This week, I published Ev Haus's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways.
- "Trying to build a solution that helps everyone, we didn't really build a solution that helped anyone"
- "I went from being a pretty decent developer to being a shitty manager"
- "Your job as a manager is not just to fix the problem. You fixing the problem sometimes leads to more problems. Your job is to anticipate the problem and get ahead of it."
- "Coding is this wonderful paradise where 1+1 is always 2, not like management, which is like writing code that you never get to test, ship it to production right away. "
- "The code that you write doesn't matter. What matters is the knowledge and experience you gathered."
- "It is so rewarding to be able to build something you are a consumer of"
- "I rarely say here's a task for you to do, I prefer here's a problem I have, can you help me solve this"
- "You have to give your team the opportunity to impress you"
- Ev was introduced to computers and programming at a very young age but to him, it was just a "big old beige box". Computer graphics evolved from text on a blue background to graphical user interfaces, got his attention. He started with Photoshop and then Flash, and used both to create Websites. That was his "why", his way of embracing design and art. And that's how he became a developer.
- When he was a teenager, Ev's dad told him that "building websites is not a real job". This stuck with him for a long time, and was the reason why Ev chose to study art to break into the visual-effects industry.
- Ev worked on Blockbuster movies like Spiderman and Harry Potter, and of course got his name in the credits. But he describes this work as "miserable" because everyone works on tiny details and never see the whole picture. Ev's tale of him staring for days at Conan the Barbarian's butt, rotoscoping every piece of hay in a sex scene in a haystack feels almost surreal :D
- Ev pivoted inside the animation studio he was working at, by first enhancing his animation toolchain via programming, and then moving to the software team and doing this full time for his colleagues. And I love how the company later pivoted as well to embrace his idea and work fully.
- As an end-user of the software he created, Ev was able to empathize with the users and help create the software he would have wanted. But at the same time, he saw the limits of this model. At some point, it was also helpful to give the lead to other people and let them decide what was good for the product, even though it didn't please him fully.
- Ev faced a fork on the road when a new data-science project started. He then either had the chance to move to this project or continue nurturing his "baby"-product. Ev moved to that new project and learned that even though this project didn't prove successful in the long run, there was a lot in his control. And that felt empowering. But moving to a new domain he was not an expert in, was by far the biggest challenge. Ev praised his current job at Zenhub for exactly this reason: his customers are developers just like him, and it makes this experience way smoother.
- Another fork in the road came in the form of a physical challenge. Ev slowly but surely realized that he was having back and knuckles problems as well as was losing eyesight. So he decided he needed to back-off from the screen. Coupled with the experience in business and management he gathered during his data-science "startup" endeavor, he decided to embrace the management path. Since he had no particular training, he went at it the "copy-cat" way. Observing great managers around him and getting mentors to guide him along the way.
- Being a manager, Ev realized that measuring your success and effectiveness as a manager is hard. For Ev, every day where he had time to contribute code was a good day. It meant there was no fire to put out.
- The company failed eventually and all the code was gone. Ev realized that "the code that you write doesn't matter. What matters is the knowledge and experience you gathered." And he learned the value of transparency. Anytime you hide data, you prevent questions to be asked and people to think with you. Speaking this extreme transparency and how it might scare people off, Ev added "for every person who jumps off the ship, someone will take up the opportunity to show off just how incredible they are. You need to create those opportunities to create leaders."
- We touched on remote work and how changing the way we worked helped us finally address a lot of structural problems our companies had been dealing with. We agreed that as hard as it is on everyone, it might very well be for the betterment of our whole industry.
- "Let's imagine that you made a decision based on the facts you had at that time and later on realize that was a bad decision. A bad manager would look at that circumstance and see that 'I've made a bad decision'. A good manager will say 'I made two good decisions, one of deciding with the information I had, and then to course correct when new information arose'"
- "Don't be afraid to get it wrong!"
Thanks, Ev for sharing your story with us!
You can find the full episode and the show notes on devjourney.info.
Did you listen to his story?
- What did you learn?
- What are your takeaways?
- What did you find particularly interesting?