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Search - "practisesafehexs-new-life-as-a-manager"
Things have been a little too quiet on my side here, so its time for an exciting new series:
practiseSafeHex's new life as a manager.
Episode 1: Dealing with the new backend team
It's great to be back folks. Since our last series where we delved into the mind numbing idiocy of former colleagues, a lot has changed. I've moved to a new company and taken a step up as a Dev manager / Tech lead. Now I know what you are all thinking, sounds more dull and boring right? Well it wouldn't be a practiseSafeHex series if we weren't ...
DEALING! ... WITH! ... IDIOTS!
Bingo! so lets jump right in and kick us off with a good one.
So for the past few months i've been on an on-boarding / fact finding / figuring out this shit-storm, mission to understand more about what it is i'm suppose to do and how to do it. Last week, as part of this, I had the esteemed pleasure of meeting face to face with the remote backend team i've been working with. Lets rattle off a few facts to catch us all up:
- 8 hour time difference to me
- No documentation other than a non-maintained swagger doc
- Swagger is reporting errors and several of the input models are just `Type: String`
- The one model that seems accurate, has every property listed as optional, including what must be the primary key
- Properties go missing and get removed at the drop of a hat and we are never told.
- First email I sent them took 27 days to reply, my response to that hasn't been answered so far 31 days later (new record! way to go team, I knew we could do it!!!)
- I deal directly with 2 of them, the manager and the tech lead. Based on how things have gone so far, i've nick named them:
So lets look at some example of their work:
- I was trying to test the new backend, I saw no data in QA. They said it wouldn't show up until mid day their time, which is middle of the night for us. I said we need data in our timezone and I was told: a) "You don't understand how big this system is" (which is their new catch phrase) b) "Your timezone is not my concern"
- The whole org started testing 2 days later. The next day a member from each team was on a call and I was asked to give an update of how the testing was going on the mobile side. I said I was completely blocked because I can't get test data. Backend were asked to respond. They acknowledged they were aware, but that mobile don't understand how big the system is, and that the mobile team need to come up with ideas for the backend team, as to how mobile can test it. I said we can't do anything without test data, they said ... can you guess what? ... correct "you don't understand how big the system is"
- We eventually got something going and I noticed that only 1 of the 5 API changes due on their side was done. Opened tickets. 2 days later asked them for progress and was told that "new findings" always go to the bottom of the backlog, and they are busy with other things. I said these were suppose to be done days ago. They said you can't give us 2 days notice and expect everything done. I said the original ticket was opened a month a go *sends link* ......... *long silence* ...... "ok, but you don't understand how big the system is, this is a lot of work"
- We were on a call. Product was asking the backend manager (aka "Ass") a question about a slight upgrade to the new feature. While trying to talk, the tech lead (aka "Hole") kept cutting everyone off by saying loudly "but thats not in scope". The question was "is this possible in the future" and "how long would it take", coming from management and product development. Hole just kept saying "its not in scope", until he was told to be quiet by several people.
- An API was sending down JSON with a string containing a message for the user with 2 bits of data inside it. We asked for one of those pieces to also come down as a property as the string can change and we needed it client side. We got that. A few days later we found an edge case and asked for the second piece of data to be a property too. Now keep in mind, they clearly already have access to them in order to make the string. We were told "If you keep requesting changes like this, you are going to delay the release of the backend by up to 2 weeks"
Yes folks, there you have it, the most minuscule JSON modifications, can delay your release by up to 2 weeks ........ maybe I should just tell product, that they don't understand how big the app is, and claim we can't build it on our side? Seems to work for them
Thats all the time we have for today,
Tune in for more, where we'll be looking into such topics as:
- If god himself was an iOS developer ... not
- Why automate when you can spend all day doing it by hand
- Its more time-efficient to just give everything a story point of 5
- Why waste time replying to emails ... when you can do nothing instead
See you all next week,
So i've been a dev manager for a little while now. Thought i'd take some time to disambiguate some job titles to let everyone know what they might be in for when joining / moving around a big org.
Title: Senior Software Engineer
- Typically has years experience building what management are trying to build
- Building new features
- Writing code
- Code review
- Offering advice to product manag......OH NO YOU DON'T CODE MONKEY, BACK TO WORK!
Title: Dev Manager
- Former/current programmer
- knows his/her way around a codebase.
- Recruiting / interviewing new staff
- Keeping the team focused and delivering tasks
- Architecture decisions
- Lying about complexity of architecture decisions to ensure team gets the actual time they need
- Lying about feature estimations to ensure team gets to work on critical technical improvements that were cancelled / de-prioritised
- Explaining to hire-ups why we can't "Just do it quicker"
- Explaining to senior engineers why the product manager declined their meeting request
Title: Product / Product Manager
- Nothing relevant to the industry or product line what so ever
- Found the correct building on the day of the interview
- Has once opened an Excel spreadsheet and successfully saved it to a desktop
- Making every key decision about every feature available in the app
- Learning to ignore that inner voice we like to call "Common sense"
- Making sure to not accidentally take some advice from technical staff
- Raising the blood pressure of everyone below them / working with them
Title: Program Lead / Product Owner
- Capable of speech
- Aware of what a computer is (optional)
- Sitting down
- Clicking random buttons on Jira
- Making bullet point lists
Title: Director of Software Engineering
- Allegedly attended college/university to study computer science
- Similar to a technical product manager (technical optional)
- Reports directly to VP
- Fixes problems by creating a different problem somewhere else as a distraction
- Claiming to understand and green light technical decisions, while having already agreed with product that it will never happen10
Welcome back to practiseSafeHex's new life as a manager.
Episode 2: Why automate when you can spend all day doing it by hand
This is a particularly special episode for me, as these problems are taking up so much of my time with non-sensical bullshit, that i'm delayed with everything else. Some badly require tooling or new products. Some are just unnecessary processes or annoyances that should not need to be handled by another human. So lets jump right in, in no particular order:
- Jira ... nuff said? not quite because somehow some blue moon, planets aligning, act of god style set of circumstances lined up to allow this team to somehow make Jira worse. On one hand we have a gigantic Jira project containing 7 separate sub teams, a million different labels / epics and 4.2 million possible assignees, all making sure the loading page takes as long as possible to open. But the new country we've added support for in the app gets a separate project. So we have product, backend, mobile, design, management etc on one, and mobile-country2 on another. This delightfully means a lot of duplication and copy pasting from one to the other, for literally no reason what so ever.
- Everything on Jira is found through a label. Every time something happens, a new one is created. So I need to check for "iOS", "Android", "iOS-country2", "Android-country2", "mobile-<feature>", "mobile-<feature>-issues", "mobile-<feature>-prod-issues", "mobile-<feature>-existing-issues" and "<project>-July31" ... why July31? Because some fucking moron decided to do a round of testing, and tag all the issues with the current date (despite the fact Jira does that anyway), which somehow still gets used from time to time because nobody pays attention to what they are doing. This means creating and modifying filters on a daily basis ... after spending time trying to figure out what its not in the first one.
- One of my favourite morning rituals I like to call "Jira dumpster diving". This involves me removing all the filters and reading all the tickets. Why would I do such a thing? oh remember the 9000 labels I mentioned earlier? right well its very likely that they actually won't use any of them ... or the wrong ones ... or assign to the wrong person, so I have to go find them and fix them. If I don't, i'll get yelled at, because clearly it's my fault.
- Moving on from Jira. As some of you might have seen in your companies, if you use things like TestFlight, HockeyApp, AppCenter, BuddyBuild etc. that when you release a new app version for testing, each version comes with an automated change-log, listing ticket numbers addressed ...... yeah we don't do that. No we use this shitty service, which is effectively an FTP server and a webpage, that only allows you to host the new versions. Sending out those emails is all manual ... distribution groups?? ... whats that?
- Moving back to Jira. Can't even automate the changelog with a script, because I can't even make sense of the tickets, in order to translate that to a script.
- Moving on from Jira. Me and one of the remote testers play this great game I like to call "tag team ticketing". It's so much fun. Right heres how to play, you'll need a QA and a PM.
*QA creates a ticket, and puts nothing of any use inside it, and assigns to the PM.
*PM fires it back asking for clarification.
*QA adds in what he feels is clarification (hes wrong) and assigns it back to the PM.
*PM sends detailed instructions, with examples as to what is needed and assigns it back.
*QA adds 1 of the 3 things required and assigns it back.
*PM assigns it back saying the one thing added is from the wrong day, and reminds him about the other 2 items.
*QA adds some random piece of unrelated info to the ticket instead, forgetting about the 3 things and assigns it back.
and you just continue doing this for the whole dev / release cycle hahaha. Oh you guys have no idea how much fun it is, seriously give it a go, you'll thank me later ... or kill yourselves, each to their own.
- Moving back to Jira. I decided to take an action of creating a new project for my team (the mobile team) and set it up the way we want and just ignore everything going on around us. Use proper automation, and a kanban board. Maybe only give product a slack bot interface that won't allow them to create a ticket without what we need etc. Spent 25 minutes looking for the "create new project" button before finding the link which says I need to open a ticket with support and wait ... 5 ... fucking ... long ... painful ... unnecessary ... business days.
... Heres hoping my head continues to not have a bullet hole in it by then.
Id love to talk more, but those filters ain't gonna fix themselves. So we'll have to leave it here for today. Tune in again for another episode soon.
And remember to always practiseSafeHex16
I greeted my staff this morning with the phrase
"Morning, mind if I ruin your Friday?"
They laughed, but won't be soon enough. The task we've been working on for weeks, ripping apart the codebase changing it to work a different way, fixing a tonne of bugs, making it faster and simpler to add features too. Well business has decided they want us to stop, undo it, spend a month on something "with higher ROI" and then finish it off after that.
Business are expecting this to have no impact on any of the timelines and just to be like flipping a switch. Now obviously I won't let that happen and fight back for more time, but yet another session of compromises, arguments, and yelling. YIPEEE!!!!!!10
Had a follow up meeting today to resolve the issue of Product ignoring our comments about possible issues, better ways to do it etc.
- We are allowed to suggest to Product that they might be doing something wrong
- We are not allowed to tell product they are doing something wrong
- If Product don’t listen, that’s fine, we will document our comments to protect us later.
Product are too sensitive to have a conversation with. We are now going to let them fuck everything up, make some notes and say “I told you so” at a later date.
Maturity at its finest ladies and gentlemen.5
follow on from my last rant.
I've finally gotten my new Jira project. Only thing I seem to have access to change is the Kanban board columns. Still has 50+ fields when creating a ticket etc.
Asked the support team handling the request if this was a mistake. He said no, i'll need to open another ticket to have those changes requested.
Opened and got a reply. Currently there are 2 versions of Jira running. They are working on consolidating them atm and won't help me right now until this is done. I've been asked to re-open my request after the consolidation is done in March 2019.
5 ... fucking ... months, so I can have a competent ticketing process.
He pointed me to a page explaining the move and listing all the changes taking place. Well lets look at the changes they are making that are so critical:
Change 14: Rename "More info" status to "Needs more info".
... Oh pardon me. I didn't realise such critical show stoppers were being addressed. Please do continue. Don't mind me, i'll just be over here taking 4 hours to create an Epic and 6 stories. As you were10
Mobile app crashed a lot after latest release. Everyone called for a meeting to discuss the issue and find resolutions.
Engineering lead for backend team: well part of our problem is we haven’t had time to test everything fully. Maybe product could give us a list of all the features that can’t go down and we’ll prioritize those for testing?
Product: ... ... ... all of them?
Me: laughing hysterically while on mute4
Managements definition of an MVP:
- Integrate our backend and database with a similar-ish, older internal system built on a different tech stack and different rules.
- Merge the functionality and delete the old one.
- Modify our system to accept 2 types of logged in users.
- Have 2 versions of our API that return different values.
- Update our mobile app to render different data based on which user is logged in.
- Onboard the old system users to this new system.
My definition of an MVP:
- Tell the store we are taking over, that they have to print their labels from our tool, and onboard the users to our app.9
New job was killing me. remote team has an 8 hour time difference to us, and no understanding of it. Constant last minute invites to meetings at 10pm my time. Made worse by the fact that many were unnecessary, duplicates or just plain pointless. So for the last few weeks of last year I made in my mission to clean it up.
New plan: move my hours around on Mondays, stay later, move all the meetings back to back and get everything out of the way for the rest of the week.
First day back and heres how the new plan is shaping out:
- 5:30pm meeting organiser decided we actually need 2 almost identical meetings instead. Sends out a big team meeting for the same time as my 1st meeting at 5pm, as well as the existing one for 5:30pm. Already agreed on by everyone else, so had to go.
- Cancelled my original 5pm meeting for today, said we'll re-arrange it for earlier going forward (not enough time for notice for remote team).
- Went into my new 5pm meeting, turns out we don't need 2. Got everything done by 5:30pm.
- Just to be safe though, a new invite will be sent around for the hour of 5 - 6 "Just in case".
- My 6pm meeting just got cancelled as she has a conflict (despite setting it up 2 months ago)
- Now I have to wait around, after hours for my 6:30 meeting.
..... believe it or not, this is progress.
Happy new year!7