Ask Me Anything Highlights: Pete Heard
6 MINUTE READ
Pete Heard, (Founder of Logic Room) joined us in Venturi’s Voice Slack on October 19 to host an ‘Ask Me Anything’.
Questions for Pete covered a broad range of topics including how to measure team efficiency, agile adoption in organisations that are ‘behind the curve’, the perceived costs of digital transformation projects, mindfulness in software development, and music production.
Below are some of the highlights from the event.
To access the full transcript and take park in upcoming AMAs, join Venturi’s Voice Slack.
Question from @Tommy G
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced to date at Logic Room? And what did you do to overcome it?
The hardest part has been to figure out the right way to manage clients expectations.
The problem with being a developer is that you can work your socks off only for the client to be let down by what you have done – because they expected one thing and you delivered another. This about what is happening and when!
We have made many mistakes in this regard; what we have done is to try and be more honest, more often with our clients and anyone else we do business with. We have a very good business coach who has helped us.
As soon as something is ‘not right’ we have the conversation in a non-emotional way that doesn’t leave the client feeling ‘rattled’. We know the right questions to ask the client to make them understand the situation without feeling frustrated. We don’t always get it right but we are getting better. People often ask me am I a software developer, I say ‘no’ I’m a psychologist!
Question from @Martin Francis Campbell
I used to run an agency in the nonprofit sector (Big overambitious briefs, insufficient budget, last minute changes, all that stuff) then I ran an (Agile Scrum) software company which scaled from £0 to our first 8 figure valuation in 18 months. Now I’m back in nonprofit again working with an organisation that’s frustrated with its agency, but where it’s clear to me that it’s the agency model that’s broken rather than the agency themselves. Do you have any advice about how an organisation that’s behind the curve (as ours is) can start to move towards an agile method of working when its agency doesn’t even use an automated test environment?
Great question. So the ‘agency’ thing is a real problem. I realise running an agency as I do this might sound strange, let me explain…
The problem with most agencies is that their agenda is to make you reliant on them so you end up with ‘vendor lock in’ syndrome. They will give you the sales spiel but then after months/years into the project you have 2 problems:
1) you can’t really know if they are producing rubbish
2) you have forgotten to build up your OWN team! oh no!
So, this is my advice with regards to having a company help you….
Firstly : Find someone you can trust! this means you must look deeply into their values and the way the operate. You need to find a company who care more about the quality of the work first and working with you on your expectations/business strategy before simply throwing out features and handing you a bill. For example at Logic Room we do what many other agencies don’t do and that is we don’t do proposals and free ‘estimation’ work. We get our clients into the habit of paying for this because when they pay we can make enough room to do things to a high standard. This simple rule at the start of an engagement means we don’t rush, and can maintain quality. Also it means we haven’t sunk cost into doing free work (which needs to be recovered in the sales process anyway). My advice is to look for the hallmarks of what you would expect from a professional (e.g. transparency) from the get go! For me it’s simple disciplines like this that mark out the pros from the cowboys. Also look at the content the founders produce, does it makes sense, does it resonate, is it just marketing? At the end of the day the company will echo what the leaders are talking about this is really important IMO.
Secondly : Find an agency who works to YOUR priorities not THEIRS. Any good agency should be actively advising you to build up your own resources so you aren’t ‘dependant’ on their services. For example we offer a ‘developer training’ service for our clients. We actually want our clients to succeed on their own too feet, we want to coach them and help them to transform their business with the right people! We have plenty of work and we know these long term strategy are better for everyone.
With regards to test automation this is of course paramount. But I can tell you the number of people doing TDD properly is minimal. But to help you check out this website (which my mate Dave Schinkel runs) called http://www.wedotdd.com. Dave is a TDD purist and I can tell you his code is CLEAN and TESTED (he showed me when we first met). So his website is DA PLACE to go to find the right agency!
With regards to agile ways of working. Honestly I think you just need to keep two rules at heart. Instead of using complex jargon I use two simple principles behind the way you can be ‘truly agile’.
1) All operational work should seek to remove uncertainty
2) all meetings and gatherings should allow faster decision making.
I think the problem with Agile is that it’s too complicated. So we try and use these two simple rules. If you want the organisation to be ‘agile’ then I think you just need strong leaders with a no-nonsense approach. I would recommend a book about the way Steve Jobs ran apple:
If the current agency isn’t truly doing it for you, well then I think the only answer is to discuss it with them and if they can’t rectify then you need to find a new one. Hopefully this helps!
Question from @JamesDeeney
Do you have any thoughts on the increasing prevalence of mindfulness / meditation practices in the software development community? Can such practices really make you a better coder? Or are the benefits to be gained here overhyped?
My partner is a long term yoga instructor and consistent meditator so I come well placed to understand the question. I have also read into the science of meditation and YES categorically meditation will make you a better coder but it comes with a caveat.
The meditation you want if you are writing software is one that will let you achieve more focus. Blocking out distractions and being able to follow a single train of thought at a time is paramount to unlocking creativity.
The correct meditation to do for this is ‘breath exercise’ where you focus on … your breathing instead of ‘gratitude’ or ‘loving kindness varieties’.
Breath exercise has been shown after about 6 weeks of daily practice of about 10 minutes to increase focus and also improves working memory (which is also really important). I think as a community blocking out distractions, being more calm (mindful) is something all programmers should aspire to. So yes meditation all the way!
Question from @Justin Taylor
How do you measure team efficiency?
Hey Justin, honestly…
Haven’t worked that out yet. One idea I have been toying with is to use one of our architectural philosophies which is (BDD + the Clean Architecture) and measure how many specifications are being written. It’s not an exact science but it’s perhaps one measure.
Apart from that I think mostly we have to go with gut feel. Some developers just seem to have a good work rate with the quality I would think is normal. If sometimes a developer is slow (and I mean 3x slow here not 10-20%) ultimately a team does (however bad this sounds; make a judgement on said developer). So you might not be able to objectively measure it but I think a low productivity problem is a problem nonetheless and can be identified.
So really I don’t think you can measure the top end (yet) but I do think a mature productive team will spot a developer with low productivity. When this happens I am an advocate for learning how the developer works and helping them with their daily habits/focus to remedy.
Question from @Sam Davis
Having a high-performing team is entirely dependent on getting your hiring right. Do you have any tips on improving your decision making when hiring developers?
You are right, finding the right people is difficult. We tend to flip flop between two approaches. First is hard technical test with a test of soft skills. The second is just meeting them and having a chat about what they care about and what they stand for.
To my knowledge nobody has proven what actually works in recruitment so you are basically left with a gut feel. For us we have some things we are looking for
– do they get frustrated by bad code?
– are they able to argue their point without getting emotional?
Once we have finished chatting with a potential candidate I just want to know if my colleagues like them and think they will work. We just keep it really simple. It’s not really an interview to be honest.
Question from @Liam Donoghue
This questions slightly off piste but I’ve seen you’re a nu disco producer I’ve listened to a lot of your stuff on SoundCloud and I really like it. You seem to put a lot of emphasis on synthesis in your productions are you a hardware junkie in the studio or do you make all tracks in a DAW? Any favourite synths?
Hello mate! What an awesome question about my second true love! (after the wife/baby obviously hehe)
I approach music production the same way as I produce software. For me it’s NOT about the tech (or the hardware) – it’s about the workflow! I have developed a simplified process for sound design and engineering which keeps the fallible human at the centre and removes a lot of uncertainty with balancing and mixing which get in the way of creativity!
And with regards to synths I am an advocate of truly understanding sound design so I mainly use Sylenth for custom work and reach out to classic emulations for ‘that 80’s hit’. Hopefully the above explains that yes I see many similarities to developing software and creating music. Thanks for the great question!
For anyone reading here is my last release….
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