Developer Tea

Practical Tips for Minding the Details

Episode Summary

It's December and a lot of folks are thinking about the gifts they plan to purchase or make for loved ones. In today's episode, we're going to talk about how we can take advantage of our appreciation for details and practical ways to come back to the details we put into our personal lives and as a developer.

Episode Notes

It's December and a lot of folks are thinking about the gifts they plan to purchase or make for loved ones. In today's episode, we're going to talk about how we can take advantage of our appreciation for details and practical ways to come back to the details we put into our personal lives and as a developer.

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Episode Transcription

I have a very simple challenge for you in today's episode, and you know that simple does not necessarily mean easy, but the challenge is relatively simple, although it's going to look different for each person, depending on your context. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developers' e-mail on the show, so driven developers like you connect to your career purpose and do better work. So you're going to be positive and influenced on the people around you. It's December and that means for a lot of people that you are buying gifts. No, this is not an episode with advice on how to buy gifts, although there is one aspect of buying gifts that overlaps with what we're talking about in today's episode, and that is details. Of course, that pay attention to the details are often described as thoughtful, and it shows that the person that is giving that gift put time and effort into that process. That's about all of the gift giving advice that I can give you, but we're also going to talk about minding the details in your job or in your work, in your development work. How can you take advantage of our appreciation for details? And what are some practical, straightforward ways that we can be more detail oriented? We're going to talk about all of that on the show, but first I want to talk for a moment about why details matter and how you can kind of prime your way of thinking on this subject today. And like all of the other challenges on Developer Tea, you know, you don't have to always keep everything perfectly in mind. Certainly, there are, you know, well over 600 episodes of the show, and on every episode, there's some kind of piece of advice that you can pull out. And there's no way that you're going to be able to, you know, practice these things every single day. I certainly don't, as a developer, as a conscious developer, that I hope that I am, there's no way that I'm going to keep in mind all 600 good habits that we've talked about so far and counting. So instead of trying to, you know, accomplish it all, instead of always holding on to these good habits, I encourage you to focus on cultivating good habits one at a time, cultivating these perspectives one at a time. So for today, I want you to focus on this idea, meditate on the idea that details matter. Now if details matter, then they need to matter to someone or something, and understanding who or what those details matter to is kind of this first step in understanding how to mind the details better. So a list of some obvious ones, your coworkers, the people who are working alongside you, collaborating with you. These are the people that the details matter, perhaps the most to because your work directly impacts their work. And in most cases, you can mind the details with respect to your coworkers, your collaborators in a way that benefits all parties involved. Another obvious person or people, a group of people who the details matter to is the customers, the people who actually use the thing that you're building, the end product consumer, your client. It is that ultimately receives the product that you are creating. Those people care very much about the details as well. Of course, another example of someone who would care about the details of your work is your manager. Your manager is going to care about the details of your work. If you're a new developer, then these roles shift a little bit. If you're looking for a job, these roles shift a little bit. Perhaps this list includes your hiring manager or a recruiter. And the way that you mind the details with each of these roles might be slightly different. Each of these people, each of these roles has different incentives and even individuals within these roles may have different incentives from each other. But reflecting on the purpose of this show, having a positive influence on the people around you, it starts with understanding through the lens of empathy, what those people experience. And when you mind the details on behalf of the people that you work with around and for, the guiding tool, the compass, is that empathy. Understanding what their pains are, understanding the things that they appreciate, the things they like, their incentives and the hurdles that they're facing to achieve those things. We're going to take a quick break and talk about today's sponsor and then we're going to come back and talk about some practical ways that you can mind the details as a developer. Today's episode is sponsored by Manifold, managed cloud services, saved Developer Time and effort. You know, it wouldn't really make sense for you to build your own logging platform, for example, or your own CMS or roll your own authentication protocol. You can save yourself a ton of time and effort when you use something that is already built. So the problem isn't making a decision about writing your own authentication tool, but instead, which one should you use? Creating the right services to integrate and stitching them together. And then beyond that, managing access and the credentials between multiple projects and teams, managing these details alone is basically a full-time job. Manifold comes in to make your life easier by providing a single workflow to organize your services, connect your integrations, and share them with your team. Discover these best services for your projects in the Manifold marketplace or bring your own custom integrations and manage them all in a single dashboard. With services covering authentication, messaging, monitoring, content management, and more, Manifold will keep you on the cutting edge so you can focus on building your project, rather than focusing on problems that have already been solved. Once you've decided on the services you need, you can deliver your configuration to any environment and deploy on any cloud. Now, while Manifold is completely free to use, that's a huge selling point right there for me. If you head over to slash DevT, you're going to get a coupon code for $10, which you can use to try out any service on the Manifold marketplace. Head over to slash DevT, that's DEV, TEA, to get started today. Thank you again to Manifold for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. In today's episode, we're talking about minding the details and the different roles of people who care about the details in the work that you do. I didn't address it earlier. I have a little bit of a head cold, so I apologize for the slightly different sounding audio in today's episode. But I want to jump in right now to some practical ways that you can mind the details. And these are going to be some very simple tips for various parts of your work, ways that you can kind of be a little bit more detail oriented, depending on the stage of career that you're in. So, I want to start with the developer who's looking for a job, because this is perhaps one of the most important times that details matter, not only to your future employer, but to you, because the details can be what makes or breaks your employment opportunity. The truth is that hiring is a very difficult process. When you receive a handful of candidates or 100 candidates, it's difficult to determine which of those candidates should rise to that short list. If everything else is equal, the candidate that pays attention to the details is more likely to make that list than the one who doesn't. So how can you mind the details as a candidate looking for a job? I'm going to go straight through this list of suggestions. Number one, at all points of contact, pay attention to things like grammar, spelling, and other areas of presentation. If you take a phone call with that potential employer, find a quiet space to do that in. If you do, for example, an on-site visit, or even if you just do an initial phone call, always follow up with an email detailing a summary in your own words of what happened during that meeting. This is your opportunity to show that your comprehension of these interactions is very high, and that when you interact with employees in the future in a collaboration mode, that you would be able to retain information after that meeting. This kind of follow-up also signals a sense of professionalism and care for the results of whatever that meeting was. Please ask for follow-up information or next steps in case you miss something in your summary. Go out of your way to thank people who have helped you along the way. Whether that's as simple as sending a thank you email to someone who coordinated your on-site visit or sending a holiday postcard to the office where you did that kind of visit, or anything that you can do to show that you care and that you care at a personal level about the people that you interact with. This can go a very long way. All right, let's shift gears into the working developer, a developer who's writing code on a day-to-day basis, and that is the majority of your job. How can you mind the details? Well, a very simple example is the remote developer. Remote developers are largely interacted with over something like Skype. A very simple way to mind the details is to take a moment and figure out how your Skype connection looks. This is similar to taking a look in the mirror before you go into the office in a traditional setting. If all that people see of you is through that Skype call, then taking a moment to refine how that Skype call goes is worth your time. So an example of how you may do this, find someone either in your company or a friend or a family member and do a Skype call with them. Ask them how you sound. Tell them to be as critical as they can in ways that you can improve the quality of the Skype call. This may take five or ten minutes, but it could provide a lasting benefit, especially when you have meetings that are of critical importance to your job. During these Skype meetings or remote meetings, I encourage you to do things like mute yourself when you're not one talking. This helps the audio be significantly more clear for the other members on the phone call, and it avoids any kind of background noise distraction that may be occurring on your end of the call. Another thing that you could do in a remote call scenario to mind the details is make sure that your camera is always on and that you're not distracted. You're attentive. You're looking at the camera. One thing that I do on my remote meetings, I move the screen. The window where the other person's camera is up towards the top where my camera is located. A simple problem that often happens on these remote calls is that people look like they're distracted even if they're not. Part of the reason for this is because the camera is often located in a different place than the display of the other end's camera. So imagine having an external screen, for example, where you drag the call over to that external screen, but your original screen is the one that has the camera on it. Well, it looks like you're looking away from the meeting, but in fact, you may be staring right at the other person. So it's very important that you mind these details because all of these kinds of communication points, they matter. For developers, both remote and non-remote, whenever you are meeting with another person, eliminate distractions as much as possible. In person, this may often mean closing your laptop, unless you're both looking at, for example, code on a single laptop together. A very simple way to mind the details as a developer is to name your branches, assuming you're using something like Git, name your branches descriptively, and when you make a commit message, use the long form version. If you're not familiar with this, and this is a very rare moment on developer to you, where I give you actual code, but instead of attaching the message when you run the Git commit command, simply run Git commit without attaching a message. This opens up your editor of choice, and you can add your both short form and long form commit messages. The long form commit messages are your chance to explain what's going on in this code. This is one thing that I've seen in common with almost every great developer. Long form commit messages attached to the shorter form kind of summary commit messages. For senior developers and for engineering managers, mining the details is often about consistency, making sure you're on time to one-on-ones, for example. Mining the time to provide useful feedback in poor requests. Taking an extra moment to re-familiarize yourself with the junior developer that you're getting ready to have a one-on-one with, understanding their hobbies, for example, and knowing about their personal lives. Priming yourself and remembering those things, reminding yourself, even if you have to do it through some kind of note-taking system, doing that before you have a meeting with that person. Really, that's a good advice for every developer at every stage, understanding people, at a core level. Their likes and their dislikes, the things that they care about, the things that motivate them, simply being aware of those things. The stark contrast of this is not knowing someone's name, not paying attention at all to their personal life, or not even knowing how long they've been working with this company or on this particular project. This list could go on to be quite long, and of course, we can't cover every single practical way of mining the details. For example, we didn't even touch on how to mine the details when it comes to your customers, and that list is incredibly long. Hopefully, this has been inspiring enough that you can go and find out your own ways of mining the details in your day-to-day work, and especially accepting that challenge today. Find a way to spend, I'll even say, five extra minutes to mine the details with interactions that you have with your coworkers, or your clients, or your customers throughout your work today. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode, and thank you again to Manafold for sponsoring today's episode. You can get your $10 worth of credit by heading over to slash devt. That's slash devt. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode, and you would like to be challenged further as a developer, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're listening to this episode with right now. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.