Jens Schauder is software developer since 1997. He loves software development for the constant challenges and constantly changing environment. A great chance to learn and teach. He is also blogger, author of various articles and speaker at conferences. Jens is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 90 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

How To Earn Trust When You Are Not Worth It

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A major idea of agile software development is that developers use techniques like TDD and Pair Programming together with design principles like the SOLID principles to create high quality, clean, easy and fast to change code. There is actually a deal between developers and management:

Management doesn’t put stupid rules on the way developers work (like every ‘public method has to have a comment’), for that the developers produce awesome code fast.

I don’t know about you but that deal seams to be tough on the developers. Anyway in many cases the developers appreciate the trust, try their best … and screw up.

As a reaction management looks at what went wrong, only sees some symptoms, like methods that are in bad need of a comment and create rules for the developers. Due to the rules developers are even less able to create awesome code, triggering another failure, triggering more rules and so on.

Obviously there is something wrong in the beginning. Why are the developers tasked with a job that is obviously to difficult for them, why don’t they have help? Lots of questions, lots of possible answers.

Lets look at it from the point of view of one of the developers, possibly a junior one. What can he do in order not to loose the trust of his manager?

In theory there is the option of rejecting the task. But would a junior developer do that? It is certainly difficult, and it might not be wise because you can’t be sure about the reaction of the manager. She should be happy to learn about a problem early on but that doesn’t mean she will.

But what you can do, even as a very junior developer is: Ask!

Ask if you understood the requirements correctly.

Ask if somebody with more experience can do pair programming with your.

Ask if the code you wrote so far is ok, or even better: How you can improve it.

Ask early ask often.

Don’t write 20 classes before asking if this is the correct approach.

Don’t stop asking because you think you know what you are doing.

Asking is a powerful way of learning.

If you grow better and more experienced asking is also a great way to lead. So there is hardly a reason to stop asking.

If your manager is worth her money she will listen and she will learn if you are on the right track and she will be able to trust you that you don’t make stupid stuff but do your very best to produce good or even great results.

Published at DZone with permission of Jens Schauder, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Rentius Engelbrecht replied on Wed, 2012/10/03 - 4:36am

Hi Jens

Nice article. I totally agree with you.

I worked under somebody a couple of years ago, what he told me was the opposite.

He said that I asked to much questions. So I stopped asking questions and what happened? Everytime after I almost finished the work he told me that I didn't do it the right way and that it is not how he saw it.

So in the end it was a snowball effect. I was frustrated, waisted time and had to work overtime to get it done before the deadline.


Lund Wolfe replied on Sat, 2012/10/06 - 9:39pm

It does boil down to trust.  You may be in over your head and your manager may or may not care whether you succeed.  Some managers only want to hear happy thoughts so you'll have to get help on your own.  This is very stressful and can prevent you from thinking straight and cause you to thrash around going nowhere or in the wrong direction just to be going somewhere/anywhere.

Good developers are often lazy about doing work but very happy to help think through and give their opinion on how to do the work.  The solution is either easy or you both learn something.  Either way is rewarding to both of you.  Test your fellow developers to see if you can find one.

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