Developer archetypes

During my career, I’ve encountered numerous and very diverse professionals, which is one of the best perks of teamworking: you have to try really hard to not learn something from the experience, because learning how NO to do things is even more important than learning the best way. Reacting differently is always a factor that will empower the team as it’ll allow a wider expertise. But, obviously, there are some behaviours which help to build teams, while others make it challenging.

As most of my working hours are between developers (right now I’m the only QA for 15 programmers), I want to focus today on describing the different developer archetypes regarding Quality I’ve found, as well as sharing some tricks I’ve learnt dealing with them. Let’s start!

The “testing is not needed” one, which have two branches: “I’ve never seen proper testing, so I don’t see value in it yet”, typically found on junior profiles or professionals coming from experiences where no one cared about good practices; and the “My code doesn’t need to be tested” which can be even found on really senior profiles. For me, the wisest tip is focusing on them as few as possible.

When they start seeing the results from the others and realising that they’re getting behind, that they’re less shining, is the time to offer yourself to help them as much as needed. Your job is to make their work look awesome, don’t forget the commitments!

The “I don’t have time for testing” one, typical from junior profiles as well. They know that writing automated tests is valuable because… Well, probably because they’ve read that somewhere, and they know people expect it from them. Most of the cases they think there’s no time because they don’t know how you make them, so it’s a daunting task. The best that you can do is showing how easy is to get value from the tests. Handle them a framework with an example, pair during their first implementation and support them at the beginning.

If you see they become needy (what happens way less than I thought), gradually stop giving them that much support, coming from time to time to ensure they don’t get stuck. I’ve found that sometimes spending time explaining how this new skill is needed is they want to step up their career at some point towards “one of the big names” is really helpful.

The “I’m too biased to test” one, especially when you start talking about approaches like Quality Assistance and making them autonomous sharing the testing responsibility. They’ve heard that a developer can’t test, he’s biased, and that’s the perfect excuse to not even try it. The most successful way I’ve found to deal with this is focusing on the keener to test team members, sit with them and teach some tricks and examples. They love solving puzzles, and breaking systems!

When those colleagues are motivated enough, convince them to pair with the “biased” developers so they can test the new features together. Seeing a peer testing their code will show them that it’s possible to do it, and realising that when they review the dev on test feature finding way fewer bugs… Well, data is more convincing than words. And shame, more convincing than anything.

The “So, how can I test…?” one. This is the dream. These developers know what testing achieve, they understand that delivering a solution doesn’t mean anything unless it’s a quality one, they see value in the automated tests and prefer being the ones finding their shit. After seeing them work, and enjoying the results of their effort (fewer errors on their developments); they get your trust and you can focus the efforts on the rest of the Archetypes.

That doesn’t mean all the work is done. We assume most companies aim to have these developers, and sometimes you’ll be blessed with loads of them in your project. Now you can start working on what they’ve hired you to do. You discuss with them to build more testable products, review their work, build additional tools, assist them on the hard-to-test features, and experiment with new approaches. This is the dream. And that’s why I’m spending all my effort right now to convince as many developers as possible.

I don’t want to finish without naming one of my favourite archetypes: the “then, what are we paying you for?”. At the beginning, I wanted to answer them in a similar way but… wasting energy won’t take you anywhere. That’s why I keep it simple now. “My job is to review you until you become autonomous. Then, they can make me redundant or I can start focusing on the interesting stuff: doing whatever it takes to increase the Quality of your deliverables”.

Have you encountered different developer types?

May the force be with you,

Gino

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