Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Emerging from hiding

I've hinted at least once, recently, that when I'm eventually allowed to return to Phoenix I go into hiding. No email, won't answer the phone to any unknown number and certainly won't answer it if it's the office calling. I reckon that if I've just done a 3 week stint in The Philippines or a 2 week stint in France or a week in Dallas I'm entitled to a couple of days with the family before I return to the office. Your opinion might vary, as is your right.

I got back Wednesday night last week and spent the following four days studiously avoiding the office. I lied a bit about the no email bit; I read em but I don't respond, to the extent of not sending read acknowledgements if requested. If they don't like it we can find room to renegotiate the terms of my employment. On the other hand, it is good to walk into the office on the first day forewarned...

So today, Monday, I fronted up at the office. A strange day. Quite probably I flatter myself but, amongst my fellow employees who are not in management I think I'm reasonably well thought of. You can't spend a third of a century in the workforce without learning some social skills. Thus it was that Hector seemed quite happy at the sight of my ugly mug. Likewise Steve. Heck, even Shelly-the-anyone-who's-not-an-American-is-suspect-Republican gave me a welcome back! I was saddened to hear that Mario has resigned; he was my drinking buddy in France; how will I drink without him? The same way I did before; raise the glass to my lips and swallow :-)

There were also 5 or 6 unfamiliar faces. Introductions throughout the day. So and so is now our manufacturing supervisor. That guy is in charge of Q&A. That older dude (older in the sense that he's even older than I am :-) ) is in charge of hardware engineering. That woman is one of our new hardware engineers. And so on and so forth.

They even went so far as to consult the traveller (me) on what steps we needed to take, and what testing resources we needed, to ensure that what we deliver in future actually works. This is a big step forward. Not an easy one; already I can feel the economics closing in because I suggested that the single most important thing we could do is to have someone other than those of us who write the software do the testing.

They think it's because we don't want to do the testing. I have news for them. With the best will in the world we who write the software can only test it so far. We know too much and too little. Too much about those codepaths we paid too little attention to, and too little about all the strange, crazy things our customer will do that we already know not to try. If you look at any successful software company (Microsoft springs to mind) you find that they have development and they have testing. Both have equal value. Of what use is development if the product doesn't do what they say it does?

Today I heard a lot of talk about 'doing things right'. I heard it from new faces who don't have a negative track record for me. Let's hope this time we'll 'do things right'.

I felt it was necessary to say to the guy who is going to drive the stuff that will affect my job most that 'you'll find this little black duck won't throw up roadblocks'. So I've committed to supporting the new initiative. Now let's see them do the same!

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