A Survey on Consumer Type

My friend Randy was asked to take the VALS Survey recently, and after reading his results, I was intrigued.  It appears to be a great way of gaining a better understanding of your consumers. their motivation, and how they consume goods and services.

Looking on their site, it’s a short survey, so I checked it out.

My results are:

  • Primary Type: Innovators – dominant approach to life
  • Secondary Type: Achievers – a particular emphasis on the dominant approach

The (Unnecessary) Education Requirement in Software Development

Last weekend, I was at a gathering with a bunch of my friends when the topic of needing a degree came up.  This topic is one that really gets me thinking.

For the record, I do have a degree in a computer-related topic and happen to be the odd one in my group of friends.  I have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science & Engineering Technology from the University of Toledo.

Do you need a degree in a computer-related topic to be a successful software developer?

Honestly, no.  Some of my great developer friends have different backgrounds.  There are those with theater, music, or other arts degrees.  Some have science degrees – chemistry, biology… those kinds of sciences.  Some have degrees along the lines of journalism, English, or psychology.  And yes, some have non-computer engineering degrees – such as chemical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Each of these degrees, while not computer-focused, have different elements of their expertises that in reality could be applied to computer-related stuff, even if we never pictured it.  With a psychology background, you may be able to understand your end users a bit better and use that to develop better user experiences.  With the engineering degrees, there’s the engineering element of taking things apart and putting them back together – writing a program is pretty much taking a broken problem a part and putting it back together.  With journalism or English backgrounds, you may find those handy when writing documentation and error messages.

Do you really need a degree to be a successful software developer?

In my opinion, I don’t believe you need to have a degree – or even certifications – to be a successful software developer.  I know many high school students who are mentored by people in the industry who can write code much better than some college-educated folks.  College degrees and certifications – to me – show that you can set a goal of completing a program and actually earning that piece of paper.  Unfortunately, many employers are looking for degrees and certifications because they see value in them.  However, the smart employers know that if a candidate shows great potential for success – be it through code challenges, discussions of a person’s side jobs, or even someone’s hobby – then their education background really doesn’t make a difference.

So what do you think it takes to be a successful software developer?

If you treat your software development job/side job/hobby as a craft,  that’s a great sign that you’re on the road to success.  Accepting that you aren’t the only developer out there trying to be successful and learning from other developers who’ve achieved the success you’re looking for are great steps as well.  To me, one of the key things you should have in order to be a successful software developer is an understanding not just of the front end, back end, or middle tier but the big picture – if you can explain the front end and why the user experience is the way it is as well as understand how it talks to the back end via a middle tier, then you’re doing something right.

What do you suggest employers look for then if not for a degree in a computer related topic?

The things I tell my manager friends to keep an eye out for include:

  • Past jobs experience
  • Hobby or side jobs experience
  • Code samples
  • Portfolio of work/well done resume

If you see something in those and are still uncertain of the candidate’s software development skills’ levels, then try a code challenge and have potential teammates or managers review the code challenge.

My call to employers is this – understand that while someone has a piece of paper saying they’re good working with a technology, it doesn’t mean that the other candidate without that piece of paper is any less of a candidate.

Interviews Should Not Invade Privacy

While catching up on news yesterday, I saw this article: Job Seekers’ Facebook Passwords Asked For During U.S. Interviews.  This stinks of a lack of trust in employees and cannot lead to a healthy relationship.

Lack of Trust on the Employer’s Side

Having worked for a company where they were leery of some of their employees being active in social networks, I can tell you firsthand that even if you were to comply with the interview and got hired on, you’d have a lot of trust issues throughout your time there.  For me, even though I wasn’t dealing with social networking stuff on the clock, I still felt like my employer had their own agenda by asking me to avoid social networks.  (And to this day, I am very thankful for a dear friend of mine who stayed persistent and talked me out of the insanity of it all.)

“Research”ing Candidates

I can understand companies trying to “research” potential candidates by looking at their Facebook profiles.  I’ll admit that, as an interviewer, I’ve “researched” potential candidates by looking up their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles.  But at the same time, if they’re hard to find or locked down due to privacy, I wouldn’t even consider asking someone for their credentials – that’s truly an invasion of privacy.  Typically, you need a court order to get some of that information!

The other thing I noticed in the article is that the interviewer was looking up his Facebook profile during the interview.  That is not the appropriate time to do research on the candidates.  You would normally want to go into the interview with the data ahead of time. As a common motto goes – “Be prepared.”

The way I see it, it’s one thing for interviewers to do their own independent research.  It’s something different for HR to seek approval from candidates for background checks.  Did you see what I said?  “seek approval” – as in formal background checks need to be approved.  Don’t expect to get a person’s credentials to a private account.  Do the research the right way without making this an invasive process.

“Friend”ing HR People

Another practice they mention in the article is that companies will ask employees to “friend” their HR people.  Again, this is a company’s way of invading/trying to control an employee’s personal life.  Unless the person is in a position to manage the company’s social media – and in which case they should have separate accounts for that – there’s really no reason why a company should have this directive in place.    This is another sign of a company not trusting their employees.

But… I’m an Employer! It’s My Right!

Sorry, employers.  As a fellow business owner, I understand how you want to protect your business’s reputation out there.  But at the same time, you’ve got to trust your employees to do their jobs and let them have a life outside of your company.  It’s part of why you hire them – you see the candidate as capable of doing the job and trust that they’ll do the right thing.  And if you’ve been burned by employees too many times, then you need to revisit your candidate screening process so that you don’t keep getting burned.

If You’re Interviewing with a Company…

Keep in mind that you need to look out for yourself.  If employers are trying to invade your privacy in the interview process, can you imagine what they’d do to their own employees?  Is that really an environment you want to work in?  I understand that the market out there can be rough, but at what point is it okay to prostitute your privacy?

Playing the Trello…

While I’m very musically inclined, Trello is not related to a trumpet combined with a cello, despite what its name suggests.

One of my clients started using this tool to help track features on our current project and steps we need to take for those features. While using it for this client, I’ve found multiple uses for it, so I figured I may as well blog about the handy online tool known as Trello.

What I Like About Trello

What’s nice about using Trello to track things like this is that you can assign points to cards and use browser plugins – such as Trello Scrum for Google Chrome – to help get lane totals, which are helpful if you need to calculate velocity or other metrics.

Cards on the board can have all sorts of features, including:

  • Labels – used however you may want to use them. Be it using labels to identify larger features, priorities, risk levels, or some other piece of data. Cards can have multiple labels.
  • Assignments – used to see who’s assigned to work on the card. Multiple people can be assigned to a card.
  • Checklists – used for lists related to the card. Great for keeping track of steps and resources to complete a card.
  • Attachments – good for attaching files related to the card. This is good especially if, for example, you have a gherkin file associated with the feature.
  • Vote – good if you have a team of people looking at features and wanting to vote on which features get in a release, for example.

Trello is also a project that is continuously maintained. Not only do they continue to work on Trello, but they use Trello to manage Trello development – check out the Trello Development board.

How I Use Trello – For Business

In addition to using Trello to track the various features and who’s working on each of them for our project with one of my clients, I’ve also decided to use it for my business overall. My Trello boards for my business – Cleveland Tech Consulting, LLC – help me to get a better view of the picture overall. I have a board that I call “Business Pipeline”. This is where I keep track of my various contracts with my clients, as well as potential job leads. I have another board that I use to keep track of some of the apps that I’d like to work on if I had more time. This helps me to at least get my ideas down somewhere where I can revisit them.

On my “Business Pipeline” board, I have 4 columns:

  • To Do – tasks I need to do, people to follow up with
  • Scheduled – things I’ve scheduled to get taken care of
  • In Progress – what I’m currently working on
  • Done
  • On Hold – tasks waiting on another person or waiting for me to have more time to address

On my apps idea board, I use the default 3 columns:

  • To Do
  • Doing
  • Done

Overall, these boards help me see the big picture of the flow of my business.

How I Use Trello – For Personal Projects

This whole “creating cards, putting them in columns, using checklists” mentality is the story of my life. I tend to break big projects into smaller ones to make them more manageable. I make lists of how to accomplish tasks, to help keep me on task. So using Trello on personal projects just made sense to me. Add to it that I have a very big… project… in my personal life that I really couldn’t see a big picture of… and Trello to the rescue! {cue superhero music}

So my very big “project” in my personal life is preparing for the arrival of my son, who is due April 4th. My husband and I are going to become parents for the first time, and we’ve got a lot of tasks to tackle before Logan’s arrival. I didn’t realize just how much we had to do, but creating a “Baby Planning” board on Trello has helped both of us realize that there’s a lot to do. Here’s what one of our cards looks like:

Paint Colors Card in Trello

Whether we need to register for something, purchase something, or preparing something in the house, it’s all getting added to the Trello board. So far, we’ve found this helpful – be it tracking pediatrician recommendations, writing down specific color information for the nursery, or even storing links of nurseries that I like for inspiration.

Conclusion

I’ve found Trello to work well for what I need. I like a simple way of organizing my features and tasks, be it software development/architecture or otherwise. Trello is my choice, and I’d recommend others to try it out and see if it may meet your needs as well.