Starbucks-fueled Developer

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Skating On Thin Ice"

Over the past two months, work has been pretty...well, depressing. Right before having to leave for our honeymoon and the Thanksgiving holiday, a coworker and I were finishing up a major project for a high-profile customer for recommendations on migrating a legacy system to the Microsoft Windows/.NET platform. My bride and I were flying out of the country on the 19th and our delivery presentation was the 17th. Stressful, no?

The entire time, since mid-August, I was thankful that I was on a successful, on-time, billable project - giving my employer (note, not my manager) - reason to keep me around. Unfortunately, we've been given the short end of the stick, basically all year long, suffering from projects that were underbid with promises for delivery at the quoted price. With all or nothing projects, neither of us (customer and my employer) have any "out" options when expectations are not met - for whatever reason. We've seen very little sign of any incoming work and we're seriously "skating on thin ice"; our bleeder projects are still wrapping up and sucking us dry as we have no "billing vehicle" since the customer is either withholding the last payment until delivery or they've paid for it all and just waiting for the "final" product.

I've been trying my best to promote and suggest moving to an Agile development methodology, but was "just a peck hit on the surface...". I'm sure I've said before, but it's difficult to promote something that you know very little about and cannot answer questions properly when engaged in discussions. Sure, the right people are interested in the idea, but there's no fuel; no desire to mend our broken ways. I'm sure that my team would greatly benefit from having a professional mentoring group (ObjectMentor, etc.) school us in their righteous ways; but why invest in a group that's in the red with no sign of turning black?

My wife has been asking me why I don't look for another job; why I stick around in a "failing organization" (not her words, mine). My answers, even now for myself, are becoming less and less convincing. "I want to stick around in hopes of being completed vested - it's only 3 more years." "Very few companies in our area allow us [programmers] the flexibility that they do." "No one else in the area is going to be open to this Agile-voodoo stuff". "My coworkers are awesome! I'm not going to be able to relate to anyone else like I do with these guys!"

While I know you cannot prevent the inevitable, it would be a shame to leave now. We just got VS2k5 Team System and I think that's going to help us change a lot of the ways we do things. I'm not a big advocate of MSF and not even really fond of MSF Agile, but the practices of unit testing, automated builds, bug tracking (not that MS is the first in these areas) all integrated into the IDE will really help to promote their use by our devs - at least I hope anyway...

I just hate to leave when things are just getting good, even if we are "skating on thin ice"...

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