A year ago today…

For those of you who have my AIM screen name, now you can understand the numbers after my main handle. As you all know, today is 4/23. One year ago today, I joined this company as a full-time developer. I wasn’t going to be doing technical support, desktop support, database administration, or system administration. It was a much needed jump from a stagnant position of keeping things running to a position where I make things happen and if I can throw in some creativity along the way, even better.

A year ago today, I started using C#. I jumped from a VBA/VB6/VB.NET background right into C#. As much as I hated languages with curly braces, I knew that I had to deal with the fact that things were leaning more that direction than VB.NET. It was the way I had to go, and I had to accept the language – curly braces and all.

My first C# program involved getting data set up from individual web pages into a file that I could import into SQL. When I was evaluating my project, I saw a pattern in the files, so I knew that regular expressions had to come into play. Leave it to me to avoid simple “Hello World” programs and just jump into a language head first. Then again, learning new languages like that is part of my comfort zone. Pseudocode doesn’t change; it’s the syntax that differs.

This first year back into full-time development went by quickly. When I realized the date this morning, I could hardly believe that it’s been a year already. So much has transpired over the year…

  • For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you probably have it down that most Mondays and Fridays involve lunch with my programmers crew. Two guys here have been doing lunch together like that for the past few years. When I came on board, it was those two guys plus the programming intern. I remember walking to my car for lunch and they invited me to go with them. I figured it’d give me a chance to meet these guys and see what things were about, and I’m glad I took that opportunity to join them. As our team has grown and changed, we’ve added more people to our lunch crew, and it’s nice to just chat about whatever – from the projects we’re working on to what’s going on in our lives outside of work. We met each other’s spouses at the company holiday party, and every few months, we’re trying to plan an event to get our families together and just hang out. It’s nice to be a part of a group that gets along so well inside and outside of work. Although we don’t tend to have projects together, we still bounce technical questions off of each other when we need help. We’re a solid team, which makes me even more excited about being a part of it.
  • My main project here forced me to learn a lot of new skills and concepts, on top of a language change. It was a little rough for me to adjust to a slower turnaround time on projects, but there were a lot of contributing factors there. Having a project without a functional spec and being focused on the entire project rather than maintaining a focus on the small scope that was initially proposed caused my project to grow to what it is today. Granted, it’s allowed me to automate a lot more, but at the same time, what may have taken a few months after the learning curve took a lot longer than expected. I’ve finally grown comfortable enough with the language that I’m falling back into my efficient mode, where results are seen in a much quicker turnaround time. Working without deadlines also had me nervous, as I didn’t know what the company expected from me. I’ve learned a lesson with working without deadlines – even if they don’t set them, make sure to prod them for details anyhow. There’s always a deadline; sometimes, it’s unspoken and then they get unhappy when it’s unmet even if you didn’t know about it. Some things were said that really struck a nerve with me, but I quickly realized that it was a horrible situation of miscommunication and lack of communication. Now, I prod more, and they’re getting better about saying “We want to see this by end of business on this date.”
  • Working on the public-facing side of things has forced another thought process to enter my software development thought processes. I now have to be even more aware of foiling SQL injection attacks, trapping errors, and developing for a wider audience. Although I can get away with a lot in my internal apps, there are some corners that can’t be cut and some tricks that can’t be applied on the public site. I’m gaining a greater respect for my tools and a greater hate for browsers when it comes to implementing these supposed “standards”.
  • Thanks to my buddy Russ (one of the guys of the programmers crew), I’m more involved in the developer community. He mentioned the Bennett Adelson SIG (one of two .NET SIGs in the Cleveland area) and invited me to check it out. I started going to those in May 2007, and I’ve met a lot of people and made new friends along the way. Going to the SIG meetings has led me to help form the Cleveland Day of .NET planning committee, which has led me to going to the Greater Cleveland PC Users Group C#/VB.NET SIG (the other .NET SIG in the Cleveland area). There are so many opportunities and adventures that lie ahead, and if Russ hadn’t mentioned the SIG to me, I wouldn’t have met the incredible people who’ve helped me to get where I am today.

Now that I’ve hit my 1 year mark, I probably should do some introspection, as Brian H. Prince suggested in his “Soft Skillz” talk this weekend. Where do I want to be career-wise in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? Typically, I try to stick with just looking a year or two ahead, but after hearing his talk, it does make sense to look a bit further.

So much has happened over the past year here, and I look forward to seeing where things will lead.

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