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Quick Tip for Building a Culture of Respect

"My Favorite Parisian Waiter" by  Christina CampisiDear Reader,

Since my last post, “It’s all about culture”, I’ve been asked several times “What does ‘build a culture of respect’ mean?” I realised that the post, while well meaning, was incomplete. It told you why you should build a culture of respect, but it did not give you any advice on how to build one.

I’ve blogged about some of my ideas on team building in “Nerd Herding”. Start by reading that and take from it what you will.

The tough truth is that there is no easy answer. Building a culture of respect means that when you get up every morning you start thinking of ways to improve the lives of your developers.

Here is a simple idea to get you started

Make a pot of coffee. Now walk around to each developer asking if you can refill their coffee. (Don’t forget the cream and sugar)

Do not say “Wonderful idea! I’ll have my assistant to that every day”. If you do, you are missing the point. The point is not to make sure developers are working in a caffeine fueled fog. The point is to show your developers that you respect what they are doing so much that you will sacrifice some of your time to make sure they are taken care of.

Don’t do it once, do it every day. Do it with a smile. If appropriate, take the time to chat with each developer about their life, kids, SO, hobbies. Don’t just pretend to be interested in them, BE INTERESTED IN THEM.

Depending on the size of your team, this exercise could take 10 minutes or it could take an hour. Regardless of how long it takes you, do it. Do it today, do it tomorrow, do it every day next week, do it for the rest of the month. Do it every day until you understand why this is important.

At that point – that moment when you begin to understand why small and seemingly insignificant actions like a manager bringing someone a cup of coffee are important – you will understand “Culture of Respect”. Your team will never be the same again.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Photo credit: “My Favorite Parisian Waiter” by Christina Campisi

Box Lunch Training – It’s time to get my butt in gear

Dear Reader,

For four years now I’ve had a dream. I’ve wanted to build a training program especially designed for teams. I call this program “Box Lunch Training”. However, this dream has languished. I’ve talked about it, I’ve gotten excited about it, but in the end, I’ve always been too scared of failure to actually

Briefly, the idea

If you have ever managed a team, you have probably instituted a similar program. The idea is simple, everyone gets together for lunch one day and the team eats while one person presents on a topic they are passionate about. After the presentation, the team sits together and discusses what they learned and how they can use it.

The problem I always had with these programs is finding the time to create the content. Either I had to do it, I had to assign it to someone, or I had to ask for volunteers. No matter what I tried, we always got too busy and it fell by the wayside. That is the problem I hope to solve with BLT.

So why am I posting this?

I’m writing this because it’s time I get off my ample backside and get this thing going. In the coming weeks and months you will see me post ads for BLT. I am going to work my mailing lists, my twitter accounts and every other way I have to get the message out about BLT. Partly because I want this project to succeed but mostly because I want teams to succeed and I think BLT gives any development team an advantage.

I am writing this for two reasons.

First, to warn you. I appreciate all my readers, followers, friends, and anyone who connects with me on-line or in person. That having been said, this project is a passion of mine and I love talking about my passions. So if you don’t want to hear about this, un-follow, un-friend and disconnect now.

Second, I’m writing to ask for your help. Keep BLT in the back of your mind. If you don’t hear me talking about it, ping me and ask how it is going. If I stop talking about BLT it’s because I get frozen in place with the fear of failure; help me out of that state. Push me, prod me, poke me, whatever and get me going again. I love helping people and I love building teams. BLT is the culmination of those loves.

I’m excited.

I’m ready.

I’m scared to death.

Until next time,
Je t’aime ma chère Kathy
=C=

Don’t Hire PHP Community Members!

Dear Reader,

It is no secret that I spend a lot of time promoting the PHP Community. It is a vibrant, helpful and friendly community and I’ve said before that I believe it to be one of the most important assets of the PHP language.

I’m also a realist though; I’ve built teams and I’ve hired developers. I know what it takes to put together good teams, I’ve even written down my thoughts on hiring and managing developers elsewhere. I have experience in this area and I have strong opinions. I am going to share one of those opinions with you right now.

Don’t hire developers who are active members of the PHP Community.

PHP community members solve problems

Active members of the PHP community solve problems. I mean they get their hands dirty in code – theirs or someone else’s – and solve problems. They are used to collaborating with other PHP community members to solve real world problem for themselves, their employers, or other community members who need their help. They spend time helping friends on IRC solve problems; problems that they may eventually face in their day job. They don’t do it because they were paid to; they solved the problem because they could.

If they can’t solve a problem, they usually know who can

Active members of the PHP community not only share what they know, they build up a list of others who are willing to share with them. Most of the time it doesn’t matter if the problem is for a project they contribute to or part of their day job, if there is a problem to be solved, members of the PHP community know who to call to get help. Since they help others, they have a cache of good will that they can use to get problems solved at work.

They love to show off

PHP community members love to show off and they do so by helping others. You can often find them showing other teammates something new they learned while working on a project they contribute to in their off-hours. They organize User Groups just so they can show off to others. It’s why they love to speak at conferences, so they can show off stuff they have learned.

They make their employers look good at conferences.

Active PHP community members love to speak at conferences and they will want you to help pay for it. Their speaking is nothing more than showing off. It doesn’t matter that their presenting makes your company a thought leader and makes it easier for you to attract other developers. All you get as a return on your investment is a smarter, better connected, inspired and rejuvenated developer. Trust me, I understand, you’ve got deadlines to meet and can’t have a developer out for a week showing off and finding solutions to the difficult problems they are working on for you. It doesn’t matter that they come back energized and inspired. It probably doesn’t even matter that they burn off all this new-found energy solving problems, and building solutions faster and better. All that matters is they weren’t in their cube for a week, right?

They work for free

No, not for you, don’t be stupid; but most active members of the PHP community contribute to one or more open source projects on their own time. This means that even when they aren’t paid to do so, they are coding; learning, honing their skills that they then come back and use for you.

Conclusion

In short, no, don’t hire active PHP community members. Hire the developers that are happy to punch in at 9 and out at 5, go home and tinker in their workshop. Honestly, there are enough teams out their vying for active members of the PHP community because they recognize them as the cream of the crop as far as developers go. They want them on their team and are counting on you to to pass over all active PHP community members because you think they they are too high maintenance. You keep thinking that, just hope your competition does too.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Update:

I’ve had several people tweet to me asking if I was being serious or sarcastic. (“You serious, Clarke?“) This post is of course, tongue-in-cheek. Active members of the PHP community are some of the best developers you can hire and are a sought after commodity. If you are lucky enough to hire one, take care of them and hold onto them.

Man up! (A developer’s responsibility to their team)

Dear Reader,

Regular readers know that if I have to answer a question more than once, I usually blog the answer so that I don’t have to answer it anymore. This is one of those posts. Also, I do apologize in advance to my female coder friends, the title wasn’t meant to be sexist.

Twice in the past 3 months I’ve had the same conversation with two different people.

Other: Well, they did it, they chose <solution X> over <solution Y>. They are so wrong. This is gonna be totally fubar. I’m not sure I can support this decision knowing how stupid it is.
Me: Were you involved in the discussion?
Other: Yes.
Me: Then, now that the decision is made, you have two and only two options. Either get behind the decision and do your job, or leave.

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How do I find good PHP developers?

Dear Reader,

Twice this week I got asked a similar question, “How do I find good PHP developers to hire?” The first one was a recruiter who had originally tried to hire me because she “read my resume”. (Obviously, she skipped over the part where I’ve not written any serious code in several years) Since she didn’t bother to really read my resume to begin with, I’m pretty sure she won’t bother to read this post.

The second one, however, was a just someone trying to find PHP developers for his team. Since he wrote me a nice email asking advice, I decided to reply in kind. Three pages and one thousand words later, he had my answer. (Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be this long) I share it here with you – slightly edited to remove some geographically specific advice that probably won’t apply to you – in hopes that when you are in the same position you can get a head start in finding good developers.
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