply my opinion, innit.

Debugging is a science

Quick ahead just a few years and I used to be having some issues getting via tickets. All the pieces felt gradual and laboured. I used to be struggling to get the final 10% of tickets working and over the road. I wasn’t actually positive what to do and I assume others within the crew picked up on it as a result of our tech lead provided to take me for a espresso and a few programmer remedy.

He requested me, ”whats your method to writing software program?”. On the time I keep in mind pondering ”What do you imply bruv? The identical as you clearly, I take advantage of a textual content editor.”. I used to be just a little confused by the query as a result of I had by no means actually thought of it. After some dialogue we highlighted that my method to writing code was akin to an artist throwing paint at a clean canvas, I have a tendency to write down what feels good. I additionally got here to the realisation I didn’t actually know the best way to debug code effectively. I used to be nice debugging my very own code however I might wrestle to debug methods and parts I used to be unfamiliar with. On the time lots of my work was combining methods/parts reasonably than writing contemporary code myself, I used to be barely out of my depth.

Debugging is a separate talent from writing code. It requires a unique method of working and with out deliberate follow, like something, you received’t enhance. Our tech lead informed me, ”Writing code is inventive, its like artwork. Debugging is like science, you must formulate a small speculation and check it, then hold doing that until you’ve fastened the issue”. That was extremely eye-opening.

Since that dialog, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three primary pillars of being a very good software program engineer: writing code, debugging code and reviewing code. We spend lots of time specializing in and actively attempting to enhance the code-writing half however not a lot on the opposite two. Whereas I’m not a pair programming fanboy there are positively instances the place its properly value sitting down and watching somebody extra skilled than you remedy an issue, then evaluating it to how you’d do it and utilizing that knowledge to determine the best way to enhance. I might say that pair debugging and pair code overview are simply as necessary. You may pace run your private growth simply by seeing what sort of questions the opposite individual asks whereas reviewing and the way they break down their debugging into testable chunks.

Pragmatic programming

Not like my precise politics, I might describe my philosophy to software program adjustments as small C conservative. I really feel there must be a robust motive to make a drastic change to working code. Essentially, I consider giving your prospects high-quality, working code trumps all the things else. Clients actually don’t care about how your crew is collectively jerking off to memory-safe, completely useful code with no unwanted effects. The top consumer doesn’t care in case your code is readable, DRY, maintainable or spaghetti code. They care that the product works as supposed and does so reliably.

As SWEs, I believe we generally overlook that. I might describe the crew I simply left’s method to software program supply as pragmatic, working code trumps excellent code. It doesn’t matter in case your code isn’t abstracted into a superbly generic DSL, does that refactor must occur? One of many issues about gaining expertise is you study when to interrupt the principles. You study when its nice to repeat and paste working code as an alternative of attempting to summary it away, which then not solely dangers delaying that new function or proof of idea but in addition dangers breaking methods that we already know works properly.

I consider software program will get difficult on the edges, on the factors the place methods work together with one another. Guaranteeing that the core of the system is so simple as attainable to write down, motive about and handle is crucial aim of any software program undertaking. I discover saying no extra usually than saying sure makes reaching this goal simpler for everybody.

You’re nonetheless a code guardian even after you’ve merged and deployed

Like everybody else, when the pandemic began we had a bunch of issues (aside from the pandemic itself) transitioning from an in-office crew to a distant crew. In the course of the first lockdown, we discovered ourselves within the workplace recurrently doing upkeep and fixing fires. We’d all the time had monitoring however after this expertise, we wished to ramp up the observability of our methods.

To hark again to my earlier level about human issues, throwing new instruments on the downside is the simple half, the cultural change required for the instruments to be helpful is what’s really onerous. So we’ve simply added tracing, that’s cool, now what?

It’s worthwhile to be certain your SWEs perceive that they nonetheless have duties even after their PR has been merged. They should really feel a way of possession over the complete system and lifecycle of a program/function/change. Jenkins is damaged? CI failed? We have to tweak the assets utilized by a service in our k8s cluster? It shouldn’t matter if a SWE primarily works on the frontend or backend or infrastructure, everybody ought to be capable to soar in and repair the difficulty. It shouldn’t be any single individuals duty, it must be our duty.

Its this cultural change that necessitates the tooling. When SWEs realise its a ache to be constantly retroactive to fires as an alternative of proactive to forestall the fireplace within the first place, they begin fascinated with one of the best methods to method the issue. The answer and/or tooling just isn’t necessary so long as it helps the crew obtain their targets, its the collective want of the crew to make sure high quality thats necessary.

Git — you’re doing it unsuitable (most likely)

Though I mentioned I’m a small C conservative, there are only a few expertise hills I’m prepared to die on. After a convincing dialog, I’m blissful to vary my thoughts on most issues, besides git. Git is a hill I’m prepared to die on.

Each software program crew on the planet has its personal tradition and methods of doing issues, which is all good however after I see groups utilizing git as a glorified `ctrl + s` it actually breaks my coronary heart.

This must be its personal weblog publish (one I’m planning on writing) however these are a few of my common points with how I see groups use git. I apologise prematurely for any damage emotions however right here goes…

In the event you squash on merge, you’re doing it unsuitable. In the event you’ve by no means used git blame, you’re doing it unsuitable. In case your repo’s historical past is ineffective, you’re doing it unsuitable. In the event you didn’t add a typo repair or white line change as a separate commit, you’re doing it unsuitable. In the event you’re commit message (when elevating a PR) solely consists of the phrases ”fixup” or a ticket quantity or a PR hyperlink, you’re doing it unsuitable. When you have a coverage of 1 commit per PR, you’re doing it unsuitable. In the event you’re frightened of a merge battle, you’re doing it unsuitable.

Within the time I’ve been working I’ve seen Jira tasks change names, I’ve seen repos transfer from stash (bitbucket predecessor) to after which from to GitHub Enterprise. The one fixed has been the `primary` department. As a tech firm, so long as you’re in enterprise the `primary` department will exist. Figuring out that, it must be the one supply of reality in your code base.

In my eyes, `primary` has two primary capabilities: firstly, it captures a second in time. It shouldn’t redirect you to a ticket or PR, there isn’t a assure both of these will exist. It must be self-encompassing. You shouldn’t strive protect historical past as a result of I dont care in regards to the journey or what discussions have been had, all I care about is the ultimate copy that bought merged into `primary`.

See Also

Secondly, its a forensic instrument. You whip it out when one thing goes unsuitable and you must go into NCIS mode. You must be capable to meaningfully bisect `primary` (learn: with out eliminating complete options), you need to be capable to use `git blame` and be capable to examine the historical past of a line to see its accompanying adjustments. I dont wanna examine the historical past of some line of code and see a complete heap of adjustments which have completely nothing to do with it as a result of somebody determined to repair a typo as a part of another work.

Your historical past must be clear and simply readable. Every commit ought to comprise one logical change and ideally go CI. In the event you dont know what which means its one thing that comes with expertise however in a nutshell for those who change some little bit of code including/eradicating/enhancing docs, feedback and exams related to that change ought to all be part of that commit. Nothing else, no typo fixes, no refactors, renaming one other perform and many others, all of that must be separate commits. Your commit message ought to have a brief title explaining the change and the physique ought to go into as a lot element as essential into why the change befell, I can see the what from trying on the diff.

Okay, I’ll cease there earlier than somebody spontaneously combusts in flames of rage.

{Hardware} nonetheless issues

We reside in a world of abstractions. Whether or not its the cloud or the frameworks we use every single day, we will generally overlook that beneath all of it all the things remains to be working on bodily computer systems someplace.

During the last 5 years, I’ve modified onerous drives and SSDs; I added community playing cards to server chassis; I’ve recognized kernel panics on servers with out BMC or IPMI interfaces by actually pushing in a trolley with a monitor and keyboard; I’ve put in gadget drivers for an array of bizarre units; I’ve sat in {hardware} procure conferences; I’ve configured community switches; I’ve written kickstart recordsdata and configured `PXE` boots utilizing MAC addresses; I’ve plugged ethernet cables out and in extra instances than I can depend.

I could by no means once more work in a crew the place I’ve a psychological map of all of the {hardware} we personal or a crew the place `ssh` + `dmseg/journalctl` is the start line of my debugging however the training I’ve had engaged on these methods will final me a lifetime. I’ve had a crash course in electrical engineering and pc science that I might have by no means gotten from any college on the planet. I firmly consider its simpler to go up the stack than it’s to go down.

Within the outdoors world, there’s a era of people that solely assume in EC2s and AWS lambda’s and I dont blame them for that, its the world we reside in. I simply don’t consider that `ssh`-ing right into a machine and digging across the file system utilizing `vi` will ever not be a helpful talent to have.

Being dumb is enjoyable

As I alluded to initially of this publish I’ve been taking part in each crew and particular person sports activities my complete life. One of many distinctive properties of sport is that you’re viscerally conscious of the place you sit on the sucks -> glorious spectrum. And if you’re unsure somebody will certainly let you realize, whether or not its by working rings round you or actually shouting, “Oi you’re fucking shit, go house” throughout the sector (true story, it’s occurred to me). Inevitably, even for those who’re a candidate with a sensible likelihood of going professional, sooner or later you’re going to suck.

There are two methods you’ll be able to take care of this: 1) really go house and both go away the crew or worse, go away the game altogether, 2) suck it up and practice more durable so that you may be the one telling individuals they’re shit. I’ve discovered that everybody who performs sports activities lengthy sufficient is fairly aggressive and doesn’t take criticism to coronary heart in a method that individuals who haven’t generally do.

What’s this bought to do with software program engineering? I really feel like there’s a bizarre parallel, the place there’s a sure class of engineer, often good at what they do and/or in positions of energy, who’re more than pleased to inform you you’re shyte. They’re the kind who don’t speak to you, they speak at you. The sort who dont ever ask you questions in a dialog outdoors of “What, you actually dont know what X is??”. The sort who don’t clarify issues in an audience-appropriate method, you both get it on their stage otherwise you dont.

As a normie, after I first met these kinds of engineers I didn’t know the best way to speak or take care of them. I’ve had engineers publically ask me, “Did they not ask you what your favorite Linux distro is earlier than they provided you the job?” in a condescending tone after they found I didn’t know a lot about Linux. I’ve had engineers give me 101 feedback on a PR beginning with “What the fuck is that this…” and ending with me coming in a single morning to search out the entire thing rewritten.

Over time I realized that whereas there are a bunch of them blowing sizzling smoke out their arses, there are additionally some who really know what they’re speaking about. The competitor in me all the time desires to enhance so sometimes stroking their egos and making them really feel like the neatest individual within the room can result in lots of helpful and obscure bits of knowledge that may have taken you months or years to find by your self. And in all honesty, it’s not that tough to do. It often simply includes you asking them a query and shutting the fuck up as a result of as I mentioned, they dont want greater than themselves to hold a dialog.

I’ve additionally learnt that in any given crew there are much more me’s than there are them’s. People who find themselves confused however are too intimidated to ask questions or dont need to look silly. Consequently, I all the time pitch myself because the dumbest individual within the room and ask all of the silly questions I can consider. Its helpful for not solely me however for others within the crew too. Not everyone seems to be comfy taking part in this function or trying silly in entrance of their friends however rising up being berated on a soccer pitch by your mate’s dad provides you some fairly thick pores and skin.


In order that’s largely what I can consider for now. It’ll be enjoyable to come back again in 7 yrs’ time to see what modified and what stayed the identical when it comes to my perspective on software program engineering (if I’m nonetheless doing it), till then and within the clever phrases of Invoice & Ted, “Be glorious to one another!”.

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