By November 6, 2006

I have grown up.

I’m not a big fan about talking about work on blogs; in fact I think this is the first time I’ve written about something actually work-related here. But I had an Old Me versus New Me moment today, and I’m rather proud of the outcome.

The demarcation between Web designers, Web developers, and business logic engineers is blurry sometimes, but I always had one rule: respect the other teams’ work. That meant that I didn’t fuck with the designer’s layout unless I had their permission. I didn’t fuck with the engineer’s business logic code without asking — especially if I didn’t know what their code was doing. The system is simple, and works best for everyone.

Old Me was a cranky fucker. If someone screwed with the system, I beat their ass. If an engineer mucked around with the front end code and broke something, I ran it up the flagpole as high as I could. I would be particularly irate if they fucked up some javascript, since we don’t have the benefit of a fancy-pants debugger like the Java and .Net blokes do. We were less likely to get peed on by a designer, but sometimes a UI person with one Dreamweaver course under their belt would go in “just to make a little fix.” No. I don’t open up Photoshop to “make a little adjustment to your color palette,” so don’t mess with our code. Especially the Java engineer’s code.

New Me is the result of being in this business for over a decade, dealing with Old Me and asshats breaking the system. I think I’m too tired to bust peoples’ chops as much as I used to, and I’ve mellowed with age. More importantly, I’ve been doing management work for awhile and I’ve realized that what you say in one email today can destroy you two years from now. As a result, I’ve learned to restrain my bat-wielding ape fighter self for at least one email.

It has become a simple rule, just like the simple system of not fucking below or above you in the development process. Wait one email, or one phone call, or one IM. Today, this simple rule saved me a lot of embarrassment and built a lot of goodwill.

After that long wind up, here’s the situation. I’m working on a Web-based application with some Java engineers. We no longer have a design team, a point that I have made several times to our manager. I’ve done some rough work on the UI, but someone who has made their career building user interfaces needs to take a look at what we’ve done. But we’re in a rush to get this out to our customer, and as such we’re going with what we have. Business is business, and nothing is perfect, after all. I accept this.

Until today, when I got a request from one of the Java engineers asking if I can fix the UI for the project. His email was nicely worded, and he was right, the UI needed help. He sent me a screenshot of the system from his local machine. It looked cramped to hell. I was a little embarrassed about the way the application looked until I noticed that the part in question didn’t look the same as the wireframe I sent over earlier in the process. The UI was missing some of the headers and other visual cues. The spacing was tighter than on my wireframe, and some of the styles had been dropped. The application was also missing a dropdown menu.

Old Me grabbed the truncheon. The engineer broke the system. He changed my code. I typed out an email about how if I was going to be saddled with designing the UI I wasn’t going to be responsible for problems generated by him fucking with my code. I also wanted to know if he or anyone else decided to remove functionality or otherwise change the design of the interface. Since the engineer copied our manager and a senior developer, I thought it was appropriate to lambaste him in front of those folks as well.

Then the simple rule took effect. I stood up, took a piss, came back, and erased all of that stuff. Maybe he made a mistake. Maybe there was an implementation problem, or he was doing work in progress and didn’t understand that everything needed to be completed. Who knows. Plus, my original wireframe still needed some more padding. New Me re-wrote everything under the auspices of the simple rule, and asked to know why the functionality and styling had been changed.

The engineer wrote back and noted there was a conflict with the code he checked in and the senior engineer’s code. Now granted, that’s a fuckup on a whole ‘nother level (why did he just discard a whole bunch of her code?), but that’s not my right to complain about. Everything was resolved in a friendly manner, and I won’t have to worry about this guy stabbing me in the back a year from now when it’s my turn to make a stupid mistake. New Me was right.

It felt good to do the right thing, and nice to know I’ve learned something after all of these years.

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1 Comment on "I have grown up."

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  1. Bond says:

    I have two things to say about this entry, which I quite enjoyed btw.

    1. “Old Me was a cranky fucker.” -I met this person at my first major job in web development. I can say from experience that in certain places and with particular people, this type of “cranky fucker” is needed. I think you’ve changed, but so have the circumstances.

    2. After running a business for a few years, I’ve found that honey attracts more bees, even if I have to wait a while for them to come. By handling a situation as you did above, I’ve been
    repaid later, in full and when balance was most needed.

    Growing is neat, in a weird way :), for now, I’m just hoping puberty will finally stick. (to me).