You Don’t Have To Pick Sides

After reading this article, then this article and for some strange reason I indulged myself by reading the comments section, I can only come to the conclusion that we need to take a long hard look at the way we think.

For some reason, people (software developer or not) have this inane desire to be right. You are either right or you are wrong. The occasions that someone turns around and says "the context should guide us to make the decision on what to use to solve the problem" are so few and far between that I shed a tear of joy when I hear someone hint at it.

There is no silver bullet, only in werewolf movies. It is imperative that we investigate continually, challenging our own perception of things. We should have as many tools in our bag of tricks as possible. One architectural pattern solves problems in a specific context. The other set of patterns solves problems in another context and perhaps a mixture of architectural patterns solves the same problem in an unseen context.

We need to start thinking again and stop just being parts fitters. One size does not fit all. We need to go back to the days when we crafted the components of the system, leveraging of hard earned experience and leaning on the experience and work of our peers. We need to stop trying to be movie / rock stars or ninjas or some other form of celebrity.

Stop the bickering and name calling. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously and have some fun with what we do again. After all, it all started with the Lego.

A family without a country

With the recent madness around the removal and destruction of statues depicting South African history, I have been very sensitive to comments made about white colonialist and white supremacy. Further to that, comments made in the media by Robert Mugabe “I don’t want to see a white face” and another by some professor at the University of Cape Town along the lines of “the people in South Africa take the peace for granted”. All of this had me thinking but a light went on when watching a “heritage” piece by the South African TV show Carte Blanche.

It was a piece about the Bokoni people but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the use of the term “Africans” to describe the natives, before the colonialists. There in is the problem. While it seems to be a relatively “politically” correct description, the implications are far reaching and explain the divide that is being made bigger by all the talk of white supremacy and the eradication of it. Unfortunately, to get the point across clearly, I am going to have to describe ethnicity by colour, nothing personal.

The term “African” is often understood to be a native of the continent before colonialism. Why is it different in Africa? If one is born in Europe they are said to be European, without any attachment to ethnicity. Someone born in North America is said to be American, again without any attachment to ethnicity. The examples go on and on. For some reason, someone born in South Africa is not regarded as African. Why is that? If you are a citizen of an African state, why are you not classed as African?

I cannot be European, I need visas and permits to visit European countries, I am not Canadian, North American or Australian – my passport says I am a citizen of South Africa. If I was any of these things I would be able to go home without needing special permissions and documentation. I cannot get into my “home” land because my home land is South Africa. Surely, because of this I am African? If I am not African, or any other nationality, what am I? If I have no country, what do I leave to my children? What country do they belong in? Extremists in South Africa would have us believe we belong in Europe with our fore-fathers (many, many, many generations ago this might have been the case but no longer). I cannot go “home” to Europe, they won’t have me unless I get special documentation giving me temporary admission.

I cannot go home to North America, South America or the Middle East. I cannot go home. So we live in a country that we believe is our home but constantly face the threat of forcefully being expelled or killed in. Our home is one built on the fear of never actually belonging in it.

Perhaps this is the reason so few people stand up and fight against what I have just pointed out. Perhaps we figure that staying quiet and going about our business, as law abiding citizens, will let us fly under the radar. So if anyone has any idea where white South African’s can call home, please let me know. For now, we live as families that have no home land.

 

Are you a professional?

Well are you?

One thing that frustrates me is implied meanings. If something is to be communicated accurately then use the correct words to describe it. Do not imply meanings in words that are not meant to be used, just because they sound important.

There are two such instances that drive me crazy. One, when people expect certain types of behaviour from a “professional” and then the common “we are all adults”. Lets address the first one shall we?

We are all professionals.

No seriously, if you getting paid to do work, you are a professional. The definition of professional?

pro·fes·sion·al
prəˈfeSH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective

1.of, relating to, or connected with a profession. “young professional people”
2.(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. “a professional boxer”

So, are you a professional software developer? Are you a professional architect? Are you a professional driver? If you getting paid to do it, the answer is yes. I saw the list of a “true professional” in this article. While I believe the intentions of the article are to make people better at their jobs, I believe it does more damage than good regarding the definition of a professional.

We are all adults here

I have often heard this used as a means to define how people are expected to behave when interacting with each other. The ironic thing is that adults are the ones that continually do horrible things to each other in business.

a·dult
əˈdəlt,ˈadˌəlt/
noun
1. a person who is fully grown or developed. “children should be accompanied by an adult”

adjective
1.(of a person or animal) fully grown or developed. “the adult inhabitants of a country”

Any description of behaviour there? I can’t see any.

 

You call it dismissive, I call it rude

Often I have heard the saying “it’s not personal, it’s business”. Someone actually posted an article regarding that very statement here “It’s Not Personal. It’s Business”

The statement above often makes me think how certain people justify, what might be classed as rude behaviour, their actions. Often I hear people saying “grow a thicker skin”, pretty much telling people to become jaded and make no emotional investment in what they are doing. After all, they are just resources. I had a small seizure during a discussion with a team of developers I was involved with.

The discussion was regarding whether or not we needed a representation of the expected ethos and behaviour of the members towards one another. The general consensus was “no, we don’t want rules in place to govern our behaviour towards one another. We are all adults (whatever that means) and should behave accordingly”. The team then took a vote and decided the memo or document or what ever you want to call it should contain a few guidelines.

The discussion went on to detail some very fine grain behaviour and no go discussion or joke topics. Being a man who likes to reduce complexity, I made the suggestion that we sum all those things up and say “Treat team members with respect, compassion and consideration”. Again, this set fire to the room and everyone spoke about how they didn’t want rules. At this point the seizure began and, although my body was there, my mind was screaming to get out of the room.

Another issue is this statement doing the rounds “it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission”. What utter hog wash! If you find it easy to say sorry, then you are not. The act of requesting forgiveness requires humiliating one’s self. To throw yourself at the mercy of the individual you are seeking forgiveness from. I find it ironic that, in South Africa, we moan and complain about government, saying they don’t care, yet we don’t look at our behaviour and condemn ourselves for the way we don’t care. I was taught from a very young age to consider the state of my house before judging another man’s house. If you say sorry, mean it.

Get on with it will you?

Anyways, moving on. Something I have recently observed is a behaviour that seems prevalent in most large companies. Some people call this behaviour “being dismissive”. I sum it up as being rude.The corporate world has rewarded those who scream the loudest and drown out the voices that might have something valuable to offer. If someone raises a point and the response to it is “yes, good point” and the conversation topic changes to something else or doesn’t even consider the comment just made, the people engaged in the conversation are being rude.

My favourite part about this behaviour is when something goes wrong, the first comment is “why didn’t anyone point that out?!”. To which someone is saying to themselves, “I did point it out”. The wheels come off, fingers start pointing and everyone runs around in a flat panic.

It is absolutely imperative that everyone on a project be heard. Do not dismiss the statements made by people perceived to be juniors. Listen to the guy who barely talks. Understand what is being said to you. To often, we let the person finish speaking, acknowledge the fact that he is done and simply forget what was said.

So if we move away from the project aspect of it all and just consider for a moment how this makes people feel. Personally I am tired of being surrounded by cut throat attitudes. Business is personal, it has to be, it involves other people! If you want to extract the best from someone, if you truly want them to excel at what they are doing, invest your time in them. If you nurture a relationship with the members of a company or team, you foster trust. Once people start trusting each other, getting things done becomes easier. Creating an environment of distrust leads to the opposite, an environment of people constantly looking over their shoulders. They spend so much time looking over their shoulders that nothing gets done.

In short – work with people like they are people, everyone wants their dignity and to be treated like they have a place in what ever is being targeted. Forget about the “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mentality. We all need to put our own selfish agendas and desires aside and look to aide our neighbours, friends, family and work colleagues. Then we can all take the masks off and live a simpler life.