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Lead Developers! Where's the Love?

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  • User profile image
    JoshB

    I never considered myself a Lead Developer, even though my job title would say otherwise, "JoshB - Lead Developer". I came to my current job with significantly more .NET skills than the rest of the team which made 'Junior Developer' an insult but having just come on board the coveted title, 'Senior Developer' would have to be earned. Honestly, I don't pay attention, I just tend to my geeky needs, but at some point I started wondering where I really fit into the lifecycle of software development.

    All my run-ins with Lead Developer descriptions of roles and responsibilities made me feel that a "real" Lead Developer is more or less a technical lead on specific projects, the ether that exists between non-technical PMs and those grumpy keyboard jockeys that stick to the 1s and 0s. That is until I landed on this page:

    http://www.developer.com/java/other/article.php/3507886

    This was a significant eye opener for me and perfectly pegged my daily love for what I do. It energized me to battle my day to day frustrations with the fact that I'm too valuable as a developer to stop coding but some how find the time to interview new developers, develop coding standards, enforce coding standards, do code reviews, wait... no time for that, automate code reviews, manage the continuous integration server, help the juniors debug their code, help the seniors debug their code because their too stuck in their experience to be pragmatic about finding new and better ways of debugging, manage the source control server, train everyone on how to use source control, add some ruby hooks to subversion to keep the developers from checking in 2 days worth of code with the comment "did sh%t", read some more Steve McConnell, validate estimates that are going out the door, manage the day to day pipeline, coordinate meetings, wonder why I'm not up to speed on Ruby and Rails, read some more Dave Thomas, listen to my boss call me a rockstar as he asks me to evaluate whether any of the code we're writing can be turned into product, turn the delivered attempt at a software specification into something the developer can actually work with, dive into WPF, puke from teh learning curve.

    It's a lot! I'm not sure how I find the time to stay on top. And on to my point, or my struggle, Where's the love? I can't find any good books on pulling it all together, not that there should be one, but I guess it would be nice. I've been entertaining the thoughts of putting up a site devoted to the day to day happenings of a Lead Developer but there's got to be something out there already.

    Am I alone in this boat? Any Ideas?

  • User profile image
    rcardona

    Are you saying your job is hard?

  • User profile image
    JoshB

    I guess I was up for a bit of a late night rant but there's not really any part of the role I'd trade in.  It's kind of like estimation, it really seemed like a lot of voodoo and no real solid ground to work on, until I read "Software Estimation Demystifying the Black Art." I found that there was plenty of solid ground that had already been laid and it was perfectly articulated by Steve McConnell. I was easily able to identify the things that were not working, the things that were working, and the things that I thought weren't working but with a little adjustements made huge improvements.

    I'm looking for resources like that but covering the range of topics a Lead Developer role involves. I know there's plenty of books on individual topics and the Pragmatic Series Book do a good job bringing things together but there's no Patterns and Practices like site for us or something similar.

  • User profile image
    JChung2006

    Lead Developer is slang for a Developer who does extra stuff on top of his normal Developer job for no extra pay (or a pittance).

  • User profile image
    JoshB

    That's what I'm finding out.

    I've setup a lot of infrastructure and tools around the development process here and it has saved our bacon more times than one. And even though there's some kudos from management when I talk about it at pub meetings, when the client turns up the heat, all of that is thrown out the window for hard core coding because no one really sees the value in it. Well, until they need it.

    ugg!

  • User profile image
    odujosh

    Lead Developer and Senior Developer means:

    Walking target for work on any project they have worked on in the past. At many companies size of the .NET shop is under 20 people. Eventually you have worked on every product at least once. Leads and Senior usually have the notiarity of getting stuff done with high levels of ambiguioty.

  • User profile image
    nosajis

    Would you care to comment more or explain bit more your last sentence, especially the part about ambiguity?  I'm not sure I followed that as well as I should have.

    I totally followed the part about leads/seniors basically being the people that have stuck it out, or survived long enough to work on all the projects in a smallish shop.  But I didn't understand that last point you were trying to get at.

  • User profile image
    JoshB

    I think he's referring to a similar situation I run into all of the time.

    I'm in a smaller organization and the PMs who bring requirements in are  extremely removed from the technologies we're using and not as involved with the customers as they should be. When a customer requirement comes in, most often they are extremely vague and it requires a good amount of knowledge work to turn that into a working requirement that can then be translated into a program specification.

    The average developer is simply not going to have the experience to handle that kind of activity while being able to keep the overall business context in view. I'm the resident Rock Star, simply because I'll invest the energy to take ownership of vagueness and turn it into tangable work items. Go Lead Developer!

    On a side note, and in case someone that directs a team of developers might be reading, calling a developer a Rock Star is so insanely insulting because it usually follows an all nighter sprint or weekend sprint and replaces the Kudos they've earned. Especially since you know that it wasn't a one time thing! Just show them appriciation.

  • User profile image
    SlackmasterK

    The Lead Developer I work for isn't even a Developer. He's like a Supervisor or a Junior Manager. But man, can he flowchart.. or so I hear; he makes me do it.

  • User profile image
    odujosh

    SlackmasterK wrote:
    The Lead Developer I work for isn't even a Developer. He's like a Supervisor or a Junior Manager. But man, can he flowchart.. or so I hear; he makes me do it.


    Sometimes being able to to transform requests into workable chunks and articulating and monitoring progress is more important than technical ability. If you think he is totally worthless run don't walk to update your resume and move on.

  • User profile image
    SlackmasterK

    odujosh wrote:
    
    Sometimes being able to to transform requests into workable chunks and articulating and monitoring progress is more important than technical ability. If you think he is totally worthless run don't walk to update your resume and move on.


    Quite the contrary. He's very important to the process - But if he's gonna do PM stuff, he should be a PM. Plus, otherwise I'd be too inundated with customer phone calls to do any real work.

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