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Staying Hands On


A while ago I’ve reached the point where getting into the production code and contributing has become almost impossible.  Part of it was because of the variety technologies that engineers in my organization have used, part of it was due to meetings and crazy schedule that I was subjected to when I reached Director level.

However, I still make it a point to get some coding done.  Why? I think part of it is because my family is in the medical field. Among doctors a person high up (at least while I was growing up) was a “chief surgeon” or someone who commanded a lot of respect for their “technical” knowledge.  It seemed like back in those days you couldn’t hide behind any excuses like “I am not nearly as smart as these guys”

How do I stay hands on?  First of all it’s all about making time.  Yes there are some meetings you have to say “no” to and there are some dinners and tech mixers that you have to skip.

Second is finding out bite size projects.  I am fortunate enough to work on a team that deals with new platforms and APIs.  I can usually add value by building a prototype against the new API first.  It helps me figure out if the tools and the features for the scenarios are available.  In the past several weeks I tried working with Parse and Azure Mobile services. It was fun and helped me answer some questions about mobile backends, now I can actually speak intelligently about the tradeoffs of each.

Another way of staying hands on without being a part of the Scrum team is to do a lot of code reviews.  I find those helpful because you can actually have coherent conversations with customers and partners without having to drag your engineers along to every meeting.  It’s also great because you are a newbie in all the new code and you can make sure that things are readable and accessible for when you hire new people.

Staying in the code will help you keep a pulse on your code base and stay connected with the team.  I recommend it.



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