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Stakeholder: Is it possible for you to set up the website to automatically resubmit failed online orders? Last time there were failed orders, we tried submitting manually but a lot failed because they were tickets for the previous day.
Product Manager: What are your thoughts, Developer?
Me: This wouldn’t be worth the labor. It’s something that would rarely be used. There are very few orders that fail. I’d be surprised if it was even once a week. The recent bunch of order failures that SH is talking about happened because the ticketing server (separate from the website) couldn’t handle all the requests. Let’s say you had resubmission logic to try 3x before allowing the fail. It wouldn’t work because the server was overwhelmed already. Let’s say you had a background task to check for failures every ten minutes and resubmit those. It might not be helpful because the customer could have already gone to a ticketing window for help with the failed order.
SH: But what if it happens again???
Me: The solution is to make sure the ticketing server can handle the influx of requests. We can coordinate with that team. Wait. Why did you wait until the next day to resubmit orders in the admin panel? A lot of those failures happened when there were many hours left in the business day. For each order failure, an email notification is sent to the sales support email in real time. Who is monitoring that inbox? Someone must be looking at it because the sales support email is listed multiple times on the ticketing website as the technical assistance email.
SH: I know that email notification goes to the engineering team.
Me: My question is not about the engineering team. I asked who is monitoring the sales support inbox.
SH: That email … gets filtered.
Me and Product Manager: 😧🤯🤬
PM: First, you need to stop filtering that email notification. Second, your team needs to come up with a flow to handle failed orders because you told us you don’t have one. After you tried this and there’s still an issue, then we can revisit.
If you’re wondering why I said no, I’m a team of one and I have a bunch of other development tasks on my plate. I’m not automating a manual task that rarely has to be performed.
At my last startup, the company decided to formally adopt core values after being in business for ten years already. They even emblazoned them on a mouse pad and sent it out to every employee as company swag. I quickly learned that those values were more for show. It was a sign of the culture going downhill. Values included teamwork and collaboration. But since I was only an IC and wasn’t a manager or director or VP, I was expected to be a mindless worker bee. Even when I just asked logical followup questions, I was treated like I was being insubordinate and “questioning their requests.”
Just trying to survive because stakeholders don’t understand what I actually have ownership for and think I have magic to fix all their websites issues.
The worst dev experience was having to interview people for job openings. I already dislike having to be the interviewee. I don’t like being the interviewer because I haven’t had a great experience with it. I’ve had a lot of people tell me what they think I want to hear instead of just answering my questions.
Surprisingly, the best was working with a recruiter for our open roles. The candidates from the recruiter were really great. Personally, I don’t have great experience with recruiters when I’m the one looking for a job. But for this case of my employer using one, it worked out. IDK if those candidates would have applied without the recruiter.1
I’m most proud of my first website. Just plain html and css. It was the first time I was introduced to GitHub too. I was taking a class at the library. The teacher was the best because she showed the students how to find resources for web development and told us to don’t bother looking at the out of date workbooks. The students were cool too. It was great to be in a small class and see people of different ages learning how to code.
Sometimes I have to connect to production database and alter my dev environment so I can “log in” as a user and see what’s wrong with their account. Once in a while there is a legitimate website issue that is unique to that user’s profile. Other times it’s user error, like the user not understanding that they have to connect their membership to their online account (they think signing up for an account will connect it automatically).
I don’t like circumventing the user’s log in like this, but sometimes it’s necessary since the website is so confusing. I inherited this website, so many of the problems were formed way before I took over.
My stakeholders want a log in as user feature for website admins to use. My manager and PM don’t think that’s a good idea right now since there are over two dozen people with admin access and admin access means access to everything in the admin (there aren’t options to give permissions as needed).1
The company I work for now has so much tech debt. When I find an issue, I can’t necessarily fix it right away because I have other priorities. If something isn’t a site-breaking issue, then I only fix it when a user or staff member reports it.
The website is a mess because it was built and maintained by an outside dev agency. It was so expensive to outsource that my employer decided to bring development in-house.
That’s where I came in. I found so many issues. Tech debt. UX weirdness. Newish features that no one seemed to use. It goes on.
So I’m balancing new feature development, fixing bugs, and trying to lessen our tech debt. I’m a team of one.1
Welp. I think I witnessed a new job application hack. Someone listed my team’s general engineering email address for their Employee Referral.
That email address is listed publicly, but I’m pretty sure no one on my team told the applicant to list it as a referral contact. I suspect someone got the email from a Slack workspace. I had posted a job listing, in a threaded comment someone had complimented my employer’s public API, and I shared our engineering email and said we’d love to see what he builds.
It looks like someone else from that Slack saw this and decided to list the engineering email as an employee referral. I get that employee referral can mean different things to different people and it might be someone who’s new to job searching and doesn’t know better.
For my employer’s online application, an employee referral requires a name and email address for the employee. I’m curious what the applicant listed for the employee referrer’s name. Wonder if it was my name. If it is, guess I have to give my manager a heads up and tell him that I do not know this applicant.
This occurrence is a new one for me and I don’t think it’s happened to us before. And it’s not really a good tactic to get a resume read at my workplace. Where I work, my manger reviews the resumes and tells HR who he wants to set up calls with. It’s not HR or an ATS that screens resumes and sends them to my manager.
Best way to estimate a dev project for me is to establish what are the nice to haves and the must haves. A lot of times I’ll get a big list of requirements or a vague outline, so I need to figure what are our priorities.
If the project involves a new service that we have to purchase, then that project’s time estimate is one weekend because that’s how long it took other companies to implement per that service’s account manager lol 🤣1
My previous employer was an e-commerce company. Most of our customers had use it or lose it funds that had to be spent by December 31 each year. So every year, the devs had to stay online until midnight on New Year’s Eve just in case there was a website issue. I didn’t witness any issue during my time there, or at least I was never contacted for support when I was on NYE duty.
They compensated by giving an extra PTO day for future use. Pre 2020, they’d allow us to leave work two hours early on NYE since the office was in NYC and getting home would be a nightmare. But you’d have to work from home to work the NYE support.
It was “optional”, but we know as a dev it’s not really optional unless you have a life and death reason not to. My first few weeks working there, my grandma had passed away. The funeral was NYE weekend so I was excused from doing the NYE support my first year because I was on bereavement leave.
The last two weeks of December were considered blackout dates for PTO, so everyone (including non devs) was not allowed to take any vacation time during those two weeks. Some people might have a problem with that if they’re into holiday celebrations and family and friend get togethers. They did observe Christmas, so that was the only day off most folks got during those two weeks. Though, the period from Thanksgiving through the end of December was stressful.2
I understand some of my stakeholders have more stressful roles than others, but I really wish they’d slow down and take a moment to process.
One of them recently forwarded me a customer inquiry about an order confirmation email because the customer gave the impression that they received the email in error. The customer’s message was “2018? What is this?” It was a confirmation for an old order. A really old order. From 2018. I guess my stakeholder thought an old confirmation email was resent, but my stakeholder just had to look at the original message section of the email, which stated the email was sent in 2018. Y’all, that email was sent years before I starting working for them.
I told stakeholder that I don’t know what this customer is looking for from us. IMO since this is for an order from FOUR YEARS AGO, I don’t think we should put any more time into investigating it.
Even my Product Manager agreed that our stakeholders need to do more diligence on their end (like asking the customer why they are following up on a four year old order) before coming to Engineering and taking up our time.
I was on vacation when my employer’s new fiscal year started. My manager let me take vacation because it’s not like anything critical was going to happen. Well, joke was on us because we didn’t foresee the stupidity of others…
I had to update a few product codes in the website’s web config and deploy those changes. I was only going to be logged in for 30 minutes to complete that.
I get messaged by one of our database admins. He was doing testing and was unable to complete a payment on the website. That was strange. There was a change pushed by our offsite dev agency, but that was all frontend changes (just updating text) and wouldn’t affect payments.
We don’t want to enlist the dev agency for debugging work, especially when it’s not likely that it’s a code issue. But I was on vacation and I couldn’t stay online past the time I had budgeted for. So my employer enlists the dev agency for help. It’s going to be costly because the agency is in Lithuania, it was past their business hours, and it was emergency support.
Dev agency looks at error logs. There are Apple Pay errors, but that doesn’t explain why non Apple Pay transactions aren’t going through. They roll back my deployment and theirs, but no change. They tell my employer to contact our payment processor.
My manager and the Product Manager contact Payroll, who is the stakeholder for our payment gateways. Payroll contacts our payment gateway and finds out a service called Decision Manager was recently configured for our account. Decision Manager was declining all payments. Payroll was not the person who had Decision Manager installed and our account using this service was news to her.
Payroll works with our payment processor to get payments working again. The damage is pretty severe. Online payments were down for at least 12 hours. Our call center had logged reports from customers the night before.
At our post mortem, we had to find out who ok’d Decision Manager without telling anyone. Luckily, it was quick work. The first stakeholder up was for the Fundraising Dept. She said it wasn’t her or anyone on her team. Our VP of Analytics broke it to her that our payment processor gave us the name of the person who ok’d Decision Manager and it was someone on the Fundraising team. Fundraising then starts backtracking and says that oh yes she knew about it but transactions were still working after the Decision Manager had been configured. WTAF.
Everyone is dumbfounded by this. How could you make a big change to our payment processor and not tell anyone? How did our payment processor allow you to make this change when you’re not the account admin (you’re just a user)?
Our company head had to give an awkward speech about communication and how it’s important. The web team can’t figure out issues if you don’t tell us what you did. The company head was pissed because it was a shitty way to start off the new fiscal year. Our bill for the dev agency must have been over $1000 for debugging work that wasn’t helpful.
Amazingly, no one was fired.6
This happened during the early months of WFH in the covid pandemic. I had a paired programming video interview and my interviewer had some strange behavior. IDK if he had a weird tick, but his head kept dropping to the side like he was falling asleep and he’d jerk back up again. His eyes weren’t drooping though. It kept happening throughout the interview and I was afraid he’d fall out of his chair. I wondered if he was crashing from an all nighter or his body was shutting down in some way. It was jarring enough that I wondered if I should ask the recruiter to check on my interviewer.1
Web Ops Director: [looking at a screenshot of changes she had requested] This looks good. Oh by the way, revert that red color for heading text.
Me: I’m not reverting anything because there’s nothing for me to revert. I didn’t touch that text color. The website has always looked like that.
Director: [shocked pikachu face]3
For those who do hiring, do you find behavioral questions to be useful?
If yes, do you prefer it when the candidate gives specific answers from their work experience? Do you use a rubric? For example, do you use the STAR (situation, task, action, response) method or something similar?
If no, why don’t you use behavioral interviewing?1
I lost half my day yesterday because stakeholders made a change to one of the systems that I need. I noticed my dev environment could not longer authenticate into the system. That usually happens when there’s a “refresh” of that system. Meaning that someone copied the production instance over to the staging one, which wiped out my user credentials. One stakeholder thought he had to notify me AFTER the system refresh and not before. Another stakeholder thought it was my task to restore my user. Nope, I’m only a user for this system. I’m not responsible for any maintenance. They weren’t understanding what they had to do even after I sent them messages saying that I can no longer authenticate and I need them to check my username and password are active and correct for the staging instance.
Product Manager: Is there an event in the staging environment that we can use for testing orders?
Stakeholder: [Out of his comfort zone because he’s taking over tasks that used to belong to his assistant and he doesn’t have a new assistant yet.]There’s an event for 6/9/2022 that still has tickets available.
[Today is 8/24/2022.]
PM: You do realize that the website doesn’t allow users to buy tickets for events that are in the past?14
The boss that had a positive impact on me was the one who was honest about the realities of our workplace. To some, his talks with me might come off as gossip. There’s some truth to that, but ultimately he was just doing me a favor. I think he also just needed someone to vent to since our roles were largely isolated from other colleagues. I appreciated not having the wool pulled over my eyes. He helped me understand the politics of our industry, like salaries and promotions.
Friend: What do you know about Wordpress?
Friend: My assistant made changes to my organization’s website and now it’s messed up. The page formatting is off.
Me: Wordpress has a version history for some things. Maybe go back to an earlier point in time?
Friend: I think she changed something that the vendor told us not to touch.
Me: Like a custom plugin that your website vendor made?
Me: Why is your assistant even touching things like that?
Friend: I really don’t want to contact the vendor because I don’t think they’re very good with website development. And I have no idea what this would cost.
Me: You might have to bite the bullet on the cost. And maybe fire that assistant for a butthole move like that. At least you have messaging to explain the wonky css is due to technical difficulties. RIP to your website.5
In 2020, I was working for a company that started selling at-home covid tests online. Marketing wanted us to add a survey for this product. They said this was required by the government…but we didn’t have to retain any of the answers…🤨.2
Stakeholder: In user profiles, I want users to be able to renew gift memberships for their giftee.
SH: For example, if I buy a gift membership for you and it expires or is about to expire, then I want to be able to renew it for you.
Me: Typically, gifts aren’t the gifter’s responsibility to manage. There’s no reason for you to be able to manage my membership from your account, even if just to renew. You’re opening up Pandora’s box here. If you let users renew for giftees, you’ll eventually have a user ask if they can cancel the giftee’s membership because they got into a fight and want to stick it to the giftee.
SH: But our users aren’t using the gift membership sales flow correctly. That results in all sorts of data issues for our reporting services and we spend so much time fixing it by hand.
Me: Your sales flow is confusing. The website asks users to verify membership for a giftee in case the giftee has or had a membership. How it the gifter supposed to know that? You’re trying to make things easier for you, but you’re expecting the user to know that and comply. That’s unrealistic.
SH: But there must be a something you can do.
Stakeholder: Our customers aren’t getting their order confirmation emails. It’s going to their spam. Is there a way to resend the emails?
Me: Wait. The email getting sent to their spam is not the same as not getting the email. Is it both or just one of those things?
SH: Here are some emails getting sent to spam.
Me: These are sent by third party vendors that you contract with. I have no control over what they do. You need to talk to your vendors.
Stakeholder: The orders aren’t importing from our order systems into our fundraising systems correctly. Gifts are showing last year’s codes. Do I restart the system?!
Me: Dude, I don’t know. My only responsibility here was to update the website’s config with the new codes you gave me. I did that. The correct codes for the orders are being sent to the orders system and that system is receiving the orders correctly. I know nothing about the configuration between the orders and fundraising systems.
Plus, y’all should have done testing before you ok’d my deploy. Don’t go looking to me to know someone else’s job. Y’all should have especially done testing since the person who’s the SME resigned months ago and there’s been no one to replace him yet.
Worst fight was at a former job. I complained about a senior-level employee who made unprofessional comments about me.
I asked followup questions about a request. I was told the request was correct. Turns out the other employee half read/didn’t read my question because she decided I was trying to cause trouble. When my boss reviewed my work and asked why it looked weird, other employee actually wrote in the JIRA comments “Oh, my apologies. I thought [name] was question the request. [name] changed the wrong thing.” She said the silent part out loud. And the wrong thing she accused me of changing…the website always looked like that and my boss told her so. (Also, not the first time she forgot what the website looked like.) But my boss didn’t make any JIRA comment about the “questioning the request” part.
My boss was really downplaying what had happened. Like other employee just made a mistake. That wasn’t a mistake. He wasn’t going to bring it up with other employee’s boss. It was weird because the incident was a written conversation so it was really hard to deny the facts. I also had the original email notification in case she tried to go back and change her comment. I think my boss either wasn’t used to defending his direct reports or didn’t have the power to do so since most of his department (including me) was slated for layoffs in a few months.
Well, I got the last laugh. A week later, I received an offer. I put in my notice during the company’s busiest time of year. And my boss actually asked me to extend my notice by three weeks. Really?! Expecting me to forgive and forget that whole “questioning the request” incident. I stuck with my original date.
My workflow would greatly improve if my stakeholders would just communicate when they make changes to the systems that the website interacts with. It would also help if they didn’t lie when they make a f*** up. Lack of info and lies don’t help me solve the issues they created. But I realize asking for this is like believing that Santa is going to send me a puppy for Christmas.
Me: [buys couch online and chooses in store pickup]
Website: Thanks for your purchase! Due to local laws on bag fees, you are being charged for 6 bags at the price of 5 cents per bag. These are the estimated number of bags for the size of the item you purchased. You can have this fee refunded when you pick up your purchase.
Me: It’s a couch. You can’t bag that. 😵💫5
My best mentor was at my first tech job. I’m pretty sure he’s a big reason why I got the job. Not me specifically, but he advocated for hiring out of a bootcamp that represented minorities.
I was just out of bootcamp. I was very sure I was not prepared. No, this was imposter syndrome. As evidence, I was offered a lesser role than what I had interviewed for. I was pretty sure I was only hired because the company was trying to fill a diversity quota, they could get away with paying me less, and I would take training well.
He was assigned to be my mentor. He was very helpful with teaching me the team’s practices and overall tech practices. Mentoring is hard and he was great at it. He almost inspired me to mentor, but I know I’d be shit at it.
When I was job searching, he wrote my recommendation. He helped me in so many ways.
Me: I opened a support ticket with the software vendor last week. I haven’t heard from them yet and the can be slow to respond. I’m unable to debug the issue on my end. If you can’t wait, here are some solutions to explore. [sends a few suggestions]
Stakeholder: Can I give you examples of another error that I think is related? Is that worth exploring?
Me: 😑 No. I’ve reached the limit of what I can do for debugging. I need the vendor to answer my support ticket.
I like to switch up my Google Meet and Zoom backgrounds. Keep people guessing where the heck I am. I’m a remote worker. It definitely messes with some people. Both the backgrounds and the permanent WFH thing.
Stakeholder: We have users who are putting like “John and Mary” on their membership’s first name field. Can we restrict that field so they can’t do that?
Me: But what if that user does identify as “John and Mary”?
Besides, what’s to stop any user from taking out the “and” and making it “John Mary” so they can get around input validation for words like “and”?9