Archive for September, 2007

Sources of Software Development learning (About Me)

I’ve been steadily increasing my knowledge of SD during my career, but just now I found yet another way to squeeze in some more learning.

So I thought I’d share how I’ve been learning earlier and how I’m acquiring new knowledge these days.

The early years

During my college years I was laying the newly discovered internet at my feet. I had a huge interest for the hardware part of computers, and was an avid reader of Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech. This of course wasn’t a drawback as I worked part-time in a local pc hardware shop as technician and seller. So via classical web pages I was ploughing the local hardware fields. I also had a subscription to the Norwegian version of PC World magazine at the time.

As I turned my interest towards programming, we where introduced to the first beta of Visual Studio .NET in one of our college courses and I was hooked. Again I turned to the web for more, and I picked up the occasional Dr. Dobbs Journal.

At the time I also discovered Amazon, where I could find great books on .NET and ASP.NET in particular which I was in love it. I bought Alex Homers first ASP.NET (Wrox) book early on, I even submitted a “bug” in the book and I think it still there on its errata. It seems that Wrox denies the books existence, as they doesn’t have it on their web pages. I guess it was replaced by the Professional ASP.NET 1.0 book from 2002. Anyway, here’s a link to the original BETA book!

Fresh professional

The first flirt with IEEE was during my master thesis, and for quite some time after graduation, I had “forgotten” all about it. We had full access to the vast library from IEEE at the University, I remember I had no idea so much had been written about my specific field of interest, and was amazed at the time.

During my first year as professional I had little or no time to further educate myself except the occasional web-browsing you do during death marches. So my main source of mental income where of course from my colleagues.

Making the leap

I hadn’t been developing professionally for long, before I was promoted way past my level of incompetence. I was suddenly the company’s developer manager and I was terrified at first. So to compensate for my incompetence, I scouted the web again for useful information on how to succeed. At least I had the clear sight to see my shortcomings, and make up for it after the fact, which of course is useful at any given time.

I turned to Amazon again, searching for management books in general, software development management books, etc., you name it. A couple of colleagues had heard about Scrum, so I tossed a couple of books about that into my shopping cart. In my search I also found other books, in particular from Steve McConnell which had gotten great reviews. From there it was just the snowball effect, Amazon makes a great salesperson with all its semantics on its books. I ended up with 10 books, and that Christmas I didn’t do much but read!

So with my hard-earned death march experience, possibly natural management talent, a fresh literature study, and a big pile of beginners luck, my management career was of to a flying start.

My brief encounter with IEEE was at this point also coming back to me, and I applied for a personal membership that same Christmas, and we’ve had an ongoing romance since.

It wasn’t long either, before I found specific websites where I could find useful development management information, tips & tricks, and so forth. Joel on Software was one of the first sites I found, and it was a lucky strike.

Doing more managerial tasks, my interest was turned in that direction. I continued to add books to my collection from great people like DeMarco, Lister, Brooks and Yourdon. My technical reading was not up to speed as I had great confidence in my subordinates doing that for me. I still had to code some, but I was more an organizer, scheduler, project manager and so on at the time.

Time of change

Commuting for a 2+ hours a day can make your day pretty short. And it certainly didn’t get any longer when my second son was born. So I was tempted by an offer from a company closer to where I live. I left the firm I was part of building up, and started fresh in Norway’s largest consultant company in engineering disciplines.

Gone was my manager title, and I was back into the world of {} and ;’s at full throttle. And I went off into the web to get up to speed on the technical side of things.

I browsed the usual suspects (Amazon) and found new books to silence my hunger. The theme of books this time was architecture, design, and construction. I should really mention Martin Fowler, which I got a couple of books from. I was tossed into ASP.NET 2.0 and AJAX development project, so I figured I needed some reference work on that as well.

The present

After just a couple of weeks into my new position, I had turned to a several technically oriented web pages which all had the form of a blog. As I followed even more links from those pages, I figured out the beauty of RSS feeds. It wasn’t all unfamiliar, but now I grokked it and started subscribing to feeds through SharpReader.

I was thrilled, much like when I first saw the IEEE library. There were lots of bloggers out there with great things to say about nearly everything I potentially could be interested in. Here I could really see what the innovators and early adopters where doing in our community. So blogs are definitively a great place for information.

My latest addition in my toolbox of learning is podcasts. I still do some commuting, and what better way to fill that time than listening to interesting people talking about interesting subjects? Well, I’m hooked.

And to sum it up

The most important thing here is to never stop learning. Continuous Learning. That should really be the motto. So, to facilitate that today I use these primary sources:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Professional societies
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts

In a later blog I’ll get more in detail on the specifics in those bullets. Until then; happy learning!

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