One of the marks of a bad programmer, says Theresa D Alesandro, Director of Corporate Applications Development at Joe Cohill s company, is his or her lack of a broad perspective on the company s business operation.
Good programmers go beyond the bounds of programming and learn the entire flow of business in their company, she says. Bad programmers don t get to know, or want to know, the whole system; they concentrate on their own little piece of it ”say, printing a bill of lading. Seems simple enough: You press a button and the BOL is printed. However, there are all sorts of system processes that go on beyond the scenes when a BOL is printed. A simple change to the BOL may require a change to the manifest, the shipping label, the packing slip, or the invoicing files.
How do I know this? Because I know the system. But many programmers become familiar with the process only when a modification is done to the program. And even then, the programmer s understanding is limited by the bounds of the program. This lack of understanding on the programmer s part may cause important processes not to take place ”and that could translate into a customer s charging us back for a shipment not in compliance.
The compliance game itself is one of those flow-of-business processes about which Theresa expects programmers to be knowledgeable. These days, customers of almost any business routinely measure the quality, timeliness of delivery, and accuracy of products that a vendor ships to them against their purchase order. Your company will suffer serious consequences if you make a programming mistake that causes a shipment of goods to its client to fall out of compliance. A failure to be perfect in every aspect of the distribution process can trigger punitive charge-backs (possibly as high as your yearly salary) for incorrect or late shipments.
My job challenges me every day by testing my managerial and analytical skills, Theresa says. I like working with other departments because it gives me a more complete view of how the company works.
I expect the programmers I work with to question me about things: ˜Why are we doing it this way? Feedback from the programmers is very important. They can give another perspective that hadn t been considered . One of the most important things a manager can do is listen.
In short, Theresa expects her programmers to think like systems analysts ”to know the industry in which their employer operates so they can intelligently apply their coding skills to whatever business problems they must solve. When I give out a project, some programmers are in my office fifty times asking questions. The good programmers analyze the project, ask the few questions that need to be asked, and get it done. Why can they do it? Because they know the business! Instead of coming into my office with questions, they ve learned the business on their own.
From your first day on the job, focus on making your boss happy and promotable. That means not only diligently applying your coding skills but also working intelligently, having a consistent concern for accuracy, putting a lid on irritating questions, showing your boss respect, and, most important, doing your best to avoid presenting your boss with that management nightmare, the unpleasant surprise. All of these qualities will factor into your boss s evaluation of your work.