How to become a better programmer

ride of into sunset

Life as a software consultant is pretty good. You come into a company, build an application or two, and once the project is over you climb back up onto your horse and ride off into the sunset.

* You aren’t asked to hang around.
* You don’t have to worry about any pesky bugs or support issues.
* You get to work on new greenfield projects.
* You often work with the companies best and brightest.

It’s great fun and life is pretty good.

It wasn’t until I stopped being a consultant however, and starting building and maintaining my own applications, that I realized I was missing out on a big opportunity for learning.

What you miss

When you build something, and then don’t stick around to maintain it, you are only watching half the movie. You don’t get to see how it ends.

* You miss out seeing where you got the design right – and where you got it wrong.

* You miss out on seeing which areas you tested well – and those not so well.

* You don’t get to see which features your customers love – and which ones they hate.

You basically miss out on all the great feedback that would tell you where you kicked butt, and where you screwed up. All of which would of course help you on your next project.

And that’s a shame.

So for those of you building apps and thinking about moving on – slow down.

See how the movie ends.

Your future customers will benefit from your broadened experience, and you will be stronger for it.


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9 Responses to “How to become a better programmer”

  1. Arjan`s World » LINKBLOG for January 5, 2009 Says:

    […] How to become a better programmer – J Rasmusson […]

  2. Kudzu Says:

    Software consultants – blackhorses, ya .)

  3. Cory Smith Says:

    So true, I used to be the one that finished the movie, or at least the one that watched reruns of it. I definitely learned some valuable lessons, I wish everyone had to support some legacy apps or even ones that were not developed too well. Just so that they could get a sense of what could happen if they’re not careful on their current project.

  4. James Soctt Says:

    This is something we constantly strive to promote among our students. It’s very difficult to get them to see the long term benefits and improve their stickability.

  5. Surge Says:

    You mature with this type of experience much quicker. Consequences, be they good or bad, are the way we learn… and it sticks. Great entry, thanks.

  6. Jim Richardson Says:

    I totally agree with you. It’s better to know criticisms and learn from it rather than never even knowing about it. People learn from their mistakes. It makes us grow. Good thing you were able to realize that, otherwise you’ll never learn more. I’m glad that I came across your article. It involves a valuable lesson not just for programmers but also for everyone. I am an online MBA student and I think this can be applicable to anyone’s life too. Thank you very much for sharing this with us! Do you still have time to ride your horse? That’s a great past time. I hope I can do that too.

  7. JR Says:

    Hi Jim. I am glad you liked the post. It’s so true.
    Unfortunately I have had to swap the horse for a bike.
    But it’s still good fun. Good luck with your MBA.

    Cheers – JR

  8. Alvin Says:

    Nice perspective and post. Coming from the an internal development team, the life of the consultant seems so glamorous. It’s refreshing to hear the the long-term support and feedback aspects in a positive-enriching light. That complaining customer is an opportunity to grow.

  9. Assets Management Says:

    Assets Management…

    […]How to become a better programmer « Rasmusson Software Consulting[…]…

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